The major sustaining force behind Carnival–and particularly Mardi Gras–rests with the individual krewes that comprise the lifeblood of the event. These organizations, for the most part, are mostly open to the public. Some consist of specific member orientations, such as krewes of teachers, firefighters, Shriners, and so forth. These are the people who come together in a collaborative effort to make all of the Mardi gras parades and balls happen. With each Mardi Gras Parade Krewe, there is a distinctive theme and history. New krewes are always forming, and some have been around since the very inception of Mardi Gras.
How Krewes Support Mardi Gras
Usually, there are fees associated with krewe membership, but then, the members are required to dedicate much time and energy to raising funds necessary for Mardi Gras, as well as other important sources of charitable giving–by hosting a variety of special events that serve as fundraisers. The majority of these funds are what exclusively pay for float construction, costumes and a myriad of parade throws, like doubloons and beads. A prevalent expense for a good many krewes is the funding of their elaborate costume balls for members. These fanciful events feature the appointment of a king and queen who will reign as Mardi Gras monarchy for the upcoming year’s parades and serve as krewe ambassadors at public events. It is not altogether uncommon to find certain towns where a single krewe sponsors an entire parade–all on their own.
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What visitors to Mardi Gras get to experience only represent a fraction of all the dedication and hard work that goes into the event, on a year-round basis. The King and Queen work tirelessly throughout the year while their identities are kept secret, for the big reveal the night of the ball. Balls are mostly a members-only function, and they often serve double purposes, as Ball Tableau for debutantes being presented into society. Invitations to these balls are viewed as collectors’ items.
Among the very top ball events, Bacchus, Orpheus and Endymion are renowned for hosting the most fabulous evenings. In 1949, the Bacchus ball was opened to tourists, in a first. Since then, Bacchus is the true bomb-of-all balls!
The Framework of Royals
The typical Royal Court of a krewe consists of a King, Queen, two Dukes and two Duchesses, who are nominated by members who mail nomination forms to the Captain of the krewe. From there, it’s the Captain and the Board of Directors who decide by vote on the new Court, with the names of those selected remaining a closely guarded secret until the night of the ball. Only those who have served in the capacity of Duke or Duchess are eligible to become King or Queen, and only following a three-year waiting period. After serving as King or Queen, these Royals are no longer eligible for Court duty. Spouses of Kings and Queens are ineligible for Court for five years. Spouses of Dukes and Duchesses aren’t eligible for Court for three years. All Court appointees are presented with special medallions.