The St. John Fools of Misrule will kick off the Carnival season in Covington on Jan. 12, when the “fools” and “jewels” take to the streets for the eighth year.
Technically, the Carnival season begins on Jan. 6 (also known as Twelfth Night, or the 12th day of Christmas), but in Covington, the Fools of Misrule always parade on the Saturday closest to Twelfth Night, said Mark Verret, the group's communications director.
“The Fools started with a few characters sitting at the Seiler Bar and Tap Room,” Verret said. They talked about forming a marching krewe to mark the start of the Carnival season.
“We get together all year for various things, including a charity event,” Verret added. “We do a lot of fun stuff.”
But the highlight is Twelfth Night. “On Jan. 12, we will be out in elaborate costumes and masks,” Verret said. “The men are fools and the women are jewels.”
The group, which started with about five members, now numbers almost 200 fools and 200 jewels, he added. “It gets bigger each year.”
The fools and jewels gather at the Tap Room on Columbia Street at 6 p.m. and march to the Covington Trailhead, where the Lord of Fools is selected.
In democratic fashion, the lord is chosen by way of a king cake. Whoever gets the slice with the bean in it is proclaimed the Lord of Misrule.
Verret said he has enjoyed seeing the crowds coming out to watch the march get bigger each year. “Last year it was literally three to four people deep all the way to the trailhead,” he said.
Members hand out special doubloons, and entertainment has been added each year to the festivities. After the trailhead, the members march to restaurants, bars and other establishments “well into the evening,” where they are welcomed and toasted, Verret said.
The “fools” idea is taken from a medieval custom in which a common person would be named lord for the day. “They would go crazy in the streets,” Verret said. All of St. Tammany's "fools" are costumed in either medieval garb or pirate wear.
For more information on the St. John Fools of Misrule, visit foolsofmisrule.com.