A Visit to Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, LA
In season two we visited the amazing city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Bustling with food, fun, and culture, New Orleans is best known for its Mardi Gras parade. You’re no doubt familiar with the scenes of bead throwing, costumed, parade-goers marching down the tiny streets of the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday.
What you may not know, however, is where those incredibly artistic floats get made. Many of them come out of the warehouse of Mardi Gras World. In 1947, Blaine Kern, Sr. founded Blaine Kern Artists. Kern came from a family of float builders, but began creating floats after 1940, when a surgeon and krewe captain (a parade organizer) who had seen a mural by Kern hired him. Kern’s business expanded from there. Kern has gained an international reputation in float building, with floats beyond New Orleans for Las Vegas, NV; Mobile, AL; Galveston, TX; Montreal, Canada; and the Universal Studios in Orlando Mardi Gras parades.
Tours are offered seven days a week, and it’s a good way to see how New Orleans prepares for this annual festival. There’s even a free shuttle from 20 locations downtown to take you to Mardi Gras World. This is a great opportunity to take some goofy pictures with the floats.
They also have a cafe where I had my first King Cake. A Mardi Gras tradition, it’s a round, cinnamon-roll like cake, sometimes with a cheese filling (like a danish), that has a baby Jesus baked into it. If you get the piece with the baby Jesus, it is said you have good luck.
What is Mardi Gras?
Celebrated from the 17th century of Medieval Europe, Mardi Gras aka Fat Tuesday, refers to centuries old celebrations, beginning on or after the Epiphany or Kings day and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of Lent. New Orleans, being a French Catholic settlement, embraces the tradition to it’s fullest, and is the American city most associated with Mardi Gras, but certain forms of Mardi Gras are practiced in other countries including Europe and South America.
Today, Mardi Gras is a huge party. The city is inundated with partygoers wearing Mardi Gras costumes and Mardi Gras masks, tossing out Mardi Gras beads. So, if you’d like to see the artists working hard on a parade float, you’re going to want to make the trip to Mardi Gras World.
For more information on a visit to Mardi Gras World head here.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Dollar Photo Club.