Look carefully around St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans any time of year, and you’ll see fences, trees, and telephone poles draped with Mardi Gras beads, flung by riders in the many parades that come down the city’s signature parade route. But those are far from the only parades of the Carnival season. Some of the most distinctive pre-Lent parades in New Orleans take place off the beaten path, bringing their own interpretations of Mardi Gras to more far-flung corners of the city. Here are a few of them:
Chewbacchus (February 9)
Inspired by both traditional Carnival parades and science fiction and fantasy culture (the name comes from the Wookiee hero Chewbacca of the Star Wars movies and the Greek god Bacchus), Chewbacchus (pictured above) has become one of the largest pre-Mardi Gras parades. More than 1,000 revelers, many in subkrewes inspired by movies, books, and TV shows, including ET, Men in Black, Star Trek, and Doctor Who, parade along the group’s Marigny route, typically early in the Mardi Gras season. Part of the reason for the krewe’s popularity: Dues are just $42, which is both a nod to fans of Douglas Adams’s sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where that number features prominently, and a bargain compared to many more traditional parade krewes.
Krewe Bohème (February 15)
This walking krewe, partly inspired by the bohemian Paris of the 1920s, will march for the first time in 2019. Subkrewes, such as The Merry Antoinettes, Krewe of Goddesses, and the James Brown devotees of the Krewe of King James, will parade through the Bywater, Marigny, and French Quarter, led by a Green Absinthe Fairy. The parade’s organizers emphasize the group will be “sex positive, accepting others’ sexual orientations and lifestyles without judgment.” The krewe pledges to eschew mass-produced beads in favor of homemade throws.
Krewe du Vieux (February 16)
Known for its biting satire, handcrafted floats, and exclusively live music, the Krewe du Vieux has paraded through the Marigny and its namesake Vieux Carré, or French Quarter, early each Mardi Gras season since its launch in 1987. While families with children are a common sight along the parade route, the parade isn’t afraid to use adult themes or language in lampooning political figures from New Orleans and around the country. A satirical newspaper handed out each year rapidly becomes a collector’s item.
‘tit Rex (February 17)
This so-called microkrewe’s name alludes to the diminutive nature of its shoebox-sized floats when compared to the Krewe of Rex—think of the French word petit—as well as acting as a pun on the tyrannosaurus. It just might also be a nod to the sometimes-bawdy humor displayed by some of the creators of the miniature floats, which, while inspired by the shoebox floats traditionally made by New Orleans area schoolchildren, can be a bit raunchier and more politically aware than anything you’d see in an elementary school classroom. The krewe marches through the St. Roch and Marigny areas, with a few stops along the way for spectators to take close-up looks at the miniature floats.
Krewe of Barkus (February 24)
It’s generally illegal to bring a dog to a Carnival parade, with special dispensations naturally made for service animals and police dogs. But Barkus, which parades through the French Quarter, is an exception all its own: The parade’s king, queen, riders, and marchers are all of the canine persuasion, with some human escorts helping along the way. Costumes and floats focus on New Orleans and pop-culture themes, and the parade is generally beloved by animal-lovers young and old. Proceeds from the parade go to animal welfare groups around New Orleans and Louisiana.
Krewe of NOMTOC (March 2)
The name stands for New Orleans’s Most Talked Of Club, and the parade, organized by the Westbank’s Jugs Social Club, has been spoken about since it first appeared on the New Orleans Mardi Gras scene in 1970. Rolling through Algiers—across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter—the NOMTOC parade is known for throws featuring its symbol: Jug Man. The krewe also raises money for college scholarships for area students and features honor students as guest riders in its annual parades.
Red Beans and Dead Beans (March 4)
Marching through the Marigny and Treme neighborhoods on Lundi Gras since 2009, the Krewe of Red Beans wears suits adorned with their namesake food item. Krewe members are known for their elaborate suit designs, made largely with beans and hot glue guns, which pay tribute to New Orleans costuming traditions. They also nod to the local tradition of serving red beans and rice on Mondays. Since 2018, they are met by a second parade known as Dead Beans, which focuses on suits honoring traditions related to death and particular people who’ve passed away.
North Side Skull and Bones Gang (March 5)
Before Rex and Zulu take to the streets on Mardi Gras Day, residents and visitors in the Treme neighborhood might get woken up by the early-morning march of the North Side Skull and Bones Gang. The group traces its history back to an African American tradition of the early 1800s: dressing in skeleton costumes and masks to honor the dead. The group’s costumes also serve to warn young men away from lifestyles that could lead to their own premature deaths.
Krewe of St. Anne (March 5)
For decades, this marching krewe has taken to the streets of the Bywater, Marigny, and French Quarter on Mardi Gras Day, often picking up additional marchers in elaborate costumes at stops like R Bar on Royal Street. The group generally marches to Canal Street to catch the Rex parade, then sojourns to the Mississippi River, where some members will scatter ashes of loved ones who’ve recently passed away. Costumes are strongly encouraged.
Photos from various Krewe websites