Parades, Floats, Doubloons, Beads
Each year right after Mardi Gras, the framework of the annual fun and games begins. Right after the year's celebration each krewe sits down and chooses a theme for their parade. Drawings of detailed floats, costumes and masks are decided and designed.
Every parade starts off with the krewe captain leading. Following behind the captain are the krewe's officers(king and queen or maids and dukes). Between the floats are marching bands, dancers, motorcyle units, horses, and sometimes even clowns!
Parades start at designated times and the parade follows a certain route around the city or section of the city. Look at our parade calendar to see the dates and routes of the parades.
Can you imagine Mardi Gras without floats or even a parade without a big, decorated float strolling down the streets?
Floats are an essential factor for Mardi Gras and are quite famous throughout the world. New Orleans is known for its renowned floats that continue to get bigger and better each year. Over the years floats have become more and more outrageous including brighter lights and an upgrade to fiber optic cables and even laser lights.
The first floats began in 1837 in New Orleans when they used mule-drawn carriages. Floats can carry many, many people and some have been known to even carry 200 riders. Every year after Mardi Gras the entire cycle of making floats starts over. Krewe riders come up with a theme for their krewe and then transfer that idea/theme into a work of art. This work of art with funny, witty slogans and the krewe’s traditional symbol(or crest) are placed on the float. Mardi Gras World, a huge float building facility located in New Orleans, makes about 80 percent of the floats we all see rolling down the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
When coming to see the biggest free show on Earth expect to get many freebies thrown at you. Beads are probably the most renowned items of Mardi Gras. Beads come in many shapes and sizes and a variety of colors. The traditional carnival colors are seen more than ever and also glances of bright red, royal blue and pearl white.
Sizes of beads vary from short to long and fat to small.
Standard bead sizes are:
- 5 mm 3/16 inch or slightly under 1/8 inch
- 7.5 mm 5/8 inch or just over ¼ inch (width of pencil)
- 12 mm 7/16 inch or almost ½ inch
- 18 mm 11/16 inch or almost ¾ inch (size of dime)
The chart length of bead lengths are as follows:
- 24 inches – under the neck
- 33 inches – middle of chest bone
- 48 inches – by the waist
- 60 inches – top of thighs
- 72 inches – above the knees
Just like beads are thrown to those out in the crowd of the parades, so are doubloons. Doubloons are coin-like aluminum objects. Each side is designated to one specific item to convey: one side bears the krewe's insignia/logo and the other side has the parade's theme on the reverse.
While beads are the most renowned items thrown to the crowd, doubloons are the most enduring symbols of Mardi Gras. The history behind these collectibles all goes to artist and inventor Alvin Sharpe. Alvin Sharpe studied intaglio(form of art that engraves figures in stone). Sharpe told the Rex krewe about his design of doubloons and the doubloon was intorduced to New orleans in 1960 by Rex as a carnival throw.