Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Orleans Float-O-Rama: Visual Feast at Blaine Kerns

Blaine Kerns's web site is a little frightening. It looks like a tourist trap to be avoided...And yet. Mardi Gras World makes 90% of all the floats in the Mardi Gras parades. So it could be a fun behind-the-scenes trip. Like a studio visit on a huge scale. Several New Orleans guide books and travel sites recommended it. Maybe if one gave into the hokeyness of it, the over-the-top-ness of it, it'd be fine.

As it turns out, it was more than fine. It was one of my favorite parts of my New Orleans trip. For most of the tour, I felt like this fellow tour-goer looked:
Beware monkeys in top hats.

It began with an obligatory video overviews of Mardi Gras history, with the development of the Krewes etc. In case you're not already aware (I wasn't), each Krewe throws its own parade and there's at least one parade (if not several on the weekends) during the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. The Krewes are all responsible for paying the costs for the floats and all their throws (which always include the ubiquitous beads, but also often include cups, doubloons and various other items, in keeping with the Krewe's theme that year).* After the video came a nicely informative tour, followed by a permitted wander throughout the hanger. If I recall correctly, this mammoth place was only one of 18 hangers, all filled with floats.

{*Why would anyone want  those throws, Compatriot and I asked each other, they're just plastic/metallic beads, and slurpee cups. But you DO, once you're watching a parade, you get swept up and the float's rounding the corner, you're shooting your hand skyward and hollering. You eye your neighbor enviously, what with her snazzy metallic purple beadstring with the elongated diamond shapes and wonder why you only seem capable of snagging fake pearly beads. Meanwhile, Compatriot is triumphant because she scored a light-up peacock necklace. Built guys wander around with mounds of necklaces around their necks and you want to accuse them of buying them: how could they possibly have gotten so many? Perhaps their noontime drinking properly acquitted them for aggressive bead diving**.}

**Diving is advised against. "If you almost catch a throw, or drop it to the ground, do NOT bend over to pick it up. Trap it with your foot." People's hands get trampled.

Laughing Squid and Dutch Baby both made me wish we had the opportunity to visit earlier in the year, so we could have seen more floats and characters in process, but it was a fantastic time nonetheless. I especially like that Dutch Baby snapped a few pics of guys creating the sculptures out of polystyrene using chainsaws.

Suitably frightening jester where one waits for the Mardi Gras World shuttle

The king was self-serious, but the mermaid's humor was wicked.

The lizard behind the lockers

Reminds me of Maurice Sendak's Jennie

Initial Float sketch
prototype leaf

the balloon without its porcine pilot, plus tour guide.

Marx, Vulture, Kennedy, Jennie

Aviator pig, to go with his balloon. I wish I had more back-story on him.
The bull's got a secret or two

Alien over Elvis

Unadorned float

Whew, bring the pretty! I could happily work on these. Seriously.
I think this was a jabberwocky affair. Scary.

Napoleon Kongapart
I fancy a self-important pigeon.
Humpty Dumpty: what a baby.
My head hasn't emerged! Bring the chainsaw!

 More pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cakeasaurus/sets/72157629266698648/

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