If you have to assign Mark Romig a title, make it New Orleans’ Renaissance Man. It’s far easier than actually listing the myriad positions he holds around town, from president of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation (NOTMC), the city’s travel promotion agency, to stadium announcer for the New Orleans Saints to director of the 2018 NOLA Foundation, which is spearheading the Crescent City’s upcoming tricentennial celebrations. But come Carnival season, it’s all about Romig’s role in the regal Rex parade that rolls on Mardi Gras Day.
You ride horseback in the parade.
It’s a wonderful experience. You’re very close to the kids and paradegoers and hear a lot of appreciative comments about the beauty of the parade and how much fun people are having.
Valentine’s Day falls just after Carnival season this year. What do you love most about Mardi Gras?
It’s a combination of things for me. One, it’s a great time to be with friends and family. I’ve made friends over the last several years in the Rex organization, and it’s great to work together on a common goal, which is to put together the best parade possible. And then to see it actually come to fruition, to deliver a beautiful gift to our citizens and visitors, that’s very satisfying.
Being a member of Rex is about more than simply parading, though.
The Rex organization is not just Mardi Gras Day but year-round, and about being part of both the social and educational fabric of the city. After Hurricane Katrina, Rex established its Pro Bono Publico Foundation, which is focused on providing direct assistance to the city’s educational programs and strengthening the educational delivery. Since Katrina, we’ve given more than $4 million to various programs.
In addition to Rex, what other parades should folks catch?
There are so many. The weekend before Mardi Gras there’s Hermes, which is the oldest continuously running night parade, on Friday. But then there’s the joy of Muses the night before Hermes—everyone plays their role in Mardi Gras. Endymion, on Saturday, and Bacchus, on Sunday, both put on fantastic shows, and have helped expand the opportunities for people to participate in Mardi Gras. Then you’ve got Orpheus and Proteus, two wonderful parades that fall in right after the King of Carnival’s arrival at Spanish Plaza on Lundi Gras. And, of course, Zulu and Rex. It’s hard to pick a favorite. The important thing to remember is that this is all volunteer, men and women who give of their resources to put on the greatest free show on earth. That’s Mardi Gras.
Rex is once again issuing visitor proclamations.
After the Civil War to help give the economy a boost, the Rex organization, working with train stations around the region, would issue a proclamation—a tourism flyer, really—inviting visitors to join the King of Carnival as he brought frivolity and excitement to the streets of New Orleans. We’ve revived the tradition and now send out proclamations to media around the world with a press release calling on people to come and experience this wonderful thing we call Mardi Gras.
Which has the bigger party atmosphere, the Dome during a Saints game or Fat Tuesday morning?
When you’ve got 75,000 people crammed into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and they’re all having a good time, it can be really fun. But a crisp, clear, 65-degree Mardi Gras Day with all of the picnics and parades and families and friends all over the city—from St. Charles Avenue to the CBD, the French Quarter to the Tremé, down into the Bywater—that takes the cake.