Whether you are attending a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, or in Quebec, or Paris, or even Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro, have you ever considered that those floats have to live somewhere during the remainder of the year?
Something most people never consider after a parade is, â€œWhere do the floats go until next yearâ€™s parade?â€ Well, in New Orleans, after the world famous Mardi Gras celebration, they are conveniently housed in an approximately 400,000 square foot warehouse near the Convention Center, right on the riverfront.
The warehouse, former site of Delta Queen Steamship Terminal, is leased by the Kern Family and that endeavor began with Blaine Kern, a float designer and builder, in 1947. His son Barry now heads the business known as Mardi Gras World.
For gauging size, please notice the trash can to the right in the photo.Â It's there so you can realize the enormity of these things.
Mardi Gras is very profitable money maker for New Orleans with 12 days of celebration and over 60 parades resulting in millions of consumer and tourist dollars! Most spectators are probably unaware that these parades and the floats originated as far back as 1837 and, in those days, they were drawn by mules! Itâ€™s probably irrelevant to most observers but itâ€™s a good thing to know if you strive to enhance your appreciation of what you are viewing.
(Oh hold your breath: here is the gratuitous FOOD related photo!)
Our visit to Mardi Gras World was a step into a 3 dimensional fantasy world. Itâ€™s a world populated by papier mache, fiberglass plaster, paint, cluttered work areas, idle floats of giant proportions, some with scary looming figures and some possessing whimsically comical figures as well.
Ah, and there is my Martini!Â Hand it over!
Come along with me on a walk through the warehouse where these mega-floats rest idly in between parades. Itâ€™s a magical space filled with color, imagination, creativity and dreams brought to life in an engineered form that is hard to fathom.
A couple of Toy Story Stars!
This is a festive place filled with cartoon characters, real life caricatures, pharaohs, gorillas, fairies, Greek gods and gigantic foods! Itâ€™s a delightful world of ingenuity expressed artistically into something as large and impressive as to make it seem more real than make believe.
Mardi Gras occurs only once a year and is most famous, as a celebratory time, in New Orleans, and in Rio de Janeiro as Carnivale, although it is celebrated in many more cities around the globe.
If you can make it to a popular parade, consider yourself lucky as the Purple (Justice), Green (Faith) and Gold (Power) beads fly through the air and alcohol rains upon you.
Lastly, I hasten to add that you must have a piece of King Cake to embrace a complete â€˜Nawlins party experience! (After all, it has to end with food for me, right?) If you take the tour at Mardi Gras World, they will treat you to a piece.