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.
We have reached our winter destination. It took us 6 days to cover the 1,372.9 miles. This is the 6th time we have stayed at Reunion Lake. We will winter here until tax day and then move on to our next destination. Barbara’s brother, nieces and nephews live in the area, plus other RV’ers we have camped with in the past are here at the park. Since we will be here for Mardi Gras, we will go to New Orleans for the parades.
Chattahoochee, Florida to Ponchatoula, La: 355.7 miles
For our last night on our trek to Louisiana, we are camped out in Chattahoochee, Florida. There is nothing here. We had to drive 15 miles to Walmart to get DEF for the truck. Chattahoochee is a name derived from the Creek language meaning “marked rocks”. I did not see any rocks, much less marked ones. If we were staying here longer, I would seek them out.
Tomorrow we will drive 358 miles through the rest of the Florida Panhandle, through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana, it should take us about 7 hours, with a rest stop or two.
Hardeeville, South Carolina to Chattahoochee, Florida: 348.8 miles
Another short layover on our beeline to warm weather. Did some maintenance and repairs. When you take your house and shake it like a cocktail, something is always going wrong. Barbara calls them “challenges”. I call them “I can’t believe this is happening.”
But we manage to meet them all. All is good now, and we are back on the road at sunrise.
Ashland, Virginia to Fayetteville, North Carolina: 236 miles
We have broken away from Maryland and are making a beeline to warm weather. Today we are in Ashland, Virginia. We will be here only one night. Tomorrow, North Carolina, then South Carolina, and Florida.
When we hit Florida, we will turn right and travel the panhandle to Louisiana, where we will remain the rest of the winter.
Because we are staying only one or two nights at each campground, and we have been to these places before, we will not be doing any sightseeing.
In April, we will decide our next move. I want to cross Death Valley. Barbara wants to go back to Branson, Missouri. We still haven’t traveled the West Coast, up the Pacific Highway from California to Oregon.
In the past, when we have taken a vote which ended in a tie, I lost.
Bar Harbor, Maryland to Ashland, Virginia: 182.3 miles