Carnival has two main parts: the parades, which everyone can attend, and the balls, which only krewe members and their guests can attend. One hundred years before there were parades in New Orleans there were Carnival balls. They called them bals masques, or masked balls.
Around 1860 people organized parades and balls to celebrate Carnival. The people who organized these events were called krewes. The Twelfth Night Revelers liked the balls so much that they quit having parades!
There are two different kinds of balls. The original is a tableau ball. Tableaus include royalty and they call out their names as they enter the ball. The royalty includes a king, queen, maids, lieutenants, ladies-in-waiting, and pages. Only the krewe and the people they invite can come to the ball.
The Rex ball is an example of a serious tableau ball. The ball is held after the parade on Mardi Gras night in the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium. Rex and Comus, another krewe, each have their own balls on other sides of the auditorium. The two courts meet at 7:30 p.m. to toast each other. The entire ball is televised. The Marine Forces Reserve Band of New Orleans plays the National Anthem at the Rex ball. The official court includes Rex, his Queen, two pages, eight maids and eight dukes. The end of the Rex ball is the official end of Mardi Gras.
The other kind of ball is a supper dance. Anyone can buy a ticket to the supper dance. There is no royalty in the super krewes' balls, but there is a celebrity monarch who is king or queen of the parade and entertains guests at the ball.
Endymion's ball is an supper dance known as the Endymion Extravaganza. After parading through New Orleans, the parade rolls into the Superdome--floats, bands, and all. The riders shower the guests with beads and other throws. Guests are seated at tables in the center of the Dome. After the parade, the krewe members get off the floats and join the ball, or huge party. During the ball, the celebrity monarch provides entertainment. Two prior monarchs were Dolly Parton and Whoopi Goldberg.