I bicycled down to the river today, for this year’s Soulard Mardi Gras Parade. You have to be specific about these parades, because there are three Mardi Gras parades in Saint Louis. Last weekend hosted the dog parade in Soulard; imagine costumed pups threading the crowd in the narrow streets of this early 19th century neighborhood. This Tuesday, the actual Fat Tuesday, will host a Mardi Gras parade downtown, but today’s parade is the main event, second only to New Orleans, in these United States.
Normally, we do Mardi Gras with Gary and Linda, members of Team Kaldis. They live in Soulard and generally throw a terrific party on this Saturday. Gary has this parade down to a science, what with portable scaffolding that he can set up at the last minute, giant hand shaped rakes to snag the lofted strings of beads and several hundred Jell-O shots. Everything goes better with Jell-O. This year, they wanted to take a year off from their hosting duties and get out and see what their neighbor’s are up to for a change. I hope that they’re back to form next year.
So, since I didn’t have to brave the crowd in Soulard, I decided to watch the parade closer to downtown, closer to its origin. At Broadway and Chouteau the crowd wasn’t as thick, drunk, crude or lewd, as in Soulard proper. This parade is different from any of the myriad other parades that occur every year in town. Saint Louis sure does love its parades. This parade has a pretty stiff entry fee, $300 for a walking Krewe and $500 for a Krewe with a float. The word “Krewe” is a generic term used to describe any carnival organization or club. The word was coined by the oldest such organization in New Orleans, the Mystik Krewe of Comus who believed in 1857 that the word gave the club’s name an “olde-English” flavor.
There are three Krewe types in this parade: the corporate Krewe, the civic organization Krewe and the real Krewe. You can always tell a real Krewe from any of the others, because they are not trying to sell you anything. A real Krewe always has an interesting name, like the following examples illustrate:
Weekend Society for the Prevention of Sobriety
Bodacious Bead Blasters
Grand Sultans of Excess
Krewe of the Creatively Confused
My favorite Krewe was the Krewe of the Mystic Knights of the Purple Haze. Their float was Aquaman’s Justice League Mardi Gras Party. The red starfish, the last photo, is part of their Krewe. Maybe, I’ll revisit this Krewe on Tuesday, because just one picture of one member does not do this Krewe justice. They had a float to die for. Plus, they won first place. The Banana Bike Brigade, pictured first, took second place with their Finding Nemo theme. Having super-storm Nemo occurring on the same weekend, probably didn’t hurt their chances any. They are an example of a “walking” Krewe, because they had no float.