Unmasking Mardi Gras

00:00 January 21, 2013
By: Dionne Charlet


[Courtesy of Becky Plexco]
Hey Mister!

Can you throw me something, Lady!

Just who are you yelling those words to as a fl oat passes by?

Costumes and masks are part of the mystique of Mardi Gras and add to the beauty and mystery of fl oats in any given parade. yet, you might wonder…who is behind that mask? Do I know anyone? What's it like to ride and be a part of it all? Where do I sign up?

Carnival season brings people together to the greatest free party on the planet and it all begins with Twelfth Night on January 6, 2013. The Krewe of Joan of Arc Parade, or Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc, celebrates its fi fth annual walking parade in the elegance and pageantry of Medieval France as robed walkers and a series of Joans on horseback parade past the St. Louis Cathedral en route to the Maid of Orleans statue at Decatur and St. Philip Streets.

Each year a Maid of honor is selected from local New Orleanian French students to portray the young iconic heroine.

"We look for girls who refl ect Joan's legacy," offered Joan of Arc Project Founder Amy Kirk Duvoisin. She continued, "Leadership abilities, a passion for making change, a commitment to community, a sense of responsibility, etc. This is such a great age for young women (between 16 and 19 years)…where you feel invincible… you are right at that cusp where you are developing your own persona, but you are still within that protective bubble of high school and family, so you can really take risks and accomplish things with a degree of boldness that may not be as possible a bit later."

Special handmade "gifts" are created by the krewe and presented to very lucky parade-goers along the short route. The chosen Maid of honor may designate a "page" of her own to hand out rare and special favors. Each Maid of Orleans traditionally has her page offer select members of the crowd one of 16 handmade wooden swords.

Krewe members proceed down Conti from the starting line at Decatur, then turn right onto Chartres. The parade passes in front of St. Louis Cathedral, where it will stop circa 6:15 p.m. for a special blessing. Once the procession resumes, it will continue across the front entrance to the Cathedral back onto Chartres, then turn right onto St. Philip. The lineup ends at the golden statue of Joan of Arc. Each krewe member will make his or her pilgrimage toward the likeness of Joan, fl ag held high upon her mighty steed, where Decatur and N. Peters Streets merge at Place de France.

[Courtesy of Becky Plexco]

New members of all ages and genders can sign up to join the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc in May of 2013. For more information, go to joanofarcparade.com.

The Krewe of Orpheus parades the night before Mardi Gras along the traditional St. Charles route and into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for the opulence of Orpheuscapade. This indoor Mardi Gras ball is a gala event where attendees dress to the nines in evening attire as fl oats roll past tables of seated revelers and toss the best of the best throws krewe members have to offer.

Businessman Elliot Solomon, proud to call himself "Da Keng d'NOLA," has formed a bond of Carnival love with his krewe. "With Orpheus, I started riding this past Mardi Gras. I wanted to experience a night parade, and boy did I! I was absolutely blown away by the fl oats, the professional organizational aspect of it and the pomp and circumstance of it, especially as we rolled into the Convention Center. One word... AWESOME!" Solomon offered some praise for Orpheus founding member harry Connick, Jr. "Like myself, harry supports aspiring artists in NOLA," shared Solomon. "Another reason I chose this krewe...he's an amazing guy and believes in the 'tomorrow' of NOLA's youth."

Interested in joining Orpheus? Per KreweofOrpheus.com, "All men and women of good character are welcome to apply for membership," just by calling the offi ce number, (504) 822-7200.

The Mystic Krewe of Nyx will celebrate its 2nd annual parade on Wednesday, February 6, 2013. This all-female club won the right to join the St. Charles lineup by unimous vote from the New Orleans City Council in 2012. With signature purse throws in hand, the ladies of Nyx made a name for themselves as a crowd favorite on one of the coldest and wettest nights of Mardi Gras 2012.

Per local member Carla Pittari, "Even though it rained, people still came out in droves to support us and cheer us on. There's nothing like seeing the joy that we brought to everyone, especially the kids. I am super excited to ride again and I can't believe it's so close. It's going to be like Christmas part II for me."

Pittari was enthusiastic as she elaborated. "Riding last year with the Krewe of Nyx was just amazing. There was no question that I wanted to ride again in 2013 because I knew that it was going to be bigger and better. All of the Nyx sisters pulled together to present an amazing parade. Our Captain Julie Lea and our offi cers were so impressive in the way they pulled everything together for us to have the most incredible experience. I really appreciate the fact that even though they only had a few months to prepare everything for us, there were no shortcuts."

Nyx is beloved by her members. "I've been riding in a day parade since 2005, and am very excited to ride at night in the newest ladies' parade," stated Susan Burke-Cossabone. "Originally from Seattle, moved here halloween 2003. Prep work is organizing beads as I recycle them from what we caught last year, and glittering purses!" For more information on the Mystic Krewe of Nyx, go to kreweofnyx.org.

If you are interested in learning more about New Orleans Carnival krewes and how to join, ask your friends! There are literally thousands of parade krewe members out there, and when a fl oat rolls by, it's not what you yell that'll score you that stuffed Orpheus blinking leviathan. It's who you know.

Sign Up!