The 2018 New Orleans Combination: 606-10-300

Tomorrow the Maid of Orleans celebrates her 606th birthday. In the old quarter, a group of dedicated volunteers will stage one of the most beautiful parades of the year in her honor for the 10th year in a row. And directly after, fireworks will celebrate the 300th year since our city’s founding.

There may be no better way to understand the deep determination of people here to remain – and to not just to remain but to live with ease together and to honor the history we safeguard – than the Carnival season. This one, held during our tricentennial, should be especially exciting.

In many ways, the best and worst of what we represent is on display during these weeks every year: the DIY creativity, the peaceful takeover of public space (described best by writer CW Cannon in his New Orleans Manifesto), the informal conviviality among all groups gathered on a parade route. But also note the divide between rich and poor and people of color and white people: gauge the city’s interest in litter control or infrastructure repair between the worlds of St. Charles versus Claiborne, or check out the cordoned off areas for the politically connected on the grandstands in front of Gallier Hall for the big parades. Cannon points out “the social purpose of the Uptown route parading tradition was to standardize, control and express who the bosses of the city were in a striking visual spectacle.” If you doubt it, note where the Rex, Proteus or Comus flags on homes are all located, the debutante photos (and same names) on the news sites,  the pic of the middle-aged man who will be Rex in 2018 and his 20-something “Queen.”

(And don’t forget the groups of mostly young white men who illegally camp out days before a few unnamed parades in order to to be upfront and able to push others aside to get plastic beads and children’s toys and get pukey-drunk on the neutral ground.)

Even so, the season offers something good for every New Orleanian old and new, permanent or temporary. For most, it is a season of deep sociability and a slew of political or cultural indicators of the current mood sent by the people to their elected officials.

As a Quarterite, I tend to stay here to celebrate the season, venturing more often downtown than Uptown. One reason is that the city stopped allowing float parades in the Quarter in the 1970s and after some years of inactivity, the walking parade has taken over on our streets with a great deal of style. Joan of Arc’s parade- although not directly a Carnival parade as it would roll on her day no matter when it was-is the perfect way to begin the downtown season. With its handmade costumes and candlelight, it offers a humorous, educational, moving set of tableaus dedicated to one of the saints that New Orleans considers theirs.

I remember the first one in 2008 where I met it in the Square and then again at “Joanie on a Pony,” the golden statue now found on Decatur , where the parade ends and a few dozen bystanders shared king cake with the cold and wet but jubilant masquers who had pulled off their first parade.

What is significant about that date is that it was in the depths of the rebuilding of our city after the federal levee breaks and was about the time that the initial joy at returning had worn off and the long slog ahead to recover became quite evident. I was living in a FEMA trailer in MidCity and upon returning back to it and my still-empty street after the parade, found myself smiling at the memory of what I had just witnessed and enjoying the slice of king cake shared by its krewe.

Because it honors our connection with France, celebrates a plucky teenager who heard voices and decided to follow them and resist, uses a route that shows off the Quarter beautifully, is generous with its throws, truly offers tableaus, and is made up of diehard and joyous New Orleanians, the January 6th Joan or Arc parade is royalty among parades in my book.

Joyeux Anniversaire, Jeanne d’Arc! (including January 6 parade details)

Announcing our 2015 Court
Patrick Van Hoorebeek, Emma Martello & Simone Bruni Crouere
The Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc selects three nonmember community leaders each year to portray three featured characters in our parade: a young Maid Joan, a King Charles VII, and a Queen Yolande.

Following in the footsteps of Orleans, France, where they select a young woman to lead their annual parade May 8 in honor of both V-Day and Joan’s lifting of the siege of Orleans, we hold a contest to select one young woman age 16-19 (the ages of Joan’s most notable feats) who best represents what Joan embodied: loyalty and love of place, dedication to community, and courage, and is studying French. Our 2015 Maid is Emma Martello of the McGehee School. The eldest of eight siblings, Emma is a student ambassador, peer support leader and active in charity work, such as the Crafts for a Cause club she founded herself.

Our 2015 Queen is Simone Bruni Crouere, founder and owner of Demo Diva Demolition Company. Women selected to portray Queen Yolande, who funded Joan’s army that ultimately made the King’s crowning a reality, are women who have demonstrated significant support for young women in the community, have business savvy and most importantly, like Queen Yolande, work strategically “behind the scenes” to uplift and improve the lives of New Orleanians. With Demo Diva, Simone blazed a trail for herself in a male dominated industry, and Demo Diva’s signature pink became a symbol of post-Katrina resilience. Joan of Arc was an inspiration for Simone as she expanded Demo Diva.

