[ICC Carnival New Orleans]


Carnival New Orleans - Krewes

Instead of being a celebration of several days duration, the New Orleans Carnival is a long series of balls over a period of many weeks climaxing with the celebration on Mardi Gras day when Rex, King of the Carnival, receives the keys to the city and rules for the day. Although Rex is the king of kings of the Carnival, the oldest organization is the Mistick Krewe of Comus which was organized in 1857. Rex did not appear until 1872.

In 1937, There were between 25 and 30 krewes including several organizations for women. In 1996, there will be no fewer than 50-60 krewes and accompanying parades and other festivities.

Membership in the krewes is through invitation only. Members of the krewes who participate in the annual ball are known as "the cast" and their identity is never officiially revealed. Numerically krewes run from a membership of less than 100 to over 300; some krewes such as Endymion, boast over 1,500 members.

Dues vary depending entirely on the magnitude of the organization and its importance in the make-up of carnival. In addition to the dues, members are taxed for krewe favors, after-ball dinners and other incidentals.

While each organization has the regular group of officers such as president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, etc., the captain is the real executive and is in absolute control of the presentation of the tableau on the night of the ball.

The ball consists of a tableau depicting some event in history or mythology, song, or story. The ballroom, usually the Municipal Auditorium (or Superdome for some of the larger krewes), becomes a brilliant stage set with the members of the organization as the actors. Each individual krewe has its own distinctive manner of presentation.

Over each ball reigns a king and queen and their courts. As like every other member of the krewe, the king and his dukes are under the mask and their identity never officially revealed. Rex, the King of the Carnival, is an exception to this rule.

The queen and her maids are selected by the captain and the executive committee of each organization. They are notified of their selection far in advance of the ball but their identity is kept from the public and the members of the krewe until the night of the ball. For the better part debutantes make up the courts of the krewe but there are exceptions to this rule.

Attendance at the ball is by invitation only. Unless the visitor to New Orleans has some connection or contact with a member of a krewe and is in a position to receive an invitation they are unable to be present. As a result, the general run of visitors to the New Orleans Mardi Gras are only privileged to witness the street pageants and do not participate in the Carnival festivities except on Mardi Gras day during the hours of promiscuous masking which is from sunrise to sunset.

In recent times, some krewes have staged elaborate balls featuring celebrities and national musical acts that are open to the public.

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