The Krewe of Orpheus is the last parade to roll before Fat Tuesday. Like Endymion and Bacchus, Orpheus is a super-krewe with giant floats, mountains of throws and celebrity guests. Founded in 1993 by Harry Connick Jr. and Sr. and theatrical director, Sonny Borey, the krewe accepts members of any race or gender. Named for the son of Apollo whose music enchanted everything in nature, the 27 Blaine Kern designed floats portrayed the theme of, “Visions of Other Worlds.” Celebrity guests included Jennifer Coolidge and Jonathan Silverman as well as a chunk of HBO’s Treme cast including Steve Zahn, NOLA native Wendell Pierce, Khandi Alexander, John Goodman, David Morse, Kim Dickens and many more.
The parade opened with the Louisiana Peace Corps and Farhad Bug Patrol followed by bicycles done up like animals and a drum cart – a rolling set of drums with a dancer atop the center. There was a cool new giant marionette that seemed to take steps down St. Charles as well as the wonderful Calliope with its merry-go-round like sound. I’m fairly certain this parade marched more flambeaux than any other of the season, more of a nod to tradition as the krewe was formed after the invention of the streetlight.
The Marines brought their precision and the 610 Stompers lent their “Ordinary men. Extraordinary moves.” Muff-A-Lottas added their naughty take on the 50’s poodle-skirt set and Petoskey Steel Band gave us a taste of the Caribbean. A new walking krewe debuted, The Sirens of New Orleans, a philanthropic group of lovely ladies in seaweed-esque costumes. All the feminine fun of the Pussyfooters and Camel Toe Steppers, but in marine blues and greens.
The hours long parade featured more schools than I could count, including Cabrini, St. Augustine (those kids have got to be worn out by now), Tipitina’s Foundation recipients O. Perry Walker and Helen Cox, St. Mary’s, Walter L. Cohen, L.W. Higgins, West Jefferson, M.L.King, Algiers Tech, Kipp Renaissance, Langston Hughes and Greenville Weston from Mississippi. The non-profit Shack Brown Drill Team brought up the rear with it’s “Tough times don’t last, tough people do” philosophy.
The floats were beyond beautiful and there were throws aplenty.
Afterward, with sore feet, bead-bruised arms, Band-Aided fingers, welts on foreheads and cheeks, and very little sleep, we walked down the middle of St. Charles from Uptown to the French Quarter. As my feet crunched trash and slipped on abandoned beads, I marveled that all those marchers, dancers, bike riders and stilt-walkers hadn’t killed themselves. Band members with large instruments can’t even see the ground before them. Amazing.
The street was a virtual tent city. Parade fans had staked their plots and left people behind to sleep on lawn chairs. Uptown was preparing for the last of the big parade days starting bright and early with Zulu at 8 am. Not an early riser and a huge hater of cold weather, I was there by 7:30 in 32 degree weather last year. It was well worth it. The weather this year has been absolutely glorious, but we were making our way to the biggest costume party of the year, Fat Tuesday in the French Quarter.
As we ducked under kids throwing footballs, drifted through the smoke of resting bar-b-que grills, passed rows of ladder seats for children and listened to the folks playing guitar or singing to the radio, we couldn’t help but marvel – everywhere else in the world, it’s just Monday.