Since the dawn of recorded history, dogs have served as household pets and faithful companions to their owners and the families who house them. Today, they enjoy a special place in the hearts of millions of people who give them names, shelter, sustenance, and, above all, love and attention.
Here in the Greater New Orleans Area, the undying affection that people have for their pet dogs is taken to an even higher level. The canines have their "Dog Day Afternoons," being honored with parades during the Carnival/Mardi Gras season in which they are the stars of the show. They are dressed up in colorful costumes, hoisted onto colorful floats, and treated to a special day of colorful pageantry for thousands of people to see and admire.
On the North Shore, parading for its 26th year and its first year in Covington, the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws rolls out on Sunday, March 1, trumpeting the theme of "Beyond all Boundaries: Exploring Sea, Air & Space." The stars of the show-the dogs-will be attired accordingly, as will their human owners/escorts, in costumes consistent with the theme.
The Krewe of Mardi Paws
The krewe actually owes its origin to Barkus, according to its founder Denise Gutnisky, who witnessed the second Barkus parade in 1994 and was inspired by it. "I started Mardi Paws just because Barkus was so fabulous, and we needed something like it on the North Shore," Gutnisky said.
One of the major differences between the two parades is that the North Shore is largely made up of families and residential communities, as opposed to the primarily singles-oriented Vieux Carré. The Mardi Paws parade is more family-oriented and less risqué than the Krewe of Barkus can be.
The first few Mardi Paws parades organized by Gutnisky took place in the gated subdivision of Beau Chene on the Mandeville lakefront, with the gates open to the public on parade day. In 1999, after a few years and considerable growth in dog and human membership, the parade moved to the public portion of the Mandeville lakeshore.
This year's Mardi Paws parade takes place on March 1, several days after Carnival officially ends on Fat Tuesday. The reason for that, Gutnisky explained, is that they used to roll on Lundi Gras, but they got rained out one year and rescheduled the parade for after Mardi Gras. "It worked out well for us. We got a lot of people to come out for it because people still want Mardi Gras even after it's over," she said.
The parade will roll out at 2 p.m., proceeding in a loop along several of the main st.s of downtown Covington, ending at the Covington Trailhead. One of the main reasons for moving the parade to Covington, according to Gutnisky, is the greater availability of parking, which lessens the distance parade-goers and participants will have to walk to
get onto the route.
And another reason for the move is that Covington is the home of renowned actor Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries, and V Wars). He is a prominent animal rights advocate who, in 2010, launched the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) with the goal of protecting animals and the environment.
Somerhalder is expected to be in attendance at this year's parade, along with regular celebrity emcee Randi Rousseau, from WDSU News, at the reviewing stand.
Royalty includes King Mardi Paws XXVI, Queen Mardi Paws XXVI, a grand marshal (human), a canine grand marshal, a celebrity mascot, a grand duke, two dukes, the king's scepter bearer, the queen's lady in waiting, two maids, and the queen's scepter bearer.
Other festive events of the day include a costume contest with rubberized "poop trophies" in a variety of glitter-embellished colors and a post-parade extravaganza at the end of the parade route with food, music, sponsor fun, and more.
For more information, including registration fees, parade regulations, and other details, visit the krewe's Facebook page or its website at mardipaws.com or call 1-800-634-9443.
Photo by: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0