While it is true that Carnival always begins on January 6th aka Three Kings Day, aka The Epiphany (as befits its Catholic underpinnings) always kicked off by a citywide king cake frenzy and the Phunny Phorty Phellows‘ streetcar ride, the real Carnival spirit in the city begins once there are parades every weekend which for 2018, means today.
There are parades in the ‘burbs today but more importantly, it also marks the most elaborate walking parade held during Carnival, known as Krewe du Vieux. This parade is important for more than its mostly French Quarter route, it is also the most anticipated because of its skill in skewering the pompous, the inept, and the famous fallen alike.
The theme this year is Bienville’s Wet Dream which is a nod to the 300th anniversary of the city but also to the floods of the summer of 2017 which uncovered the fact that the city had never bothered to repair most of its generators that ran the Sewerage and Water’s pumps, and inexplicably had working generators and pumps offline during the tropical summer, swamping the city on 2 separate occasions. If outsiders want to know why we view our government with such cynicism here, it may be best explained by the fact that some of the pumps were not activated during those rain events because as the SWB later blithely explained those sites (near the lake!) required on site operators to turn them and – and those operators could not get there in the flood.
We should expect the recent downfall of Chef John Besh to be a major theme, and the new mayor who had a bit of a government credit card issue, as well as the departing mayor who seems to have lost interest in repairing current infrastructure and instead wants to spend his final months in office spending millions for a security state with cameras everywhere and a new Disneyfied Bourbon Street.
This parade grew out of the Krewe of Clones which paraded in the 1970s and 1980s. Like many krewes, there was a disagreement as to the style and tone that members wanted and so Krewe du Vieux was formed when some decided that success lay with the most debased, most ridiculous, and the most profane version.
It is also known for the profusion of brass bands that they hire:
Down N Dirty
The Free Agents
They became truly de rigueur in 2006 with their parade less than 6 months after Katrina and its C’est Levee theme that was impressively hilarious and pointedly mocking of the government that had failed us so completely. I still have throws from that year as do many of my friends and neighbors. From their 2006 release:
Lifes a breach, and sometimes you just gotta go with the contraflow. So pop a cold one (pop a looter too if you have to), torch the nearest mound of trash and roast some weenies, and pretend that convoy of National Guard hummers rolling by is just another parade.
For 2018, its king is Rich Campanella, Tulane geographer, historian and obsessive researcher of the accurate history of our 300 years. His list of books is extensive, his articles are constant and on top of that, he is a nice guy always interested in hearing an opinion or a factoid on the physical space of our colony. Here is King Rich’s piece on the history of the route that he will lord over this evening.
Come out on his appropriately wet parade evening to honor him and the motley who take over our streets at 6:30 p.m. tonight.