My best friend was in town this past week and because torrential rains thwarted her plan to get a sunburn that would eventually settle into a tan, I suggested we visit Mardi Gras World. Previous I considered MGW a tacky trap, but watching the parades this year left me eager for a behind the scenes look. My friend has never been to Mardi Gras and has always painted and sculpted, so I hoped that the museum would give her a taste of the revelry and artistry of Carnival.
The tour begins with a 15-minute video that was a decent Mardi Gras crash course and it dispelled the myths that Mardi Gras is a one-day parade and that it’s a boob fest. After the video came my favorite tour touches: our guide treated us to a piece of Gambino’s king cake and invited us to sample CC’s coffee. (Bigger pieces next time, please! Some of us are piggies.)
Following theme submissions, MGW artists work with the krewes to create a sketch of the floats in their parade. As we walked past the work stations we could see the pictures of the floats, but the names of the krewe and themes were redacted. The Tchoupitoulas-adjacent site largely houses Bacchus and Orpheus floats, so all the Nancy Drews and Encyclopedia Browns out there already have some clues for their sleuthing.
Our tour guide referred to all the objects on the floats as “props.” MGW makes said props from fiberglass or styrofoam and paper mache. The styrofoam props are cheaper and easier to repurpose. Our tour guide showed us a Marilyn Monroe that once was a baseball player. “Look at how her hands hold up her skirt. That used to be a baseball player gripping a bat,” he explained. My best friend commented on the size of Marilyn’s arms. There’s a Mardi Gras World location on the West Bank that handles the construction of the fiberglass accessories. There were some fiberglass props around the facility and our tour guide hinted that you could tell a prop was made from fiberglass because it was affixed to a metal stand. (Or you could tap it and feel it was really hard.)
I LOVE CHICK FIL A.
It was a really delightful and interesting trip– one of those really touristy places you wouldn’t visit unless you had a friend in town. The price is a bit above my pay grade– $19 for an adults– so maybe next time I’ll ask for a bigger piece of king cake.
The safety-belts for the floats are a relatively new thing — maybe 15-20 years. There was a really bad accident in Bacchus one year and after that all the floats had to have the safety harnesses.
I toured the Westbank Mardi Gras World as a field trip when I was in elementary school. At the time, the Eastbank warehouse had not opened — that’s only within the past 5-10 years. It was very interesting.
Blaine Kern Industries supplied the cows for Chicago’s Cows on Parade event, and then the fish that were in NO a couple of years later. They got a contract for flamingos for some place in Florida, but the program was cancelled before they city took delivery of the flamingos. That Mardi Gras nearly every float had pink flamingos on it. It was amazing how the worked so many flamingos into so many diverse themes!
Those are some great stories, Lynn. The flamingo one cracks me up. I wonder if MGW offered a discount on floats with flamingos, since they already had them available…
This is a great post! I haven’t been to MGW in years and I’ve never been to the one uptown. I’m going to put this on my list of things to do. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up there this week. I love being a tourist in my own town!
The bathrooms are great to have…I know folks who ride in other krewes and they have to use adult diapers (yeah, ick) when they ride.
I haven’t heard of anyone falling from a float in years so, I guess the safety harnesses work.
Someone I was talking to about the bathrooms on the float suggested that riders use adult diapers and I didn’t believe them. Ew!
So sorry it rained while “I” was there, but it sounds like you more than made up for it! I am sure you had a wonderful time together. You are a wonderful tour guide!