In Maryland, the day before Ash Wednesday is called “TUESDAY”. Here in the Big Easy, the day before Ash Wednesday is called “Mardi Gras”. Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.
Mardi Gras season became a prelude too Lent, the 47 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, cheese—that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting.
Mardi Gras this year falls on Tuesday, February 25. However the parades of Mardi Gras began here on January 6th.
So, you might ask, who builds the floats, and where are they stored until parade time? Today, we searched out that answer.
We visited Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. Kern Studios was founded in 1932 as a float building company for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parades. Roy Kern was a local New Orleans artist who worked his way through the Great Depression by painting signs for barges and freighters in the Port of New Orleans. Roy’s son, Blaine Kern, was also an artist and in 1932 father and son were invited to build a float for one of the krewes for the Mardi Gras Parade. They have been doing so ever since. Today, Kern Studios builds parade floats for 18 different krewes.
We found the workers hard at work:
The floats start as a nondescript piece of styrofoam that is shaped into the various pieces of the float.
It is then papermached to become a seamless piece
and then painted.
Plywood pieces are painted with various designs
and then cut to be placed on the float.
There are a gazillion accessories that are available to add to the float
even spare body parts.
The floats are completed by being placed on a chassis (sort of like the one the Sphinx is on) to be pulled by a motorized vehicle.
These completed floats will be delivered this week to the various Krewes that ordered them to be in their respected parades. The cost of the float, from conception to completion, is between $100,000 and $250,000 each.