Mardi Gras Custom #2 - Countdown to Krewe of Souls
Today, we are 6 days away from the release of KREWE OF SOULS!!
Yesterday, we talked about King Cake – Read yesterday’s post about king cake.
Today’s Mardi Gras custom is Parade Floats. This theme ties in heavily with KREWE OF SOULS, where the main character’s family is involved in a float-themed competition that’s a bigger rivalry than college football is in the Southern USA. I always have to qualify and mention USA, after a reader in South Wales informed me that for my book title, NO GRITS NO GLORY, that grits there is slang for men’s underpants! In the Southeast USA, it’s more like polenta or cream of wheat. Two totally different meanings! But I digress…
I am assuming everyone has been to some form of parade. Floats go by, sometimes there are bands marching as well, or sometimes (as in New Orleans) there is a parade for a funeral where men dress in black and play music all the way to the cemetery (what they play is called a dirge).
According to Wikipedia, the term parade “float” came about because the first floats were actually barges that were towed along the canals by parade marchers on land. Sometimes, floats were propelled by oarsmen who were not visible to the crowds, but this method of using floats in the water was eventually terminated due to high drowning (as well as capsizing) incidents.
This practice gave way to land floats being towed by horses (the animals also towed the caskets for the funerals of those who drowned, so this custom did indeed evolve over time). This eventually gave way to the parade floats we know of today, which are self-powered truck beds or pulled by motor vehicles.
Each Krewe is different. A Krewe is a group of people who form an organization for each parade. There are many Krewes in New Orleans, small and large, and the people in the Krewe pay dues as well as pay for their own throws/beads which they toss from the floats during the parades. Krewes often hold annual fancy dances or balls, along with other social events throughout the year.
Krewes choose a theme for the parade floats. Every Krewe is different. In 2013, the largest Krewe in New Orleans (Krewe of Endymion) decided to pay homage to Ponchartrain Beach, an amusement park which closed in 1983. Every float depicts a specific ride or attraction at Ponchartrain Beach, and the music comes from the float. You can watch a few minutes (or the whole thing at 7 minutes long) here on youtube. I love this video because I remember going to Ponchartrain Beach as a kid, and I was heartbroken when it closed.
To give you an idea of how ornate the floats are, below is a photo from the Krewe of Orpheus: