Carnival floats, beads and doubloons; yes, Carnival season is upon us. It's the most wonderful time of the year, according to the folks of New Orleans. But when it comes to Mardi Gras in the Big Easy, not only do the locals enjoy it, but people from all over the country and all over the world also join in the festivities.
This season, which begins on King's Day and ends on the morning of Ash Wednesday, is an ironically religious holiday that has been hyped and sensationalized throughout the world for centuries. But for the people of New Orleans, it's simply "Carnival Time," another reason to celebrate our amazing city and culture.
While Mardi Gras is a famous holiday recognized everywhere, one aspect of Carnival season lacks recognition. The Women of Carnival play a huge role in the holiday that Mardi Gras has become. With their satirical messages, signature fan favors and intricate costumes and floats, it would be a shame to not recognize the fabulous Women of Carnival.
Parade Krewes (Orleans Parish)
The Mystic Krewe of Nyx
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 7pm
What can be said about the Krewe of Nyx? A lot. These Mystic ladies are new to the scene with only two years of parading under their belts. But don't let the lack of years fool you. The women of Nyx aren't rookies when it comes to celebrating Carnival.
Properly named after the Goddess of Night, Nyx began in 2012, giving the women of New Orleans another fantastic all-female krewe to join. "What motivated me to come up with the Krewe of Nyx was the lack of available parades and all-female krewes in New Orleans," says Nyx Captain Julie Lea. "It is also important for Nyx to stay an all-women krewe, because we encourage and promote a spirit of sisterhood within the membership."
The Krewe of Nyx parades in the evening and is well known for their signature elaborately decorated sparkling purses.
The Krewe of Iris
Saturday, Feb. 14, 11am
When it comes to all-female krewe veterans, the Krewe of Iris is the winner. Founded in 1917, Iris is the oldest and longest-standing female krewe. First parading in the late 1950s, Iris has remained the largest female krewe of Carnival for over five decades.
Named for the Goddess of the Rainbow, Iris has a global membership of over 1200 active riders and 30-plus floats. Known for wearing stunning full-length masks and white gloves, the Krewe of Iris is also recognized for the captain's special doubloon, which is an admired item each year.
Other popular throws include their emblem cups, dolls, medallion beads and ceramic Iris beads.
The Krewe of Muses
Thursday, Feb. 12, 6:30pm
When it comes to all-female krewes, Muses may be the most famous. This krewe has become so popular that they currently have no room to accept new members. Maybe it's those darn shoes or their cynically charged, wittily decorated floats. Whatever the case may be, Muses continued to draw in members since it was founded in 2000.
Staci Rosenberg was amazed by the night krewes parading through the Big Easy and instantly knew that she wanted to be a part of that scene. "In March 2000…Staci saw the men riding in the Ancient Druids and realized how much she wanted to do the same," says Muses member Virginia Saussy. "She called a friend and said, 'If I start a parade, do you want to be in it?' With that, she changed Mardi Gras history."
Beginning with a few close friends, the Krewe of Muses aimed to reach a member goal of 300 women to parade the following year. After a few emails, that 300 quickly turned into 600 by the start of their first parading year.
Over a decade later, Muses has become one of the most anticipated parades of the Carnival season. Their infamous beaded and/or glittered shoes are enough to drive the crowd wild. With their annually changing themes, Muses upholds the ongoing Mardi Gras tradition of satirical themes. "Our goal is to put on an amazing entertainment experience for the crowds and for our Muses," says Saussy.
The Krewe of Cleopatra
Friday, Feb. 6, 6:30pm
Parading on February 6, the all-women Krewe of Cleopatra has consistently held the honor of opening the New Orleans Carnival season each year.
Founded in the 1970s, the women's organization began simply with one family who decided to fuse their passion for Mardi Gras with their admiration for the city of New Orleans.
After deciding on the group being an all-female krewe, they came up with the fitting name of Cleopatra, paying homage to the iconic last active pharaoh of Egypt.
Female Parading Krewes (other parishes)
Krewe of Eve (Friday, February 6, 7pm, Mandeville)
Krewe of Athena (Friday, February 6, 7pm, Metairie)
Krewe of Selene (Friday, February 13, 6:30pm, Slidell)
Krewe of Isis (Saturday, February 14, 6:30pm, Metairie)
The Women of Carnival play a huge role in the holiday that Mardi Gras has become.
Dance & Marching Krewes
The Camel Toe Lady Steppers
The ladies of the Camel Toe Lady Steppers are good at many things, but are best known for raising hell. This unconventional dance krewe is always up for a great time with their signature costume colors of bright pink and all things sparkle. Performing for the first time in 2003, the Camel Toe Lady Steppers later became best known for marching in the all-female parade Krewe of Muses.
The New Orleans Baby Doll Ladies
There's nothing more traditional to Mardi Gras dance krewes than this group of ladies. Dressed in their traditional puckered-lip doll masks, frilly outfits and umbrellas in hand, the Baby Doll Ladies have been dancing around the streets of New Orleans since the beginning of the 20th century. Recently recognized worldwide at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the Baby Doll Ladies showed the world what New Orleans has been enjoying for a century.
The NOLA Cherry Bombs
These ladies in red are BOMBastic! The NOLA Cherry Bombs are in their fourth year of marching through the streets in lovely red tutus with the mission of "spreading positive energy through non-judgmental social interaction and sisterhood through dance." Catch them partying at Le Bon Temps Roule at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 15.
Infamous for their bright orange and pink costumes, the Pussyfooters live and breathe their mantra of generating a good time. To put it simply, these "Majorettes from the Mothership" were sent down to NOLA to "help the party people get their grove on."
The Bearded Oysters
Their name alone is unique, but when you see them in costume, everything becomes clear. One thing's for sure: these ladies are no stranger to partying. Living by the motto "Step out of your shell and step into parading," the Bearded Oysters have no need to practice or meet up. This dance krewe is open to anyone willing to costume and march.
The Organ Grinders
Have you ever wondered about those sexy monkeys who costume and dance in parades? Well those lovely ladies are known as the Organ Grinders. Identified by their ears and tales, this krewe began in 2010 and has been "monkeying around" ever since.
These NOLA mermaids are known for bringing Carnival to us year-round. Their aquatic costumes are most recognizable, but these ladies are more than dance and fun. Together, they make a point to service the community with hands-on philanthropic activities and fundraising.
Strutting their "Muff Stuff" on a parade route near you are the Muff-A-Lottas. Whether they're paying homage to the local muffaletta sandwich or using a sexual play on words, these ladies come dressed in 1950s poodle skirts while toting a server's tray.
This all-female play on the original flambeaux men of New Orleans is nothing less than glamorous. Debuting last year, this group of fire-wielding glamor girls consider themselves 'The Lady Keepers of The Flame."