Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The ending of Carnival

Celebrating the Sunday before Mardi Gras in 2009, the calendar date on which I was born, with my mother at historic Gallier Hall.
It has been a most serene day for me following a most dizzying weekend of events related to Carnival celebrations here in the City That Care Forgot. It has been so busy that this blog has suffered and for that I apologize, but it could not be helped and I hope I will be forgiven. The last few moments of Mardi Gras are drawing to a close, captured over the airwaves at the Meeting of the Courts of Rex and Comus. This finely scripted affair is actually two in one and begins at the Sheraton Hotel, where the Rex organization (officially known as The School of Design) holds its ball, later moving across historic Canal Street to the Marriott Hotel, where it ends at the ball of the Mystic Krewe of Comus. The tableau is full of symbols relating to the power of the King of Carnival and his court as they pay homage to Comus, credited as the originators of Carnival. For many years the meeting of the courts took place at the now shuttered Municpal Auditorium, which suffered heavy damage due to Hurricane Katrina related flooding and has yet to be restored or is slated to be repaired anytime soon. The pomp and circumstance of the affair is dazzling and filled with various protocol which must be observed. Who arrives at whose ball is dictated by tradition and the images of Rex and his lovely queen in gold meeting Comus and his radiant queen in silver is a thrill for those of us who enjoy the pagaentry of the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
As I watch the events enfold over the TV in glorious color, I think back on the last several days. There were, of course, several impressive balls leading up to the final weekend. Saturday morning I prepared to journey along the traditional St. Charles Avenue route as part of the spectacular Krewe of Iris, the oldest ladies organization. The weather was near perfect and the ride surprisingly short. It was a busy day that most New Orleanians considered because of the impending run that evening for the largest Carnival parading organization, the Krewe of Endymion, that features over 2400 riders and the largest of all floats in Carnival. One of this krewe's floats, Captain Eddie's Steamboat, features over 200 masked riders, more than some other entire krewes. Endymion splits New Orleans down the middle with its route that spans Canal Street. There is no part of New Orleans that is not affected by Endymion, which ends its journey along the streets by entering into the Louisiana Superdome. It is there where the crowd of nattily attired women and men greets the floats and dances to musical acts throughout the night and into the next morning. That next morning I met with the recently installed Queen of Okeanos, whose selection was made only a few weeks earlier at their Coronation Ball. The Queen's Breakfast was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, following which the Queen and Maids journey with chaperones to the start of the parade uptown and then "buzzed" the parade route along Magazine Street and Napoleon and St. Charles Avenues. The police escorted limousines stopped at Gallier Hall, where the queen and her court were eventually introduced to the crowd just prior to the onset of the parade. It was my job to narrate the parade at the former New Orleans City Hall named after its famous architect. After the queen and her party left, I stayed to continue narrating the parades for the Krewe of Mid City and, later in the afternoon, the incredible Krewe of Thoth. I recuperated on Monday just long enough to prepare to journey to the Morial Convention Center and await the arrival of the Krewe of Orpheus and its most spectacular parade featuring millions of light emiting diodes (LEDs). The affair featured gifted Cajun and popular violinist Amanda Shaw and the Bucktown All Stars cover band before the arrival of the Orpheus units. Later, Celebrity Monarchs Jim Belushi and Josh Gracin from American Idol entertained the crowd with one other local band before the affair ended at 2:30 a.m. I was there until nearly the bitter end and elected to rest up for Fat Tuesday and enjoy the affairs going on vicariously by watching the local broadcasts. Trust me, I was quite bushed and needed the rest. It seems hard to believe it's all over, but I am already beginning to think about next year's fabulous offerings when Shrove Tuesday falls on February 16, a little over a week earlier than this year.

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