NEW ORLEANS -- The 2014 Carnival season is a long one, which means more weeks for balls, preparations, parties and – of course - king cakes.
Fat Tuesday this year is March 4. By law, or at least by tradition, the latest date on which Mardi Gras can fall is March 9. And that won’t happen again until the year 2039.
This year is already shaping up to be a year of change, when it comes to Carnival in the suburbs. The West Bank’s oldest krewe – Alla, founded in 1932 – will leave its namesake Algiers, La. behind. Instead it will roll on the Uptown route, joining a former West Bank mainstay, Cleopatra, which made the move several years ago. The changes leave just three parades on the West Bank – Adonis, NOMTOC and Grela.
Carnival in Metairie is also seeing changes, amid concerns over the quality of parades and smaller crowds as a result. Two of the East Bank’s oldest krewes, Thor, and Atlas have announced they would not parade in Metairie this year. A new krewe of Atlantis also announced it would not parade, after initially planning to mount its first procession this year. A new marching band contest, “Rhythm on the Route,” is designed to bring new excitement to the parades, adding to the ever-expanding Family Gras celebration, which is set for Feb. 21-23 on the neutral ground near Veterans and Causeway.
There is a new krewe in New Orleans this year. Rolling Uptown on Feb. 22 is the revived Krewe of Freret, which borrows its name from a krewe which paraded for 40 years, from the 1950s through the 1990s.
2014 should be a good one for celebrities. Bacchus has “House” star and New Orleans music devotee Hugh Laurie as its monarch. Endymion has singing superstar Carrie Underwood as its Extravaganza headliner. And while he won’t ride in the parade, Orpheus has Fats Domino as its honorary grand marshal this year.
He will autograph copies of a special krewe poster by artist Michael Hunt and his eldest son, Antoine Domino III, will perform on a float in the parade, from which riders will throw special Fats-themed throws. The band Cheap Trick will serve as the music headliner for the Orpheuscapade at the Morial Convention Center. In Metairie, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his flowing locks will ride as Grand Marshal of Argus.
There are several special krewe anniversaries in 2014. Both the Knights of Babylon (which parades on the Thursday before Fat Tuesday) and the Krewe of Hermes, which has earned rave reviews for the look and design of its parades on the Friday before Mardi Gras, are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. Caesar, one of Metairie’s biggest and most popular parades, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
In addition to the parades, there will be big outdoor parties to complement the celebration again this year. Endymion is hosting its Samedi Gras Festival on the Orleans Ave. neutral ground the day of its parade. Early in the day on Lundi Gras (March 3), Kenner will host its Lundi Gras celebration, with live entertainment and the toasting of the monarchs of Argus and Zulu.
Also on Lundi Gras, Zulu will host its annual celebration on the Riverfront, near Woldenberg Park, with music (from the likes of Amanda Shaw, Kermit Ruffins and Rebirth Brass Band), food and vendor sales, Zulu character appearances and the arrival of King and Queen Zulu at 5 p.m. An hour later, Rex, the King of Carnival, arrives on the Riverfront for the annual Lundi Gras celebration at Riverwalk, which includes music, mayoral proclamations and a huge fireworks display.
All in all, it should be another big year for the city’s biggest party, and with nine weeks to enjoy it all before the stroke of midnight on Ash Wednesday.