It’s 245 days to Mardi Gras 2017, but in New Orleans planning for that epic celebration begins the day after Fat Tuesday. For tourists who can’t make it to the Crescent City on the day before Ash Wednesday, visiting Mardi Gras World will suffice. Touring the warehouse where floats are stored and reworked for the next parade, takes visitors inside the complicated process that results in decorated floats that both amuse and amaze.
Since 1947, Blaine Kern Studios has created the floats not only for New Orleans’s Mardi Gras, but for other events around the U.S. and the world. During the informative tour, the process is explained in detail.
Anyone who has worked on crafts in school or as a hobbyist will relate. After artists create the sketches, blocks of Styrofoam are used to carve out each figure. Then comes the paper mache, layers of brown paper painstakingly applied to cover the sculptures.
Painting comes next and, because this is Mardi Gras, bright colors dominate. Three colors are seen most often, purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith.
During the tour, actual artists may be seen working on next year’s floats. The floats themselves are stored in the facility and are touched up each year to maintain freshness. Because Mardi Gras participants may spend more than five hours tossing out beads and candy to the crowds that line the route, each float is equipped with a bathroom and plenty of water and snacks.
While Mardi Gras is an ages old tradition, technology is having an impact. Computers now help to sculpt many of the figures that will delight young and old during the next parade. Needless to say, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a sold out even, hotels booking up months in advance. If you plan to go next year, it’s never too soon to book your hotel.
Photos by Charlene Giannetti.