For many people Mardi Gras is synonymous with New Orleans. I know as soon as I hear New Orleans the first thing that pops into my head is Mardi Gras. On my recent trip to New Orleans I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Mardi Gras World as a media guest where I got to see where the magic is made.
I also learned a lot about Mardi Gras including how it originated, how it is different from everything I once thought and what goes into making it one of the most spectacular events in the world.
What is Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Mardi Gras literally translates from French into “Fat Tuesday”. Its origins trace back to medieval Europe and America saw its first Mardi Gras in 1703. Contrary to what you may believe, the first Mardi Gras parade was actually in what is now Mobile, Alabama. At the time the area was known as Fort Louis de la Mobile – established by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville in 1702.
By the mid 1800’s Mardi Gras had evolved from a huge bull’s head pushed alone on wheels to masked characters riding in carriages and horseback through the streets. The street processions grew into what is now Carnival in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is actually the last day of Carnival Season, which always starts on January 6th.
Despite what you may have heard or believe, Mardi Gras is all about family – not flashing float riders for beads. In fact, flashing for beads is not a part of Mardi Gras or its tradition at all.
Mardi Gras World actually houses a functional Mardi Gras warehouse where floats are assembled, disassembled and imagined.
At the start of the tour we entered the theater where we were able to try on Mardi Gras costumes, watch a video on the history of Mardi Gras and even try the famous King Cake! If you’re curious what King Cake tastes like it’s very similar to cinnamon rolls with a deliciously colorful icing.
Once we were done in the theater we were taken into the warehouse where we got sneak peaks into the creation of props for the upcoming Mardi Gras Floats. Can you tell who this is?!
If you said Alice from Alice in Wonderland you would be correct. One theme for 2015’s Mardi Gras floats is Nursery Rhyme Characters, hence Charlotte’s Web being created below.
Materials being used in the float props vary and one of the newer materials used is Styrofoam. Artists design, sculpt and then cover the Styrofoam with brown paper to create a canvas for these masterpieces.
It was truly incredible watching the artists work.
Even more incredible is seeing the after product of their creativity. So much detail goes into these props making them larger than life wonders of art.
You’ll find design schematics and the bare bones concepts at the different work stations inside the Mardi Gras World warehouse. Each giving you a peak at what’s to come.
The artists at Mardi Gras World welcome you to keep up with their shenanigans by following them on Twitter (@SherrodNola), liking them on Facebook (PropShopArtists) and connecting on Instagram (@AlexSherrod) – so be sure to do that!
Besides working on the float props for the various krewes, Mardi Gras World also designs and creates props for other events.
You’re sure to find well known characters as well as the unique while walking through the warehouse.
Mardi Gras World houses past years’ floats as well as creating future year props. They actually recycle props and decorations to reduce cost and waste.
Fun Fact: The most elaborate Mardi Gras floats can cost as much as $250,000 to make.
There are cut outs throughout the warehouse where you can pop into to get fun photos.
After your tour be sure to stop in and grab a Sno Cone. Besides being delicious and refreshing they are a far cry from the Sno Cones you’re used to. They are creamy and more like a frozen Sorbet than the traditional Sno Cone.
We took our Sno Cones outside where we had a beautiful view of the Mississippi River and the passing steamboats.
When you’re ready to go there is a Shuttle Bus that will take you back to your hotel! It will also pick you up if you call in advance.
When you find yourself in New Orleans you will definitely want to make it a point to visit Mardi Gras World. It’s a taste of history, a glimpse into history in the making and a ton of fun for the entire family.