Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras Guide contains 172 colorful pages of facts, photos, features, and fun, including more than 50 individual parade profiles and maps. The award-winning magazine includes a history of the event; answers to the 25 most frequently asked questions; an illustrated glossary of Mardi Gras terms; and articles on New Orleans personalities, traditions and happenings. For more than three decades, the city's top writers and photographers have worked together to create a publication that has achieved genuine collectible status. With more than two million copies sold, Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras Guide is recognized as the program to the event.

Mardi Gras 2018 is February 13, 2018!

 

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Annual Carnival Review

February 21, 2018

So what kind of Mardi Gras was this one? Pretty average by most accounts (not a bad thing) except for the rain—real and predicted. This may be the wettest parade season ever, affecting many parades and reducing crowd size and business. But one St. Tammany parade captain expressed concern about how local news media reports the weather. “They seem to sensationalize the slightest weather. They really need to be more responsible and stop using terms like ‘complete washout’ when less than an inch of rain is expected for an entire 24-hour period. I believe their exaggerations were more responsible for reducing the crowd size this year than the actual rain itself.”

But the rains they did fall on many parades, including on Endymion, which dodged a lightning storm outside the Superdome near 10 PM. The superkrewe and all other New Orleans parades were denied an opportunity to reschedule their parades when NOPD Police Chief Harrison declared that it was impossible to do so and be fair to every club that may request a new slot. Parade starting times, however, were adjusted to try to dodge the rains.

The surprisingly exceptional weather on Fat Tuesday brought out huge and friendly crowds to greet Zulu, Rex, Argus, and the truck parades.

An early Mardi Gras is always a soft one economically, but this one was particularly weak. It is always a mistake to measure the success of Mardi Gras by looking at hotel occupancy. Visitors are here for a long weekend while the Carnival season can last up to 63 days. One popular restaurant/grocery that also sells Mardi Gras items reported the worst Carnival season since 2000. Another supplier of goods to restaurants claimed business was down nearly one million dollars after the first wet week of the parade season.

The City finally made good on its threat to remove ladders along parade routes, but upset many owners who claimed they should have been given 24 hours notice. Tents were also removed but reappeared on Fat Tuesday. Chairs and picnic tables were blocking access and may be the new targets in 2019.

Shootings along parade routes occurred again, and, as always, had nothing to do with the parades but were spillovers from beefs between people who knew each other.

There was some tongue-in-cheek controversy between the Mayors of Mobile and New Orleans after billboards popped up around town inviting folks to Alabama to see the “original” Mardi Gras. A more serious issue appeared when it seemed that some parades would toss “Save the Monuments” beads. Most krewes banned the items and, as far as we know, none were thrown. There were at least two instances of “offensive” throws reported on FaceBook that were dealt with swiftly by the captains.

Most New Orleans krewes took seriously the suggestion from the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee to reduce the number of units in their parades.

The new “gutter buddies” seemed to work keeping most beads from entering the catch basins along the parade route.

Women continue to lead the way in the growth of membership—Nyx 3,342, Iris 2,028, Muses 1,118 and 900 in Cleopatra.

Biggest news in Jefferson Parish was the awarding of subsidies to the krewes of Adonis, Athena, Caesar, and Centurions. Because of the threat of rain, the Caesar parade moved from Saturday to Sunday opposite the Super Bowl. The Jefferson Parish Carnival community lost a dear friend with the passing of Corps de Napoleon founder and captain Irvy Cosse, who died three weeks before his parade. It does not appear that the krewe will continue.

The Krewe of Pandora made a comeback after a one-year hiatus but only mounted a ten-float parade.

Family Gras was largely washed out, and the rain affected several Metairie parades. Excalibur decided not to take the Bonnabel loop. Route changes for all krewes are under discussion for 2019.

Orleans Parish captains that responded to our annual survey were universal in their praise for Sgt. Andrew Palumbo and the NOPD for the smooth way in which parades were handled this year. Parades rolled on time (or early), and moved efficiently without being rushed.

The Krewe of Nyx, which surpassed Endymion in total membership, experienced rain and a breakdown that caused its massive Wednesday parade to be on the streets early into Thursday morning.

New floats debuted for Bacchus, Muses, Tucks, and Orpheus, all courtesy of Blaine Kern Artists.

