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Krewed Art: Four Mardi Gras Must-Sees

Crafty Carnival krewes find inspiration in everything from red beans to “Star Wars” characters.

Mardi Gras may trace to the Middle Ages, but each year brings new life to the centuries-old celebration, with fresh themes, floats and recently formed troupes adding their own creative flare to traditional parade routes. Here we spotlight four fun krewes that, over the past few seasons, have helped revitalize Crescent City Carnival with their imaginative artisanry.

’tit Rəx

'tit Rex Parade Throws
Itty-bitty throws are the big catch at the 'tit Rəx parade. (©Shawn Fink)

Shrinking away from the multistory floats of mega parades, things get small with Carnival’s only micro-krewe … really small. Rolling since 2009, the pint-sized ’tit Rəx krewe is the creation of friends Jeremy Yuslum, Todd Schrenk and Jonathan Traviesa. An antithesis of sorts to the pomp and spectacle of major Mardi Gras parades, all 'tit Rəx floats began life as a shoebox before dozens of hours of work transform them into the year's given theme. Best viewed when stooped over, the petite floats are tiny politically incorrect stages with amazing attention to detail. The krewe’s build days are centered around a communal table, king cake and a couple bottles of wine, and focus on making equally tiny parade throws. While most members won't see each other's float until parade day, the get-togethers serve as a way for them to bounce ideas off each other. During the parade keep an eye out for “unofficial floats” along the side of the route. Get there early; this micro-parade passes by in a microsecond.

'tit Rex Parade
A tiny throne for a tiny king cake baby king. (©Shawn Fink)

Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus

Ryan Ballard
Ryan Ballard, Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. (©Shawn Fink)

In 2011 Ryan Ballard formed the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus to answer the question: After Comic Con, what do those with elaborately constructed "nerd costumes" do the rest of the year? Together with Kirah Haubrich and Brett Powers, Ballard, a sculptor by trade, has managed to merge Greek mythology with science fiction to create Carnival’s largest DIY krewe. Chewbacchus accepts all of “Nerd-dom”—from “Star Trek” to “E.T.,” Harry Potter to Dr. Who. Be on the lookout for the Red Shirt Steppers (parade security with a nod to both “Star Trek”’s ill-fated red-shirt crewmen and the city’s own 610 Stompers) ... and the aptly named Barship Enterprise.

Chewbacchus Parade (©Shawn Fink)
The Leijorettes, one of Chewbacchus' many subkrewes. (©Shawn Fink)

Krewe of Kolossos

Katrina Brees
Katrina Brees, Krewe of Kolossos. (©Shawn Fink)

Driving both the bicycle-based Krewe of Kolossos and the eco-oriented I Heart Louisiana campaign, Katrina Brees is a force to be reckoned with. After a decade working as a costume designer for several krewes, Brees struck out on her own in 2011, creating Kolossos’ signature pedal-powered floats and papier-mâché masks out of recycled or sustainable materials. Look for Beyonce the Unicorn, Lafitte the Triceratops, Kiko the Orca and Napoleon the Nutria. Brees and her crew took a similarly environmentally conscious approach with I Heart Louisiana, using New Orleans artists to create locally made alternatives to traditional Mardi Gras throws.

Krewe of Kolossos
Southern Louisiana's favorite rodent, the nutria, is one the Krewe of Kolossos' newest creations. (©Shawn Fink)

Krewe of Red Beans

Devin Meyers
Devin Meyers hard at work on the "Beanmobile." (©Shawn Fink)

Red beans and rice Mondays have long been a Crescent City tradition, so when Devin Meyers decided to turn his bean-themed Halloween costume into a Mardi Gras parade in 2008, there was only one day that would work. Stepping out on Lundi Gras (the day before Fat Tuesday) with the Tremé Brass Band, members of the Red Beans Parade wind their way from the Marigny to the French Quarter. “Beaning” Mondays, when krewe members gather to work on their costumes, mirrors another New Orleans tradition—the elaborately beaded Mardi Gras Indians’ costumes. Meetings revolve around a communal pot of, you guessed it, red beans and rice. The “Beanmobile,” a Camellia Beans-sponsored Volkswagen, is the parade's central point and gets covered bean-by-bean from roof to floorboards.

Krewe of Red Beans
Elaborate layers of legumes turn a standard dinner jacket into a Mardi Gras masterpiece. (©Shawn Fink)