Sorry all! This is going to be a long one, but this is my favorite parade and I could talk about it all night! So I will try to only hit the highlights.
Theresa Andersson in the Krewe of Muses parade, 2012. Photo by Golden Richard.
It's not only my favorite parade, I think it might to be safe to say that it's generally a local favorite as well. Muses brings out the best of the New Orleans' Mardi Gras season. The sense of gathering and community centered around this parade makes Muses very different: unlike other parades, where people will run you over for some plastic beads and are generally drunk and obnoxious, during Muses people seem to bond and enjoy each other. There is a level of excitement that remains friendly and beautiful all night. All ages come to this parade to have a good time. As one friend pointed out, it's not the young girls with cleavage who get to enjoy this parade, it's everyone.
Last year, a little girl who had Autism ran into the few Asshats who decided to show up at the parade (a bunch of college students who didn't seem to get what Muses is about). After being bullied by them, she ended up going home in tears, declaring "I don’t think I want to do Mardi Gras anymore. Not ever again". When the krewe heard about what had happened, they immediately contacted the family and threw the little girl her very own Muses party at the Den of Muses itself. Muses is an organization dedicated to taking care of it's community and I think that this story is a good example of why they are so loved by all of us who live here. *
This isn't the best picture, but this is a common site at a Mardi Gras parade; parents buy folding ladders with seats on top for their children to sit in, so that they can see the parade. These line the parade routes for days and days during the height of Carnival Season. We joke about this being a great piece of "NOLA Engineering", as well as being used to represent the overall Mardi Gras Season in local culture.
T-shirt from local shop Storyville.
A picture taken on the parade route today, you can see the ladders and a small portion of the Mardi Gras madness that is taking place a block from my house.
Muses was the first all female riding krewe to parade at night, Uptown. This is a big deal. The krewes that parade at night in the Uptown area are the biggest, the best, the oldest and the most popular. Started in 2000, the Krewe of Muses now has over a thousand riding members, making it currently impossible to apply for membership. It is such a popular krewe that everyone wants to join!
The Krewe of Muses celebrates (obviously) the Muses. The Nine Muses have an interesting place in New Orleans' history. We have streets named after them and they maintain a serious presence in our community folklore and tradition. The Muses website says "The Krewe of Muses’ vision is to tap into and recognize the local artistic and cultural resources of the community and incorporate them into a Muses Mardi Gras tradition, making the entire community a part of the Krewe of Muses parade. We celebrate their wildness before they were tamed, their virtues after they were appointed, and their place in the mystique of New Orleans, where each virtue seems to thrive."*
It is a night eagerly awaited by all. And it was the parade highlight of my Mardi Gras season.
When you go to a parade in New Orleans, you get throws from the paraders. The most well known throw is, of course, the beads. But what most people who haven't been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras don't realize, is that there are many many other throws out there. Most parades will "throw" plastic cups with their logo on them, stuffed animals, small toys, other jewelry, flowers and much more. A few special krewes have specific throws that people yearn to get each year. Muses is known for their shoes. Each rider handcrafts a few special shoes that they will individually hand out to people who stand out in the crowd to them. These aren't tossed lackadaisically, they are given out deliberately and you do not argue with a Muses rider when she picks someone to give one to! The Muses shoe is one of the most highly sought after Mardi Gras throws of the season, one which will be kept for years and years in a place of pride by anyone who gets one.
One of the shoes featured on the Muses website.
Unfortunately, the parade started earlier than I expected this year and I missed the very tip of it! But I still got a good spot and got to the see the first actual float, the big shoe itself! The whole parade has a shoe theme to it, and the the first float is one big light up shoe.
This is also the float that carries the most important person of the parade, the Honorary Muse of the year. According to Muses, the Honorary Muse "honors women who have proven themselves as role models to the women and girls of New Orleans". You can barely see her in the above photo...here is a better one!
This year, the Krewe of Muses' Honorary Muse was none other than Ruby Bridges. For those of you who don't recognize the name...When Ruby Bridges was only six years old in 1960, she was the first black student integrated into a white school in the South, right here in New Orleans. U.S. marshals had to walk her into school everyday through mobs of angry segregationists protesting integration. I can only imagine how scary that must have been.
"The Problem We All Live With" the famous Ruby Bridges' painting done by Norman Rockwell
Ruby Bridges walking out of school - PHOTO BY FLICKR.COM/44085287@N05/
The angry Mob that Ruby had to deal with everyday, picture from The Ruby Bridges Foundation
Ruby has gone on to write her account of the experience called Through My Eyes and has started a foundation whose mission "is to empower children to advance social justice and racial harmony and to promote the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of all differences through educational programs...The goal of the program is to build lasting relationships, which will allow individuals to transcend their differences and achieve racial reconciliation." She is also a well known lecturer. I cannot think of anyone better suited to being the Honorary Muse and it was a great moment to get to actually see her up close! She seemed to be having as much fun as the rest of us were!
