Krewe de Charlie Sioux

What is a Mardi Gras Krewe?

A mardi gras krewe is a group of individuals formed for a specific purpose (in this case celebrating sister cities) who present a parade based on a theme, with floats, costumed riders and flambeaux (torch carriers who lit the way). 

The first krewe began on Jan. 1, 1830 when a group of young men walking home after a New Year’s Eve celebration in Mobile, Ala., passed a store featuring an outdoor display of rakes, hoes and cowbells.  Making the kind of decision inebriated young men are apt to, they picked up the supplies and headed to the mayor’s house where they caused a stir.  An obviously patient man, the mayor sobered them up and, according to historian Buddy Stall, made the motley krewe’s leader an offer.

“Next year, “ he suggested, “why not organize yourselves and let everyone have fun?”

Led by Michael Kraft, the group called themselves the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, paraded the following New Year’s Eve, and was so successful that the procession became an annual event.

Now, jump ahead to 1857 when New Orleans city leaders were on the verge of canceling Mardi Gras for good.  Six Cowbellions now living in the Big Easy proposed forming a new private club to present a parade based on a them, with floats, costumed riders and flambeaux (torch carriers who lit the way) an orderly alternative to the chaos that Carnival had become.  They chose the name Comus after the Greek god of revelry and coined the “krewe” appellation.

Krewes are also known to hold balls.  According to Arthus Burton LaCour’s “New Orleans Masquerade,” the first ball was held in 1857 by Comus.  A Carnival ball is a formal party given by a krewe for its members and their guests. It consists of a royal court with king and queen, dukes and duchesses and the like, who are presented in lavish costumes to an audience of invited guests. The more traditional balls present tableaux, which are staged pageants that depict stories, usually from mythology or history. A queen's supper, which might be a dinner dance or informal party, often is held after the ball.