“Chewbacchanal,” Photo by Josh Musgrove

The Intergalactic Chewbacchanal Blends Indie Mardi Gras Charm with Fandom Extravaganza

15:00 February 09, 2022
By: Kevin Credo

A sculpted R2-D2 droid, specially emblazoned with a fleur-de-lis, is towed along Elysian Fields via bicycle. Princess Leia busily coordinates logistics in the late afternoon. Jack Sparrow saunters along the neutral ground.

It is rare to see a carnival krewe that has risen to prominence as quickly as The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, a walking-heavy group that specializes in pop culture, fandom, and cosplay. Beginning its parading in 2011 and now boasting over 2000 different members in several themed walking groups, Chewbacchus' open membership and indie style have given it a very egalitarian, upbeat presence in the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Having finished its parade route through the Marigny and Downtown, Chewbacchus' annual afterparty, the "Chewbacchanal," proved to be a carnival celebration like none other.

Night had fallen outside Harrah's Casino as the different Chewbacchus walking krewes arrived and got ready to enter the Fillmore Theater. Once inside, the geek-tailored vibe was apparent almost immediately. The coat check was in full force, where Bowser's spiked koopa shell hung nonchalantly beside the overcoats. On the dance floor in front of the Fillmore's stage, Super Mario danced the robot, steps away from who I'm pretty sure I recognized as Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Various patrons wore detailed Tetris pieces over their figures, and it was only later that I noticed a detailed display of stacked Tetris blocks neatly assorted in a side corner. One of the evening's more interesting highlights was a custom-made cocktail for patrons, the "Qui Gon Gin." Named after the Jedi Knight of prequels' fame, the cocktail combined citrus and melon flavors for a tropical sweetness and a rich green color.

"Chewbacchanal," Photo by Josh Musgrove

Because of Chewbacchus' composition of a multitude of organized walking groups, the afterparty saw an amorphously wide, yet expertly-matching selection of costumes from across sci-fi and fandom. One of the largest was the "Space Vikings," a group of several dozen warriors sporting white battle gear and elaborate horned helmets. The "Krewe du Who" was named for those associating with the Dr. Who fandom, and the "Krewe du Moon" featured cosplayers from the magical girl anime Sailor Moon. The "Krewe du Chu" took its name from the mascot of the Pokémon series, and its members ranged in costume from the most famous of its collectible monsters all the way to an obscure placeholder that's only obtainable as a glitch in the series' first games (that's attention to detail, I promise). I could go on with a lot more of the crazy groups enjoying the evening, but it would take several paragraphs trying to do full justice to the extent of the groups and their creative ingenuity.

The night's music was provided by musical artists including People Museum and Mannie Fresh. Near the end of the first set, a technical hiccup somewhere actually had the main lights of the theater come on from the low-lighting that had set most of the evening's ambience. This was swiftly resolved, but it also gave me a chance to get a closer look at the sheer diversity of groups enjoying one of Mardi Gras' biggest new krewes. These are people, of all ages and interests, celebrating in every way from elaborate personal cosplay to massive hand-made contraptions. Pop culture and fandom are in many ways more popular than ever before, and Chewbacchus is a one-of-a-kind celebration merging that personal expression with the best of New Orleans Mardi Gras. Given the size of the krewe and the egalitarian celebration of fandom it provides, I suspect that Chewbacchus is going to be partying across the galaxy for a long time to come.

The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus paraded through the Marigny on February 5, 2022. The organization hosts multiple year-round events starting on International Star Wars Day (May the 4th), and more information can be found on its website and Facebook.

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