Monday, October 29, 2012

Join The Krewe Of Freret Now For Mardi Gras 2013

I was contacted through Twitter by a representative of the Krewe of Freret suggesting a post on how to join their krewe. Since my blog is about all things Mardi Gras, here it is!
The Krewe of Freret consists mainly, but not exclusively, of Tulane and Loyola graduates as well as business owners. It's a co-ed organization that welcomes those who are locals and non-locals interested in continuing the Mardi Gras tradition.
The original Krewe of Freret was actually disbanded in the 1990's. In 2011 seven Loyola graduates wanted to have their own krewe which included friends, associates and others who wanted to participate in a krewe where they would have input regarding the activities. They decided to resurrect this krewe that had been part of the community for many years in keeping with the neighborhood's commercial revitalization.
They will be riding down St. Charles Avenue, in the Uptown section of New Orleans. Membership includes riding in the parade on floats with brass bands and of course plenty of beads.
Click here to visit the Krewe of Freret website for more details. You'll also find the application for membership to join the krewe!
Thanks for visiting! Feel free to leave comments below.
Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Backstreet Cultural Museum In New Orleans

There are so many cultural treasures in New Orleans and one of my favorites is the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Faubourg Treme. Faubourg is French for district or neighborhood outside of the city limits. The Backstreet Cultural Museum offers an extensive selection of Mardi Gras Indian suits as well as costumes worn by some of the original New Orleans brass bands and social aid and pleasure club members throughout the years.
Photographs, videos, collections and exhibits provide an inside look into the African American culture in New Orleans.

During my travels to New Orleans for Mardi Gras that year I was told about the museum by some hotel staff, so I decided to check it out. While I was there I was able to take pictures of some of the displays. Also I had the pleasure to be able to speak to the founder of the museum, Sylvestor Francis, who opened it's doors in 1999. Several years ago he was a member of the Gentlemen of Leisure Social Aid And Pleasure Club.

He originally started gathering collectibles from the Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands and social clubs. Because of his love of the African American Mardi Gras culture in Treme, he gave pictures to anyone who participated in parades that he photographed. He was rewarded for his generosity when people who he gave photographs to started giving him costumes, suits and keepsakes.

The picture below is of Sylvestor Francis in the museum.

He took time to discuss the museum displays and their history. Also he had me watch a documentary called "All In A Mardi Gras Day" which I purchased a copy of. It's a great reference for anyone interested in the African American Mardi Gras culture in New Orleans. It covers the Mardi Gras Indians, Zulu Krewe, Skull and Bone Gang and lots more.

Click here to view The Backstreet Cultural Museum website. You'll find information on exhibitions, community programs and hours of operation.

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did sharing it. Feel free to leave comments below.

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Mardi Gras Indians, First African American Mardi Gras Krewe

You won't see them with the rest of the krewes and walking clubs during the Mardi Gras celebrations.That's because they don't hang out around Canal Street near the French Quarter or Uptown near St. Charles Avenue where all the other krewes parade. I admit, because I didn't know the schedule until late last year, I still haven't seen them perform myself. You may be able to see them at the Jazz and Heritage Festivals if you don't catch them on Mardi Gras Day, St. Joseph's Day or a Super Sunday. I'm referring to the Mardi Gras Indians, the oldest African American Mardi Gras Krewe.

The Mardi Gras Indians mask in the historically African American neighborhood of Treme in New Orleans and make stops at different local restaurants and taverns in the community. Since African Americans were not included in the earlier Mardi Gras parades, they created their own celebrations within their neighborhoods.

You can contact the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme for information on the schedule, which is where I found out a lot about the history. This amazing African American cultural tradition goes back to the early 1800's with the Creole Wild West shows. Native Americans were credited with assisting African Americans during slavery and this was a way to pay homage.

The costumes, called suits, are made of not only feathers but also intricate bead work. They take about a year to make and weigh at least 100 pounds. They also don't wear the same one twice. The downtown suits are made more of feathers indicative of Native American tribes and the uptown costumes are more reminiscent of West African beading traditions.

The amazing picture displayed on this post is of the Cheyenne Gang. Photo credit goes to Perry Braniff, Sr.

*** Click here also for more information on the Mardi Gras Indians.

Thanks for visiting. There is so much more to the Mardi Gras Indian culture than what's covered on this post. If you'd like me to add more about information about this topic on the blog please let me know by posting your comments below.

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Mardi Gras Krewe Of Orpheus

The Krewe of Orpheus is one of the newer additions to the Mardi Gras Carnival Parade. It was founded in 1993 by musician and native of New Orleans, Harry Connick, Jr. His father, Harry Connick, Sr. is also a member and is currently president. Orpheus takes it's name from the mythological Greek god of music. Traditionally their parade route goes through the Uptown section of New Orleans.
They start loading the floats on Lundi Gras Day (the day before Fat Tuesday) with tons of beads and other throws and start parading that evening.

One of the differences between Orpheus and many other krewes is their open membership. Most krewes are closed social groups, but Orpheus has stated that they accept members regardless of race or gender. 

The krewe also has Celebrity Monarchs every year that participate in the parade and ride on their floats. Entertainers including Forest Whitaker, Stevie Wonder, Whoopi Goldberg, Cyndi Lauper, Bret Michaels and Sandra Bullock are just a few that have rode with the krewe during Mardi Gras celebrations.

Click here to find out more about the Krewe of Orpheus.

Feel free to leave comments below!

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How To Catch Mardi Gras Beads Without Losing Your Shirt

There are lots of videos around showing women flashing their breasts in order to get Mardi Gras beads. That seems to be an extreme way to get some plastic trinkets thrown at you, in my opinion. But anyone who's been to a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans will surely tell you, there are beads being worn by everyone, of so many shapes, styles and color in addition to the traditional purple, green and gold. But you don't have to show any skin to get them.

Although Mardi Gras street parades started around the early 1800's when the King of Carnival, Rex was created, the tradition of beads, doubloons (large coins), cups, and sometimes stuffed animals, called throws being tossed into the crowds from riders on floats did not start until much later. Beads which started out as glass necklaces, were offered to the crowds around 1870.

Throws are definitely a component of the Mardi Gras experience and have now been a regular part of each krewe's signature. There are about 60 Mardi Gras krewes, which are social organizations that participate in the parades. Some have throws with their krewe logo, and the fun is in seeing what they have that's different every year.

*** Catching Mardi Gras beads can be done without removing any articles of clothing. I have attended 2 Mardi Gras celebrations to date and came back home each time with bags full of beads; and I never flashed to get any.

Here are my tips for catching beads that are easy and won't have you humiliate yourself or get you arrested:

* The old technique of waving your hands in the air and yelling "Throw me something, Mister!" still works. Try to make eye contact with the float rider and if you flash anything, make it a smile!

* Look up always, don't try to pick up anything that hits the ground when the floats are going by. The crowds are pretty thick, people are likely to step on you. Besides there's plenty more on other floats.

* Pay attention to packs of beads betting tossed, these are great when you get them, but watch out, they can hurt if they hit you. Saw that happen to someone next to me in a parade...ouch!

* Last, but not least, find out where the parade route ends, especially on parades that are in the early part of the day. The krewes may still have throws and they don't want to carry them around now. They'll gladly give you their stash.

If you ever go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, relax and have fun, there's a lot to see and experience. The music, food, parades and culture are memorable. I think everyone should do it at least once in their life, there's nothing like it!

*** And make sure you have a bag for all the beads you're going to catch! :0)

Sondra Carpenter
The Mardi Gras Girl