NEW ORLEANS — Carnival historian Errol Laborde calls the creation of the Krewe of Muses in 2000 one of the most important developments in modern Mardi Gras history.
“There had been all-women krewes before, but it was the first all-women's krewe in Orleans Parish that developed as a weeknight parade,” Laborde said.
“The parades before had been weekend parades, Iris and Venus. Muses originated during a time when women were such a dominant part of the workforce. So when the idea started and people started calling there are stories of phones ringing all around offices: ‘We're starting this new parade.’”
The krewe, led by captain Staci Rosenberg, a local attorney, began with some 600 members and is now at over 1,500.
“We were all on the streets before, watching the parades, and when everybody joined, we found that the amount of people that wanted to be involved was shocking,” said krewe co-founder Virginia Saussy in a 2001 WWL-TV interview.
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In addition to its floats, bands and creative spirit, Muses also became known for encouraging the growth of walking groups and marching clubs, who are now a major part of Carnival.
“It gave an opportunity for these groups - like the Pussyfooters and these groups with double entendre names - it gave a chance for these organizations,” said Laborde, editor of New Orleans Magazine. “And these organizations have a lot of soul unto themselves. Riding in Muses or walking in Muses is their high holy day, but they do other events throughout the year and like so many Carnival krewes they have their own charities and fundraisers so Muses just expanded in many, many ways that people participate in Mardi Gras beyond riding in Muses.”
Over the years, Muses' satirical floats, designed and built by Kern Studios, became fan favorites, along with its signature floats. That includes its gigantic bathtub and rubber duck floats, the Sirens float, the Goddessey float and the giant high heel shoe which carries the Honorary Muse through the streets.
This year's Honorary Muse is actress Jennifer Coolidge. Previous honorees include Patricia Clarkson, Tamron Hall, Solange Knowles, Julia Reed, Mary Matalin, Becky Allen, Charmaine Neville and Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
Speaking of shoes, decorated ones became Muses' signature throw and just one of the many ways that showed the krewe's creative, clever and fun side when it came to throws.
Over the years, Muses' membership exploded and its waiting list for riders even led to the creation of another women's krewe, Nyx.
“I think it gave people the idea that they could participate in Carnival who may not…I don’t think they felt like they were being left out, but they didn’t see an opening for them,” Laborde said. “So quickly Muses filled up and then you have Nyx and who knows what the other possibilities are.”