It’s Carnival season in Cenla, and with it come images of colorful floats, festive throws and excited pleas of, “Throw me something, Mister!” The energy that powers the whole celebration comes directly from the various Krewes who work tirelessly to make the spectacle that is Mardi Gras look effortless.
Natchitoches joined the traditions of Mardi Gras in 1977 with the founding of the Mystic Krewe de St Denis. Five founding members: Dr. Ben Barron, Avery East, Dr. Dan Seymour, Richard Ware, and Robert W. Wilson, Sr., created a men’s Krewe with 32 charter members, staging the first Tableau and Ball, traditionally held 10 days prior to Fat Tuesday, at the National Guard Armory in 1978. To address the growing needs of the Krewe, the membership was further expanded along with moving the Tableau and Ball to Prather Coliseum in 1985, and by 1996 the Krewe had expanded to include 78 members. In 2005, the Krewe moved its Tableau/Ball to the City of Natchitoches Events Center. Membership is by invitation only. The Krewe selects its royalty from the court (maids) for the previous year. All Krewe daughters who were maids the previous year are eligible. The daughter selected usually tabs her father as her king unless the father has already been king. When there aren’t enough Krewe sons or daughters to make up the court, nominations are open from the community to fill the positions.
The Krewe of Dionysos is a parading Krewe also based in Natchitoches. Established in 1998. Dionysos is dedicated to the development and celebration of the Mardi Gras Carnival Season in Natchitoches and the surrounding community. The Krewe strives to give its hometown the biggest, brightest party of the year to celebrate life and family! Membership in the Krewe is open to the general public without regard to gender, race, religion or national origin. There is a limit of 225 Charter and Individual members, but no limit to the number of Associate Members. The Krewe was named after the Greek God of Wine, Dionysos and hosts a family friendly parade to celebrate the carnival season. This year, the theme is “20 Years of Peace, Love and Mardi Gras”. The parade will roll February 10th at 6:00pm, starting at the River South Common shopping center parking lot and following its route turning right onto South Drive to Keyser Avenue turning left at Keyser Avenue, crossing the bridge and turning right on Jefferson Street to Front Street to Washington Street turning left onto Texas Street and turning left onto Second Street to Church Street to end the parade route.
The Alexandria Mardi Gras Association’s parades are truly unique with as many ingredients as a good gumbo. The spirit has really taken hold of Central Louisiana since the first parade was held on Sunday, February 13, 1994. The good times roll downtown and midtown Alexandria as people from all over Central Louisiana take part in the revelry. The Mardi Gras parades come alive with the music of middle school, high school and college bands and masked Royalty and riders from AMGA Krewes.
The Krewe of Medea is a women’s Krewe which takes its name from the mythical goddess Medea. Medea had the power to create in herself and her appointed the illusion of eternal youth. The Krewe was founded in 1993 by Dawn D’Angelo, Jackie Daenen, Mary Jo Mansour, Kathy Mulcahy, Paula Odom, Christie Phillips, Patty Talambas, and Kim Westerchil, and has 100 members. Membership in the Krewe of Medea is by invitation and names of potential members are submitted by current members. Those who have been members for at least 1 year are eligible for the Royal Court, and daughters or granddaughters of members are eligible to be Junior Princesses. The Krewe members participate in a variety of social functions throughout the year culminating in a formal masked ball traditionally held in January.
On February 23, 1990, eight ladies gathered for lunch to look into the possibility of forming a ladies’ Mardi Gras Krewe. These eight became the first board when the Krewe of Twelfth Night was incorporated in 1990. The name was taken from the Twelfth Night Revelers, a Krewe credited with launching the Mardi Gras women’s liberation movement. The twelfth night is actually January 6th, but the Krewe decided to have its celebration on January 12th or the Saturday nearest to the 12th-the second Saturday of the new year to kick off the Mardi Gras Season. The express purpose of the Krewe was to promote, foster and afford opportunities for the celebration of Mardi Gras, the first being an annual ball. It was decided that this Krewe would be a group to have fun. What kind of group could be wild and free? The idea of being Gypsies was born. A 100-plus member Krewe, Twelfth Night honors a man by naming him King of the Gypsies. His identity is kept secret until the night of the ball. Gypsies find him in the audience, bring him to the center of the dance floor where the Gypsies surround him while he is dressed in his costume. He is crowned and escorted to the Gypsy Wagon-his throne-where he reigns for the evening.
The Krewe of Medea enters its own float in both the Children’s Parade and the Alexandria Mardi Gras Association Parade. The float is decorated with beautiful Grecian maidens clothed in the Krewe’s colors of fuschia and teal and a bust of Medea herself is the centerpiece of the float. The reigning Queen for the year rides at the top of the float wearing a traditional royal mantle of white, trimmed in gold and silver.