Homage was paid to the City’s Tricentennial by several krewes, which reminded parade viewers that parades can educate was well as entertain. Rex looked at the early history of the city, while Hermes saluted famous writers and artists.

Major targets of satire this year were President Trump, the S&WB, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Chef John Besh, and Mayor-Elect Latoya Cantrell, who also rode as the Honorary Muse in the Muses 2018 parade.

The move of the Lundi Gras celebration down Convention Center Boulevard a few blocks worked very well, but the event hopes to return to Spanish Plaza next year where it belongs.

High school marching bands have become expensive and in short supply with as many as ten parades scheduled in three parishes on some parade days.

Now that the Canal Street loop has been eliminated, one captain suggested that the City consider making up the lost blocks by allowing parades to turn left or right on Poydras for a few blocks, then U-turn back to St. Charles Avenue. And speaking of suggestions, there is some momentum in Carnival circles to pursue renaming Lee Circle “Mardi Gras Circle.”

It was nice to see Harry Connick Jr. lead the Orpheus parade and for Spike Lee to ride in Zulu. They may have been the most popular celebrities to appear in parades this year.

Two parade critics who witnessed a combined 60 parades in a four-parish area, declared the 2018 Proteus parade the most beautiful. They also reported that the lovely Bacchus 50th anniversary parade was marred a bit by the large number of unmasked riders. They commended the Endymion parade for its extraordinary new lighting.

Doubloons seemed to make a come back this year with more krewes throwing them (particularly the new “cut-out” versions) and more parade goers begging for them.

Krewe signature items, as well as float-specific throws, continue to be popular.

Mardi Gras is late next year, March 5, for only the fourth time since 1889. We’ve already starting making our plans.

Hardy on a Soapbox

It was sad to see a video of a rider in the Oshun parade punching his horse, but action was taken against him, to the credit of the SPCA and Oshun’s leadership. Every horse that appears in a Mardi Gras parade is vetted and inspected in the formation area by the Louisiana SPCA, which checks vaccinations and the general health of the animals. It is a shame that similar attention is not given to the composition of the dance groups that appear in the parades. For years I have complained about under-age kids marching in our parades. As a parade watching visitor pointed out to me, “In any other town if you made a young child walk several miles, it would be child abuse. Here you guys cheer them on.”

For the past three years I have made it a point to ask chaperones about the ages of the young marchers and then to photograph them. Four was the record until last year when two three-year-olds were identified. This year I was told proudly by a chaperone who I believe was the mother, “She is TWO YEARS old!”

Another issue of concern to me is the dangerous practice of marching bands swinging their instruments and bass drum beaters into the crowd, almost inviting confrontation. As a former high school band director myself, I know how easy this problem is to avoid. At least three fights broke out between parade watchers and band members this year over this very practice. On the other hand, crowds also need to respect the space that bands need to perform.

Now that the number of units in Orleans Parish parades has been reduced, attention needs to be focused on the quality of these units, many of which are just plain tacky—pickup trucks with Port-o-lets and gigantic speakers, support vehicles for bands and dance teams, horse trailers, etc. And does a 50-piece band really need 35 chaperones?

Annual Carnival Review

February 18, 2018

Arthur Hardy's annual Carnival Review will be posted this Wednesday.

Post Mardi Gras Report

February 14, 2018

This weekend I will post my annual review of the Carnival season

From the City of New Orleans

In total, the NOPD made 471 arrests during the 2018 Mardi Gras season, compared to 373 during the 2017 Mardi Gras season. In addition, solid police work and proactive patrolling led to 96 illegal guns taken off the street.

The Real Time Crime Center worked 48 cases, including violent crimes and a suspected Driving While Intoxicated case, during the 2018 Mardi Gras season.

SAFETY – FIRE & EMS

For the 2018 Mardi Gras season, the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) responded to 62 fires, and 1,163 medical and 732 other calls for service including nine working structure fires.

The NOFD also inspected 34 parades, which included: 973 traditional floats, 167 truck floats and 319 parade flambeauxs. The Department also inspected 85 mobile food vendors, 12 fixed food vendors for compliance by NOFD.

