Along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a massive space opens its doors to a one-of-a-kind Carnival celebration. Dozens of floats with a multi-million-dollar budget are shown in all of their glory before one of the season's biggest parades. And in the middle of it all, lunch is served.
The Krewe of Orpheus hosted its annual Open House this past Saturday, February 19, which served as a chance for members and locals alike to appreciate the massive scope and artistry of the over three dozen parade floats housed at the krewe's indoor den. Open to the public, the pre-parade showcase offered a first-rate look at the production behind one of Mardi Gras' biggest super-krewes. And in front of each float, members of the krewe served prepared dishes and cocktails reflecting the spirit of the season.
Beginning around 1 p.m., attendees and krewe members got acquainted before an opening ceremony featuring the St. Augustine Marching 100. A crowd gathered beside the krewe's signature floats and animatronics as the band walked in. As a brass rendition of a Pharrell Williams' song echoed through the building, the signature animatronic dragon on the main float turned its head towards the band in interest.
After the opening ceremonies, the floor was opened for a free-wheeling, a-la-carte serving of the different krewe members' dishes and drinks. The parade's theme was "Glacial Tomes and Conflagrations," and many of the culinary offerings reflected a "fire and ice" motif. Crawfish and mushroom pasta was the highlight of one float. Not far off from there, one could sample wedding-cake daiquiris or shots of a multi-ingredient cocktail dubbed the "Leap of Faith" (for what it's worth, the Leap of Faith was among my favorites). The event was casual and family-friendly, and the presenting members accommodated with a wide variety of non-alcoholic options as well.
Beyond the wide canvas of flavors, the event proved to be a fascinating look into the crafting and artistry of the floats themselves. Normally seen bulwarked by reveling carnival-goers, detailed Mardi Gras floats make for an interesting sight up-close and in-detail. Although the floats have taken a sabbatical from their previous housing location inside Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, the Blaine Kern production company continues to handle a key role in many floats' development. Detailed instructions outline if a float needs more gold or silver leafing or if it's better to more visibly highlight the murals painted on their sides.
Special distinctions were placed towards Orpheus' recurring signature floats. A signature float included a massive model of the mythological Trojan Horse—the chance to look into its interior was just enough to make out cupholders and equipage for the riders. Another was a multi-car "superfloat" based on the Smokey Mary, a historical train that ran trips to Milneburg Park before the site was developed into the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park. The most impressive, though, was the previously mentioned "Leviathan" dragon float. Equipped with full animatronics and an impressive lighting display, the million-dollar yearly tentpole was a sight to behold.
Everything considered, the Krewe of Oprheus' open house was an interesting look into the production of one of Mardi Gras' largest spectacles, and the event showed that the krewe's members certainly bring their own creative touches to the event. Orpheus is the highlight of Lundi Gras, and its festivities are set to include a parade route through the city, its Orpheuscapade celebration in the Convention Center, and an all-star slate of celebrity guests. Needless to say, Orpheus certainly has more songs on the docket.
The Krewe of Orpheus held its annual Open House on Saturday, February 19th at its krewe den on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Krewe of Orpheus is set to roll through Uptown New Orleans at 6 p.m. on Lundi Gras (February 28). More information can be found on Orpheus' website.