Three friends, Anne West, Eva Long and Terri Stephens, founded the Krewe of S’iriser (pronounced See Ree Zay) in 2004. S’iriser is an all women’s Krewe based on friendship and membership is by invitation only. S’iriser is French and means “to become iridescent” – the light of love reflected from an iridescent prism promising harmony among good friends; Bon Amie. Each member is deemed a Winged Goddess-Muses who are empowered by each other to spread their wings and fly-to become anything and everything they so desire.
The Krewe of the Gratiae is an all women Mardi Gras Krewe of 165 members. Gratiae was founded in 1998 by Jan Bordelon, Debbie Doggett, Cindy Crotty, Colette Glankler and Beth Ledet. Krewe members are referred to as “Goddesses” and the Krewe logo depicts the three goddess sisters of grace and beauty. The word Gratiae means “Graces” in Greek Mythology. The three Graces are Aglaia (Splendor), Thalia (Good Cheer) and Euphrosyne (Mirth). The three Graces represent beauty and charm in nature and in human life. They love all things beautiful and are said to bestow talents to mortals. The legend of the Gratiae can be seen in the stars once every year when the skies open for song, dance and happiness to grace the Mardi Gras season. The Krewe of the Gratiae held its first ball in February of 1999. Each year, the Krewe chooses a theme, and the Krewe members, “Goddesses”, dress in costume to represent the theme. The Krewe also nominates and selects the spouse of a Krewe member every year as King. His identity is kept secret until the ball; he is then recognized and crowned by the Krewe Captain.
Krewe Fleur de Lis was established in February of 2005. The Krewe is a social, exclusive, private and non-profit organization for approximately 65 women, existing expressly for upholding the celebration of traditions and ceremonies of Mardi Gras in Louisiana. The Krewe hosts an annual ball for members and their guests during the Mardi Gras season, along with other special events. Krewe members participate in the Pineville Night the Light parade, the Children’s parade, and the Alexandria Mardi Gras Association Krewe parade. Together the women revelers of Krewe Fleur de Lis are powerful, loyal, joyful and fun-loving! Krewe Fleur de Lis holds the Queen’s Announcement Party or “Fleur Fling” in October where the Queen Fleur de Lis and her Royal Court are named. Krewe members and their guests toast the Queen Fleur de Lis and her Royal Court at the annual Krewe Fleur de Lis ball. Krewe Fleur de Lis is currently accepting new member applications. To qualify for membership, you must be an adult female at least twenty-one (21) years of age, have good moral character and be willing to support the Krewe’s purpose.
The Krewe of Camelot was formed in April 2000. The founders are Peggy Brunson, Jim Ducote, Pete Ferrington, along with, Eula Tarver, Leon Coody, Claude Mitchell, Stephen Gremillion, and Elaine Atwell as Charter Members. The Krewe’s membership is a combination of both men and women. Each year male members are selected to serve as KingArthur and his Knights of the Round Table and female members are selected to serve as Queen Guinevere and her Ladies of the Court. Members of Camelot enjoy getting together for various parties and events throughout the year. Each year a different Captain is selected to coordinate with the Board the festivities of Camelot. Camelot is characterized as a time and place that had high ideals. It was a place of excitement, of purpose and culture. In this land, peace reigned and love prevailed.
The Krewe of Boogaloo was founded in Mississippi by B.B. Bacchus. In 1988, a grave decision was made to resurrect the Krewe in Central Louisiana. The Krewe’s purpose is to celebrate carnival in the spirit of Supreme Grand Marshall Emeritus B. B. Bacchus, whose motto is: “Sicut Equites Aggrediuntur Hominen Vivere Oportet”. Only Krewe members are given the sacred interpretation of his motto. Celebrating music, especially Louisiana inspired music, is the cardinal theme of the Krewe. The official song is Jockomo by New Orleanian Sugarboy Crawford and the official Krewe colors are red and black. A Boogaloo tradition is that each Krewe Member is a King or Queen and each guest is a Prince or Princess. Thus, there is neither a King or Queen nor a court for the Bacchanalia. Krewe membership is open to men and women, singles, couples and is non-discriminatory with regard to race ethnicity, religion, etc. The Krewe of Boogaloo is antithetic to traditional Krewes because its purpose is to raise funds for worthy causes. Each year, donations are made to charitable organizations, including the Big John Thompson Endowed Scholarship at LSUA, which was founded to memorialize the spirit and dignity of the late John Golding Thompson, III, President in Perpetuity of the Krewe.
These are just a handful of the great Krewes parading, partying and promoting the Mardi Gras spirit in Cenla. If you’ve ever been curious, there is a Krewe out there for everyone. Get off the sidelines and step into the limelight of the most famous Louisiana festival of them all!