Julie Lea-Krewe of Nyx Captain’s Mardi Gras Blog Series “Captain 2 Captain” Blog 3–Druids Interview

 

 

Join me as I sit down with my friend and Consultant for the Mystic Krewe of Druids, to learn a little more about them.

 

Mystic Krewe of Druids riders

 

 

JL:  I know the Ancient Druids has been parading since 1998. How did it all begin?

CMKD: Well that is a very interesting story. Myself and one other guy had thrown around the idea of Starting a parade. Conversation went from one idea to another and then went away. Then….myself and a few members of another Club that I belong to went to a Mardi Gras dance together with our wives (It was a Club in Chalmette that is no longer around) and we won a couple bottles
of Tequila and one thing led to another and Druids was Reborn.

There’s more to the tequila story, but, I’d get in a bunch of trouble if I explained the whole story so I’ll leave it alone.

So then myself and the original guy that had discussed the idea went to the City Council and we received a permit. And now it’s October and we have six members.

 

JL: Has Druids always paraded on the Wednesday night before Mardi Gras?

CMKD:  Druids originally paraded as a marching group from around 1915-1921 and then paraded behind Rex from 1922-1935. So we took 65 years off and started parading on a Tuesday night until Hurricane Katrina. We were then asked by the City to move from Tuesday to Wednesday.

JL: There is such a mystique and secrecy about the Krewe. Even the King who is referred to as the Arch Druid is never revealed. Why has the organization decided to remain so anonymous?

CMKD:  We just thought it would bring some fun back to Mardi Gras. Remember there were not that many parades on week nights. There were no Muses or Chaos when we started and Pegasus had moved to the weekend so Tuesday was open. And as far as the Archdruid. We know who the Archdruid is so that’s all that matters. Besides Mardi Gras has always been about secrecy and masking and every Club doesn’t want 3,000 members.

JL:   I also have learned that unlike most Krewes, Druids does not conform with tradition as far as staging a ball, nor naming a court, or a Queen. What is the reasoning for not participating in that type of pageantry?

CMKD:  Most of the guys are involved in other Clubs so we thought just having a parade would be best.
How do you know we don’t have a Queen ?

JL:  The parade is always very controversial. The themes and float titles really push the envelope with poking fun at public figures, being politically incorrect, and taking puns at other Krewes etc. I know this first hand! LOL. What is the premise behind taking the parade to the extremes?

 

Mystic Krewe of Druids sign takes a jab at female krewes in its 2015 parade.

 

CMKD:  That’s not us. You must be talking about someone else.

JL:  Do you think that the parade is misunderstood by some folks in the community?

CMKD: Yes. Absolutely!!

JL:   Now I have to talk about the Druids/Nyx relationship. We have enjoyed some good Mardi Gras fun through the years. I have to take you back to Wednesday, February 15, 2012, which was the night of our first parade. I will never forget we were in the staging area where Druids members were walking to their floats raising their beers and cheering us on in the pouring rain. It really meant something for us to share your parade night and to be wished well for our first ride. And then……..…I heard about the last float in Druids that night. I was crushed! LOL! Then I realized this was going to be a lot of fun and “Welcome to New Orleans Mardi Gras.” It was a real baptism for Nyx. Tell me about the sign on the last float that night.

CMKD: First we warned you that it rains two out of every three years, but, that is perfect Druids weather.

I believe our theme was Druids Circus ? Can’t remember title of last float. I have selective memory.

 

Sign on Druids last float in its 2012 parade.

 

Like they say…if you can’t make fun of your friends….

Druids float in its 2016 parade.

I do remember a few of your riders seemed upset, but, I think they now know it’s all done in jest.

I’m not sure if the media has figured that out yet which is really funny.

 

 

 

 

JL:   I’m glad that we enjoy a friendly relationship with the two Krewes. Don’t think that we aren’t ready for you year after year because we are!

From the Druids walkers in front of our parade that you left behind a few years, to float signs and different titles, we are always have a come back for you guys to keep Druids on its toes. Other than poking fun at each other, how has having Nyx ride behind Druids enhanced your parade?

Nyx jabs Druids in front of its 2014 parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nyx’s “Don’t be Cruel” float dressed like a Druid rider in its 2015 parade.
Nyx puts “Druids” riders who were left behind in front of their 2016 parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CMKD:  The good part is we now have people on the streets. The bad part is we now have to buy throws.

Not a lot of throws. Nyx throws enough for the both of us.
The 2019 parade should be a lot of fun.

I think we are ready for ya’ll.

 

 

“The Ancient Druids will parade on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 6:15pm on the traditional Uptown parade route…………..as a great opening act for the Mystic Krewe of Nyx who parades right behind them at 6:45pm. Don’t miss this spectacle of Mardi Gras mudslinging at its finest!”

