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As Mardi Gras Season 2013 approaches its grand finale, it's time to savor the last bit of of sights, sounds and smells of the greatest party in the world!!!

  • zulu
  • Rex

Mardi Gras day starts bright and early with the Krewe of Zulu followed by the King of Mardi Gras, Rex.

Zulu Tradition

One of the season’s most anticipated and remarkable parades is presented by Zulu, named after the fiercest of the African tribes. Seven years before the black krewe’s 1916 incorporation, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s first King, William Story, spoofed Rex by wearing a lard can crown and by ruling with a banana stalk scepter. The most famous Krewe of Zulu king was Louis Armstrong, who ruled in 1949. Zulu’s honor guard is called the Soulful Warriors, and they, along with Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Ambassador, Mayor, Province Prince, Governor and Mr. Big Stuff, all liven-up the Fat Tuesday crowd.

The earliest signs of organization came from the fact that most of these men belonged to a benevolent aid society. Benevolent societies were the first forms of insurance in the community, where for a small amount of dues, members received financial help when sick or burying deceased members. Conversations with older members also indicated that in that era each of the city's wards had its own group or "club." The Tramps were one such group. After seeing the skit, they retired to their meeting place, a room in the rear of a restaurant/bar in the 1100 block of Perdido Street, and emerged as the Zulus. The group was probably made up of members from the Tramps, the Benevolent Society and other ward-based groups.

While the "group" marched in Mardi Gras as early as 1901, their first appearance as the Zulus came in 1909, with William Story as king. The group wore raggedy pants and had a Jubilee singing quartet in front of and behind King Story. His costume of "lard can" crown and "banana stalk" scepter has been well documented.

The kings following William Story (William Crawford -1910, Peter Williams 1912, and Henry Harris-1914) were similarly attired. 1915 heralded the first use of floats, constructed on a spring wagon, using dry goods boxes. The float was decorated with palmetto leaves and moss and carried four dukes along with the king. That humble beginning gave rise to the lavish floats we see in the Zulu parade today.

Of all the throws to rain down from the many floats in the parades during Carnival, the Zulu coconut or "golden nugget" is the most sought after. The earliest reference to the coconut appears to be about 1910 when the coconuts were given from the floats in their natural "hairy" state. Some years later there is a reference to Lucas, "the sign painter," scraping and painting the coconuts. This, in all likelihood was the forerunner to the beautifully decorated coconuts we see today. Just as everything else in Zulu history, the coconut is not without controversy. With the proliferation of law suits from people alleging injury from thrown coconuts, the organization was unable to get insurance coverage in 1987. So that year, the time honored tradition was suspended. After much lobbying, the Louisiana Legislature passed B188, aptly dubbed the "coconut bill," which excluded the coconut from liability for alleged injuries arising from the coconuts handed from the floats. On July 8, 1988, then governor Edwards signed the bill into law.

-By Arthur Hardy, Clarence A. Becnell, Tom Price, Don Short, Mirt Williams and Edward Sims

Rex Tradition

The Rex parade is an annual attraction of traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras and considered a centerpiece of the festival because of the Krewe’s rich and colorful themes, maskers in original costumes and elaborately decorated and hand-painted floats.

 The Krewe Of Rex has held more parades than any other organization. They are the origin of many Mardi Gras traditions, including the official Carnival colors of purple, green and gold, as well as the collectible doubloon coins (introduced by Rex in 1960). The Krewe consists of 600 male riders and parades on the New Orleans uptown route on Mardi Gras day.

Founded in 1872, The Krewe Of Rex is one of the oldest participating groups in Mardi Gras. While Rex is one of the prominent parade Krewes, they are not technically a Super Krewe. A Super Krewe uses technology like fiber-optic lightning on floats that carry hundreds of riders. Rex follows a tradition of using techniques that have been used by generations.

Every year, one member of the Rex Organization is selected to be Rex, the monarch of the Krewe for the year. (He’s often called King Rex, but his correct title is just “Rex”) Rex is always an influential resident involved in a multiple civic causes and philanthropic pursuits. Their identity is kept secret until Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras. Traditionally, the Mayor hands over to Rex a symbolic key to the City to Rex for Mardi Gras Day.

 

Make sure to head to www.totallynawlins.com to get your copy of the 2013 Andrea Mistretta Mardi Gras Poster!

No matter where you live, now you can enjoy traditional Louisiana fare. We carry a wide range of New Orleans culinary delights, including chicory coffee, Barq’s Red Cream Soda and a large selection of New Orleans gift items. Call us today at (985) 377-9253 or visit our website for more information.

 

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