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!
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.