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Julie Lea- Krewe of Nyx Captain’s Mardi Gras Blog Series “Captain 2 Captain” Blog 2

Join me as I sit down with my friend and fellow Captain, “The Masked Captain” of the Knights of Sparta, to learn a little more about them.

 

  

 

JL:   In researching the Knights of Sparta, I learned the organization was formed in 1951 and first paraded in 1981. After 30 years of presenting elaborate bal masques and tableaus, why the move into parading as well?

MCKS: That move was made the our previous Captain and the Officers at that time. The possibility of parading was afforded us by Mr. Bernard I. (Irv) Zoller, who was the Captain of MECCA. He offered to incorporate what was then the Krewe of Sparta into his parade on the first Saturday of the parading season. After one very successful year of parading as MECCA / Sparta, Irv decided to step back into the Captain Emeritus position and offer the parade permit to Sparta. That is when we became The Knights of Sparta, and have paraded under that name since.

JL:   Parading in New Orleans has so many traditions and one of them is the use of Flambeaux’s. which Sparta still uses in its parade. Why have yall decided to continue with this tradition?

MCKS:  We were able to acquire a number of “original kerosene flambeaux” many years ago. We feel that having flambeaux in our parade links us with the parades of yesteryear, and gives the crowds that attend our parade a taste of the processions of the 1800s. We are, of course, not the only parade that still uses the old kerosene flambeaux. However, three are very few, and upholding many of the old traditions of Carnival is important to our members.

JL:   How long have you been the Captain of the Knights of Sparta?

MCKS:  This will be my fifteenth year as Captain.  I am only third Captain in the 67 year history of Sparta, and I am very humble and proud to serve in that capacity.

JL:   In your own words, can you explain the role of the Krewe Captain, and tell us some of your duties.

MCKS:  I expect that the role of Captain varies from krewe to krewe. However, in Sparta the Captain acts as the CEO and Chairman of the Board. The Officers each have their responsibilities and/or events to chair. However, the Captain oversees all the activities of the organization and has control of all artistic aspects of the Bal Masque and Parade.

I write and produce the Bal Masque, select the yearly themes, control the design of the costumes and floats, and chair several events. I must add that the Officers take a very active rule in all of activities and work hand-in-hand with me on all aspects of our organization. It is, truly, a “team effort”.

JL:   I have had the honor of attending many of your beautiful bal masques and parades. Something very unique about the Knights of Sparta I find very interesting, and others may not be aware of is, the Junior Captain. Can you share with me his relation to you and what roll he plays in the organization?

MCKS:  The position of “The Captain’s Shadow” was developed for Sparta by the previous Captain. His grandson served as The Captain’s Shadow for a number of years. My grandson, who is now 22 years old, began as The Captain’s Shadow, but was re-titled The Junior Captain when we grew taller than me. Incidentally, I took a good bit of friendly ribbing from some of the other Captains as my Grandson grew and eventually outgrew me.

The idea of a Captain’s Shadow or Junior Captain is to link the generations of Carnival and show that it is a tradition that is passed down from father to son………and from grandfather to grandson. Thus, Carnival survives and thrives through the years.

I now have a two year old Grandson, who I hope will eventually become The Captain’s Shadow.

JL:   How many officers help you run the krewe?

MCKS:  At present, we have 10 Officers. Each Officers has specific duties and/or events or committees to chair. Of course, the Officers’ Ladies are also very involved in our success each year.

JL:  Another thing I think is so much fun about you is that you assist other krewes during the season with narration of their balls and tableaus. How did that begin and how many balls do you assist with per year?

MCKS:  I was fortunate enough to have a background in theater while growing up in Ohio, and have never been shy about being in front of a crowd or behind a mic. I was also very honored to learn about Carnival from some of the great masters such as Irv Zoller, Irma Strode, Karl Smith, Norris and Jimmy Fitzmorris, and others. They taught me about bal masque and parade structure, narrating, and the history of Carnival.

Over the years I guess it has just snowballed into being involved with a number of krewes. Through those years, I have written and narrated coronations, bal masques, and parades for over 20 krewes. I presently am involved (in one way or another) with 14 organizations.

JL:   I know the Knights of Sparta believe firmly in the traditions of Mardi Gras. Which traditions are some of your favorites?

MCKS:  The traditional Old-style tableau bal masque is very important to Sparta and to me. We are one of the very few krewe that still stage a traditional tableau ball, and feature actors, dancers, singers, costumed Court, and a intricately scripted tableau.

Masking for the parade is certainly also high on the list for Sparta. We require all of our members to keep their masks in place for the entire ride.

I also love the fact the our parade features aspects of Carnival’s past, like traditional flambeaux and a mule-drawn King’s float.