Of course, the rest of the parade is full of marching bands, dancing troops and floats! Here are a few of my favorite pictures taken throughout the parade. (I took over 450!)
Every Mardi Gras parade has a yearly theme. The theme of this years' Muses was "Makin' Groceries", which is local slang for going to the store and buying groceries. New Orleans "Speak" says "This is a throwback from the original French-speaking Creoles who used the verb "faire," which means "to make" or "to do."
Well someone's gotta clean up after the horses...
This couple stood next to me. Very cute and very mercenary...people will do anything to get a shoe!
Above, a commentary on our local newspaper, which ended print distribution after 175 years, and "canned" its staff.
People will do crazy things for throws!
And here is the moment that everyone waits for!!!!
A SHOE!!!! The crowd goes wild, but the rider has chosen! I've seen Muses' riders take a shoe back from someone and give it to who they meant it for...or tell a person who snatched it to give it to the right person. I've never seen someone refuse.
The shoe is handed off...
The couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary got a shoe!
Two of the ladies standing next to me had daughters on the floats. Needless to say, the shoes just kept on coming to them.
As with all Mardi Gras parades, Muses' theme was satirical in nature. Each float played on something that had been big in the news this year.
Whenever we have the smallest breeze, our electric goes out. In a city that has regular hurricanes this gets pretty old. Just recently, New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl and during the game, the electric went out for a little over a half hour. My father (who is in Ohio), reported that NOLA was the laughing stock of the nation over it. So this float was particularly meaningful.
The Circus Arts kids walked in the parade! Unicyclists and stilt walkers were everywhere!
This mascot was particularly cocky...my friend Anna, who was at the parade with me, is terrified of Mascots! I caught the face she made as he was posing for my camera!
This float was a big deal to me! Read on...
The lovely lady on the left liked that I took her picture. She gave me a shoe!!!! So this was definitely my personal money shot.
The SubKrewe of the Rolling Elvi!
This Elvi told me to "Do Mardi Gras Right!". I promised him that I would do my best!
My stunning friend Anna.
Another important factor of the parade. Most subkrewes have at least one for their members to hop into when they need it. When you walk for five miles, having a bathroom handy is extremely important.
The Pussyfooters are a popular local dance krewe!
The Head of my department at work was a rider this year. This is a big deal. Not everyone who belongs to the krewe gets to ride. One of the reasons that Muses won't accept new members is that they don't want to have too many non-riders. My boss got lucky: another krewe member couldn't ride, so she got to take that person's place.
Not my boss, but a rider on her float. I'm glad that I got to see my boss with a rubber chicken on her head.
The 610 Stompers are local celebrities. Their motto is "Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Moves", as I think you can see below.
The Bearded Oysters are always one of my personal favorites. Katrina Brees started the Bearded Oysters and does a lot to promote the use of Earth friendly throws. The plastic beads that get thrown get caught in our trees can definitely hurt whatever plant they get snagged into.
Katrina also makes amazing bikes.
Subkrewes take on all shapes and sizes. This is another of my favorites, the Noise Makers!
This year, Muses added a new float. Each Krewe has a few floats that don't change from year to year. These floats are the ones that roll at the beginning of the parade, and the ones at the end. The big shoe at the beginning has always been Muses standard float. This year, they updated the float at the end of the parade. This float is not about the Muses, but about the Sirens. From a Nola.com article:
The city of New Orleans is a very, very seductive place...It’s a place where the humidity almost has a personality, where letters open themselves and candles melt without being lit. We wanted to take that whole idea of seduction that is inherent in the Sirens (mythological creatures who lured sailors to their doom) and set it in our hometown. Rosenberg said that the founders of the all-female parade, which first rolled in 2000, originally considered calling it the Sirens parade. But in mythology, the Muses triumphed over the Sirens in a singing contest. There has always been a Siren float at the rear of the Muses parade, Rosenberg said, which is appropriate considering its proximity to the police car sirens that herald the end of the procession.
This year was the best Muses yet! And I achieved the ultimate Mardi Gras throw, a Shoe! I can go home and sleep until Mardi Gras day now. My parade experiences for the year can't be topped by this one!
--From a stage where I played to empty tables and chairs, this is Kenny Klein allowing Lauren DeVoe to explain it all!!--
--- Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by Lauren DeVoe ---
Check out Lauren's blog, BlueStarOwl!
* The original story about the little girl who was bullied at Muses last year can be found here. The newspaper story about Muses response can be read here.
* The Krewe of Muses website.