People talk about Mardi Gras in New Orleans like going to Las Vegas. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, a non-stop party in the streets with music, costumes, masks and beads. For me, I always imagined Mardi Gras to be something like Woodstock 1969 meets Ringling Brothers Circus with a bit of St. Patrick’s Day all rolled into one.
Although Mardi Gras has kept headquarters in Louisiana since 1875, the tradition of Mardi Gras has roots that go back to medieval Europe (mainly Rome and France). The term, “mardi gras,” is French for Fat Tuesday, a Christian festival-type day of revelry. Fat Tuesday is the last day to feast and indulge for Christians, before beginning the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Today’s Mardi Gras festivities are a lot different from what they used to be in medieval times but change is good! Nowadays in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is preceded by 12 days of pre-celebration with 12 days of parades which means 12 days of completely different floats! With that many parades on order, you can imagine how busy a float building workshop like Mardi Gras World might be.
Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World is responsible for the largest float parades in New Orleans. Mardi Gras World designs and builds floats for events in cities across America and it’s still being run by the Kerns three generations later. Blaine Kern himself was a float designer and builder. He built his first parade in 1932 and opened the museum fifteen years later in 1947. Now, almost 70 years later, people can still enjoy the Mardi Gras World museum and see the making of the Mardi Gras floats.
The first stop on the walking tour is the workshop where the staff build the props and figures that will be mounted on the floats. You can see how they create shapes out of glued layers of styrofoam, some fine trimming and paper mache.
Once the props and characters are carved and coated, they are relocated to the colour department where the figures really come to life!
After that we walked out to the main storage area where all the figures, props and complete floats can rest safely. Below are some of the finished figures.
The finished floats were absolutely stunning with such vivid colours and intricate designs. They were so huge it was impossible to get the entire float into one shot. Below are two of my favourites.
Once our guide was finished his tour, we were free to roam the warehouse and take pictures as we wished. The tour took about an hour to complete and it’s all indoors so write this one down for a rainy day activity. At first glance an attraction like this may seem odd but if you like “how it’s made” shows, I think you’d like the tour. Admission is $19.95 for adults but you can get $2 off in the magazine I mentioned in my article Cities of the Dead Part 1 . Click here to get your free New Orleans official visitors guide book and check the back for tons of coupons for most main attractions and restaurants.