Our 2015 King is Patrick Van Hoorebeek, owner and founder of Patrick’s Bar Vin in the French Quarter. New Orleans’ ties to France are still strong and each year we select a male community leader who embodies New Orleans’ French heritage to portray our King Charles VII, who is crowned by our Maid Joan in a ceremony at the end of the parade, followed by eating king cake to kick off the Carnival season. Patrick embodies New Orleans hospitality and French culture. Growing up with stories of Joan told by his French mother, Patrick said “It’s an honor to have been selected to play the role of Charles VII since the history of Joan of Arc is something so dear to my heart.” The Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc selected Patrick for his generous support of French organizations and events in New Orleans; his ambassadorship to tourists and locals alike at his French Quarter bar; and his ability to make everyone who walks into his establishment feel like royalty.

Parade Tuesday Jan. 6, 6 p.m.
Joyeux Anniversaire, Jeanne d’Arc!
Celebrating St. Joan of Arc’s birthday and Twelfth Night, this annual walking parade is a medieval-themed theatrical procession, inspired by Joan’s time in 1400s France. Joan of Arc liberated the citizens of Orleans, France, from a British siege in her first victory in 1429—resulting in her moniker “The Maid of Orleans”. Our parade honors our own unofficial patron saint, The Maid of New Orleans: the beloved golden French Quarter statue, a gift to the City of New Orleans from France in the 1950s, and our French history and heritage.
Dress in gold. Bring king cake to share. The parade typically starts on time at 6 sharp and makes 3 pauses for a bit of medieval pageantry: toasts from the Historic New Orleans Collection and Grégor Trumel, Consul General of France in New Orleans, from the Williams Research Center balcony at 400 Chartres; a sword blessing at Saint Louis Cathedral by The Very Reverend Father Philip Landry, and the crowning of the king and king cake ceremony at the end. It’s a short, family-friendly parade — quirky, whimsical and spiritual. Follow us through the French Quarter with one of Joan’s birthday candles, handed out to parade goers in honor of Joan’s 603rd birthday.

Dalt Wonk – The Riddles of Existence

Brand new card game for Carnival enthusiasts from one of my favorite illustrators, Dalt Wonk (whose name resembles my real signature way too closely!)

The Riddles of Existence is an oversized deck of fifty cards, each with a full-colored figure wearing a costume. Beneath the illustration, there is a riddle in verse. The costume is the answer, or hint, to the riddle. This is the game. The illustrations and the verse provide great pleasure, above and beyond, the game. There is also a card with the answers to The Riddles of Existence for those who are stumped.

Dalt Wonk – THE RIDDLES OF EXISTENCE | Octavia Books | New Orleans, Louisiana – Independent Bookstore.

other work:

Barkus is a game changer

Before my time, parades used to roll through the French Quarter. Well, really before my time they used to roll through lots of neighborhoods…
Now, one has to mosey to the Uptown side of things or at least stand on the dividing line to participate in float parades, except for Endymion (held downtown of Canal-for a few blocks anyway). However, I stay far from that Mid City mess held on the last Saturday before Fat Tuesday. To explain my p.o.v., just know that some groups start to camp out on the Thursday before Endymion and that it seems to celebrate white middle class New Orleans more than any other parade in the city. And even though I am in that number, I know we have no proud history of adding much to Mardi Gras, music or food around here. So, when we throw a parade, you can expect it to be loud, big and lacking some finesse. So good luck to those brave enough to make it. Me, I wish ol Endymion would find that long sleep again.
My schedule is usually seeing 1-3 parades and 1 of them is one of the 2 walking parades in the French Quarter. Barkus is almost always the choice.
What I like about it:
1. It benefits a worthy cause-pet rescue and allows any brave dog owners to participate.
2. It is the right scale. Those folks have to stay sober enough to walk miles with their dogs but drunk enough to wear feathers or shirts that match them.
3. It has a sense of humor. South Pawcific?
4. It’s over before dinner time.
I have been watching it recently from a friend’s place on Saint Ann to watch the crowds. Some of us sit on the balcony, some of us draw up chairs on the ground, chatting with anyone near enough to be caught. What I have noticed is that much like French Quarter Festival, it seems to be bringing in locals who spend the day roaming the Quarter and reacquainting themselves with it. I see groups of people chatting for hours, sitting with a beer and their chair set up in the sun. Children are very plentiful and the Barkus participants keep an eye out for them to bestow their trinkets first.

Many parades are somewhat hierarchical: we sit waiting for the masked riders to roll by hoping to catch their eye or their ear. As glorious as they can be, they can also be passive and maybe even a little cruel. I find the walking parades much more interactive and personal.
Really, it is one of the reasons why the Quarter remains useful: in a small way, like Tahrir Square, we use it to perambulate and to connect and if we need to, to protest. Lucky for us, a change in government is possible here with peaceful transitions.
I contend that the reason we came through our most recent federal disaster with so little strife among the citizenry was that we have this release every year we call Carnival season. It forces us to meet new people, and allows us to have the time to catch up with old friends in detail. We laugh at bad puns together, cheer a good throw or catch and generally get the anxiety and angst out.
And when we can do it in the middle of the old city with our best companions, what can be better?