Additionally, the City utilized a Mardi Gras Information and Updates website at nola.gov/mardigras. The site provided residents and visitors with safety regulations, enforcement policies, permitting information, and helpful suggestions, including interactive parade maps. The website received over 38,000 views in the 30 days before Fat Tuesday, up from 22,000 in 2017.

PARKING ENFORCEMENT

In addition to permanent “No Parking” signs posted along parade routes, the City installed approximately 3,000 temporary “No Parking” signs.

This year, the City issued 28,015 citations and towed 1,174 vehicles on parade days.

AIRPORT

Over the Mardi Gras holiday, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport experienced another year of increased passengers traveling through the airport. Over an eight-day period beginning Friday, Feb. 9 through Friday, Feb. 16, the airport expects to have had over 164,000 passengers depart, a 10 percent increase compared to 2017. Over 19,000 passengers were scheduled to depart New Orleans today, Feb. 14, as the Mardi Gras Season came to a close.

Mardi Gras Parade Preview

February 13, 2018

Well Fat Tuesday is finally here. A day full of parades commences as usual at 8:00 AM with the Zulu parade, which salutes the Tricentennial. Spike Lee rides as grand marshal, a role he played in 2003. Look for special floats that bear Zulu’s legendary characters—Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Ambassador, Governor, Mr. Big Stuff, Mayor, and Province Prince. Zulu’s 24 maids are also presented in the parade. The club’s members and their riding guests throw a wide assortment of Zulu-emblemed throws, but what we all really want is rthe most coveted catch of the season, the treasured Zulu coconuts, which are handed to lucky parade watchers.

At 10 AM, Rex‚ the oldest parading Carnival organization, presents its 137th parade which salutes the early days of the history of New Orleans with its theme L’Ancienne Nouevlle Orleans. The 27-float parade will be led by the United States Marine Corp Band and the Ross Volunteers of Texas A & M. The Butterfly King float returns, along with the iconic King’s float, the Jester, and Boeuf Gras floats. Rex throws tossed by the 455 riding members include float specific plush pillows, cups, and medallion necklaces and koozies. The parade also features a band contest.

In Metairie at 10 AM, it’s the 46th annual Argus parade that features more than 600 men, women, and children. The club owns all 20 of its floats. This year’s theme is Argus Under the Big Top. Emblemed throws in 2018 include queen’s dolls, a plush peacock named Gus and the new Argus kite ball.

If you simply cannot get enough of Carnival, stick around for the truck parades that follow Rex-the Elks Orleanians and Crescent City. And the truck parades that follow Argus in Metairie-the Elks Jeffersonians and the Krewe of Jefferson. Then start making plans for Mardi Gras 2019. Fat Tuesday is March 5.

Lundi Gras Parade Preview

February 12, 2018

On Lundi Gras you can watch both Zulu arrive by boat and Rex arrive by train near the Riverwalk, and then can see back-to-back parades that span two centuries of parading history.

One of the season’s prettiest parades is also one of the oldest. At 5:15 PM, the 230 men of Proteus are led by the captain on horseback followed by 34 riding lieutenants and 30 flambeaux. The 20-float procession has an interesting theme, Graces of the Gods for New Orleans. Royal Artists constructed the floats on chassis that date from the 1880s. The identity of the gentleman who portrays Proteus is never revealed to the public, but his magnificent seashell float is a thing of beauty. Try to catch the Proteus tridents, their seahorse medallions, and the Proteus plush LED flambeaux.

The Folly of Astroroth is the theme of the 2018 procession of Orpheus, the krewe that Harry Connick Jr. helped organize 25 years ago. (yes-He is riding this year). Keegan-Michael Key, an American actor, writer, and producer, will ride atop the Monarch float. The club of 1,400 male and female members will ride 38 floats, including two new entries—The Mystery and Magic of Carnival, and Rhythm, Rhyme & Revelry. Legendary signature floats include the Trojan Horse, Leviathan, Dolly Trolley, and the 8-unit Smokey Mary tandem float, which holds 230 riders. Expect a special tribute to the city’s Tricentennial. This year’s most collectible throws are LED Orpheus pillows and special 2.5” doubloons that salute musical legend, the late Pete Fountain. Other neat throws include Orpheus glitter facemasks and musical lyre wands. The post-parade Orpheuscapade inside the Morial Convention Center, where the parade ends, is named the NOLA 300 Jam Fest and features nine New Orleans acts.

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