Tuesday will mark the end of the New Orleans area's most famous season and the start of its second-most famous.


Mike Maenza, King Argus XXXIV, arrives at Kenner Heritage Hall in Kenner, La., Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Alexis Hartline is the Queen Argus XXXIV.

King Argus XXXIV, who is known as "Mr. Mudbug" for the crawfish catering business he founded, is perhaps the perfect person to rule over the transition.

Michael Maenza, a relentlessly optimistic 58-year-old food industry executive and father of three young children, will wield the scepter over Metairie's premier Mardi Gras parade as it rolls down Veterans Memorial Boulevard on Tuesday. 

And he's thrilled about it.

"Yeah, dilly dilly," Maenza laughed. "I love being king and the organization and how they are community-driven."

Maenza's companies have helped provide food for the Krewe of Argus' Galaxy Ball for years, but he wasn't a member until this year. He didn't believe it when he got the call from Argus captain Lawrence Chehardy, the former longtime assessor of Jefferson Parish. 

"I was in Florida on business," he recalled last week. "I said, 'I got to call you right back.' "

Maenza immediately phoned his wife, Alicia, and told her about the invitation. Then he called Chehardy back and said he would reign as king on one condition: that his 5-year-old son, Michael, could serve as a page. The deal was made, and Maenza has embraced his new role with gusto.

"Why am I in this prestigious line?" he asked in disbelief, referring to his 33 predecessors. "What an experience."

Maenza's enthusiasm is something he has brought to his business career. A Metairie native who now lives in Mandeville, Maenza was introduced to the food industry early because his father was in the produce business. His dad also was the first king of the Krewe of Caesar, one of Metairie's largest krewes.

After graduating from Holy Cross High School, Maenza went to the University of New Orleans on a golf scholarship. 

Soon afterward, he started Mr. Mudbug, a Metairie-based crawfish boiling and catering business. Maenza often wore a full red jumpsuit and white shrimp boots to the company's boils, earning him the nickname that he still bears more than three decades later.

Several years later, he founded King Creole Restaurant in Metairie. While there, he became convinced that there was a market for high-quality prepackaged foods, and he founded MMI Culinary, which manufactures more than 600 food products, from andouille dressing to bread pudding.

He also owns Swegs Kitchen, a healthy comfort-food company with locations in Metairie, Mandeville, Mid-City and the Central Business District. 

In his spare time, he likes spending time with his family, including his son Michael and his twins Mason and Mikayla, who are 18 months old. 

Not surprisingly, he enjoys working and playing.

"I just have fun all the time," he said. 

Maenza's enthusiasm is not out of character, said David Sherman, who has known the businessman for close to 30 years.

"He is always just the happiest, most easygoing guy I have ever known," Sherman said. "He's as good a king as we've ever had because he's having so much fun."

Maenza's excitement spills into his texts, which are filled with superlatives and exclamation points. When asked about the king's costume, for instance, he texted: "Majestic! Beautiful! Fleur De Lis on it!!! Gold! Fun Costume!!!"

The theme of this year's parade is "Argus Under the Big Top." The krewe's 600 riders and 20 floats will roll along their traditional Veterans Memorial Boulevard route beginning at 10 a.m.

Not surprisingly, Maenza is ready.

"It's exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," he said. "I'm very privileged to be a part of it."

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.