We also almost exclusively use marching bands in our parade, like the parades of old.

JL:   What would you say is your greatest Mardi Gras memory in your time as Captain?

MCKS:  I would have to say that my ride the first year that I was Captain was my most significant memory. I was elected Captain in March of 2005, and was preparing for my first year as the leader of Sparta when Katrina hit. It was a real fight to just get our parade on the street for 2006, with displaced members, depleted city resources and manpower, etc. However, we were able to parade, and the people of the city were overwhelming with their outpouring of gratitude and love for us and for the continuation of the Carnival tradition. Sitting astride my horse and leading the parade as Carnival proved to the world that New Orleans was not going to give up after disaster was a wonderful feeling.

 

The Knights of Sparta will parade on Saturday, February 23, 2019.  Membership is currently open. Please visit //www.knightsofsparta.com for more information.

 

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Julie Lea – Nyx Captain’s Mardi Gras Blog Series “Captain 2 Captain”

Join me  as I interview many different Mardi Gras Captains from across the New Orleans Metro area for a behind the scenes look at how traditions are formed and how parades are staged.

For my first blog in this series, I sit down with my friend Bobby Hjortsberg, the Captain of the Krewe of Freret.

 

JL  In doing research on the Krewe of Freret, I know y’all were founded in 2011, and first paraded in 2014.  Congratulations on that! What made you and the other founders decide to use the name of a former krewe, The Krewe of Freret?  

BH  We have been asked this question a lot and most people don’t believe the answer. Founder Brendan Ryan came up with the name because of our association with Freret Street.  We all went to Loyola and Freret St. was a big part of our lives, thus we became the Krewe of Freret.  We had no idea there was previously a Krewe of Freret until we filed formal paperwork with the state.

JL Parading in New Orleans has so many traditions and one of them is the signature throw.  Tell me about yours and how you guys came up with it.

BH  We wanted to do something handmade like many other Krewe’s now do.  We thought doing masks was an obvious choice for Carnival. We also wanted to throw something people could put on immediately and in a way, become part of the parade.

JL Something very unique about the Krewe of Freret that I find very interesting, and others may not  be aware of is, y’all do a Public Coronation each year.  Can you share with me details about that event?

BH So this just kind of evolved which I guess is how many great ideas come about.  We wanted to watch the first parade of the year together as a Krewe so Brendan and I walked the entire route of Krewe du Vieux to determine the best spot to set up.  Elysian Fields and Royal worked out well because of the amount of neutral ground space there. Once we picked the spot, founder Greg Rhoades noted that Elysian Fields is traditionally “the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and virtuous” in Greek Mythology.  Royal street is obviously a nod to royalty. Thus our Royals begin their reign there and also turn it over to the next royals in the same place. When they give up the crown they are going to their figurative final resting place.

JL How did the hashtag #BeMardiGras come about?

BH #BeMardiGras came about as a result of the masks.  We wanted people to immediately put the masks Bon that we threw and tag them on Social Media.  This allowed folks to actively participate in our parade while at the same time giving the riders a cool look at where their throws ended up.

JL What’s the biggest surprise to you about being a Mardi Gras Krewe Captain?

BH The amount of work that goes into it. It is a year around almost every day job and we only have 400 riders. The amount of time and planning that goes into a 3 hour event is truly mind boggling.

JL You and I have shared some great memories through the years celebrating at different events.  I have pictures to prove it! What would you say is your greatest Mardi Gras memory since the Krewe of Freret has hit the streets?

BH My greatest Mardi Gras memory was the first time our floats turned onto St. Charles avenue in 2014. The weather was perfect and the crowds were enormous.  It was also the first time I had ever ridden in a parade.  Although I had been invited to ride many times before, I wanted to save the experience for when we finally pulled it off on our own.  It was worth it!

 

Bobby Hjortsberg and Julie Lea New Orleans
Freret Captain Bobby Hjortsberg & Nyx Captain Julie Lea

 

JL What’s the best piece of advice you ever got about running a krewe and who was it from?

BH I bet I know why you asked this question lol.  The best piece of advice I ever got about running the Krewe of Freret was don’t wait. We were told not to wait until we thought  we were ready to get a permit or until we were “big enough” because we would never feel ready for such a huge step.  We were also told if we waited we would never get it because the competition for permits was growing and there were only a finite number of them left. It was you of course who gave us this advice. Without that guidance its a pretty safe bet that we would have never been successful in getting a permit and ultimately fulfilling our dream of parading down St. Charles ave.  We will forever be grateful for that piece of advice and all of the other help we got from you and Nyx along this awesome journey!

 

The Krewe of Freret’s membership is currently open.  For more information, visit their site,  www.kreweoffreret.com. 

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