Tag Archives: Mardi Gras Floats

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History of Mardi Gras

MardiGras2smWhile Mardi Gras has become a fixture of New Orleans culture, the holiday does not have its earliest roots in the city. The Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday tradition began centuries before in Rome as a religious holiday that marked the last day before Lent, or Ash Wednesday.

The custom spread to France where it then traveled to the French American colonies at the tail end of the 17th century. On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville set up camp about 60 miles south of New Orleans. Knowing that March 3 was being celebrated as a major holiday back in France, Bienville named the spot “Pointe du Mardi Gras.”

In 1703, the first Mardi Gras in America was celebrated in what is now Mobile. In 1704, the secret society Masque de la Mobile was founded as a precursor to today’s Mardi Gras krewes. In 1710, the Boeuf Gras Society was established and paraded from 1711 through 1861.

New Orleans was founded in 1718, and by the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in the form of elegant society balls, which became the basis of today’s Mardi Gras ball tradition. In 1781, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of New Orleans’ carnival organizations.

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New Orleans Attractions

Mardi Gras World: Explore the Magical Behind the Scenes of Carnival

Head of a jester from a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans

Courtesy of Denny Giaruso

 

 

Want to explore the behind-the-scenes magic of New Orleans’ most unique cultural and spiritual event of the year, the infamous Mardi Gras? Since 1947, Blaine Kern Studios has opened the doors of Mardi Gras World to locals and tourists alike to give them a peek inside all the craftsmanship, technology, and soul that goes into creating the ultimate Carnival experience.

Imagine walking within arm’s length of 20-foot papier-mâché sculptures of mythical beings like Zeus or Thor, or a giant jester with a hat and bells that feature nearly every vibrant color you can imagine? These magnificent works of art have donned the fronts and backs of parade floats for as long as any of us have been standing along St. Charles Ave or Canal St with our families and friends, waiting for them to pass.

Growing up in this city, since we were kids we had favorite parades, and even favorite floats and characters. Costumed riders returned our, “Throw me somethin’, Mister!” with handfuls of beads, doubloons, trinkets, stuffed animals, spears, frisbees, and more. But what’s lasted most in our memories aren’t the trinkets and plastic beads—it’s the picturesque, awe-inspiring, and sometimes even hilarious float designs that’s captured our hearts.

Mardi Gras World offers guided tours through these rows and rows of towering, fantastical float designs, sculptures, and costumes. You’ll even get to see the impressive technology that animates the very mega floats we ogle on the parade routes. Plus, bits of Carnival lore and the history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans are weaved into the tour for a little lagniappe.

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