Krewe of Nyx’s Sisterhood helped me fight cancer

 

Written by:  Debra Crosby

 

For years, I used to say that I had no desire to go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans UNLESS I could ride on a float and throw beads. I never dreamed that one day I’d be able to do just that. I always assumed the Krewes were ancient, exclusive, and peopled by folks whose families had been in those Krewes for generations.

Then, one day, I saw a Facebook post by an old friend, Suzanne Ferguson, and it included photos of her and her daughter Katie wearing fun costumes, having a ball at Mardi Gras in New Orleans! I asked her if she was in a Krewe, and she said yes! I said, “I want to do that!” Turns out, the Krewe was the Mystic Krewe of Nyx, and my friend was a charter member.

She helped me, guiding me through the membership process, and before I knew it, I was a Nyx Sister! I had no idea of what I was in for.

My Mardi Gras in New Orleans Experience as a Nyx Sister

From the start, I was warmly welcomed into the Sisterhood of Nyx. My first ride was in February of 2017, so I started getting ready months ahead of time. We got together and decorated purses (I am NOT an artistic person, so this was a challenge for me!), and I actually managed to come up with 20 purses that I’d not be ashamed to toss to strangers in a crowd. I had paid my dues, ordered my throw package, and I was ready to roll!

Krewe of Nyx Purse

I had no idea what the parade would be like. I figured that if it wasn’t fun, I’d just do it once and bail out. But oh, my, what fun I had! Honestly, the whole thing was a blur, from the preparade party to the end of the parade.

I remember float loading, being amazed by how organized things were (my stuff was on the right place, in my spot, with my name on it!), then I remember the huge party, with all of those laughing, friendly, fun-loving woman in bright costumes, then I remember going to the float to roll in the parade.

The weather was perfect that year for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the crowds were thick and excited. The parade went by so quickly that I was shocked when we stopped! Time does indeed fly when you’re having fun, and I had a blast.

Unexpected Challenges

breast cancer boxSo, of course, I signed up again for the 2018 season. However, something unexpected happened to me in July of 2017 – I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and was told I’d have to have chemo, surgery, and radiation, a course of treatment that would last over a year. Sigh. In spite of all that, my overwhelming desire was to be sure that I felt good enough to ride with my Nyx Sisters. It was a reward I felt I deserved! I worked hard to make that happen.

So I did what I had to do, and specifically made sure to schedule my radiation treatments to NOT start until after my Mardi Gras parade ride. My doctors were very supportive, and I was therefore able to ride in the 2018 parade.

Suzanne and I went on the Pray for Favor ride, and had a great time. I even got up at lunch and danced. No more sitting on the sidelines for me!

The Sisterhood of Strength

The next day, at the preparade party, I was moved to tears when I was presented with a gorgeous purse, made by my sister Shari Tallulah Brown, in support of my breast cancer journey. These are the kind of women who make up this Krewe. Warm, giving, welcoming, fun-loving. Full of life. Just what I needed after a tough 6 months. I’d never met Shari, but she knew about me. She now has an everlasting friend in me. I will always have her back.

Marie Laveau didn’t exactly take us or our prayers seriously, because the weather took a turn for the worse late In the afternoon. We soldiered on. Even though it was cold and wet (and windy!), the spirits of the Nyx Sisters never flagged. I was personally glad to be experiencing ANYTHING, so glad to be there. The crowds inspired me, because in spite of the inclement weather, they were lively and happy. They weren’t going to let some bad weather get them down. The Krewe of Nyx and its fans fed of one another’s excitement and enthusiasm, and we rocked that night!

My motto is now Carpe Diem. I’m seizing every moment, every experience, every chance to live life to the fullest. The Nyx experience is such a big part of that.

Don’t let life get you down. Embrace it. Take the opportunities that come your way. You never know what’s around the corner.

I seize every moment. I embrace my sisters. Thank you, Nyx, for standing with me.

 

Debra Crosby is a three year Krewe of Nyx member………..and a cancer survivor!

error

Finding My Mardi Gras Niche with the Krewe of Nyx

 

Written by Megan Boyle

 

Growing up outside of Chicago, the idea of Mardi Gras was something I never really thought about. After all, February in Chicago is WAY too flipping cold for parades! A classmate in elementary school once visited New Orleans during the season and brought back some beads. New Orleans was a far-off city “way down yonder” that I did not think I would ever visit, much less live in.

 

Long story short, my father was ultimately transferred to Mobile when I was in high school, I went to college there and made friends who were from the New Orleans area, I moved here in 2003 to be closer to them and for more opportunities, I met my husband within a few months, and 15 years later the rest is history and I have adopted New Orleans as a second hometown.

 

I’ll admit that, as my now-husband was a Mardi Gras fanatic and went to every single Metairie parade plus Endymion, I got burned out pretty quickly. Especially after a few cold, wet parades. Why should I stand out on a curb in all kinds of weather to catch cheap plastic junk that I did not need? Why should I deal with traffic jams due to closures of major streets? Why should I eat cold fried chicken that had been sitting out since 7:00 a.m.? Not my gig. Mardi Gras was a perfect day off to take care of chores around the house without the boyfriend getting in the way.

 

Fast forward to about three years ago. I went to watch the Nyx parade for the first time, mostly because my boss’ wife was riding. It was pink. It was glitzy. It was full-on girl power. I loved it. I couldn’t have more respect for how, within just a few years, the all-female krewe became the largest in the world. I started thinking about riding to see what it was like, and when an acquaintance who rides in Nyx shared on Facebook that the waiting list was open, I put my name in. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. And eventually shrugged the whole thing off.

 

It had started out as a typical Monday when I was checking my e-mail and saw a message from “Nyx Captain” with the subject line, “Congratulations! You have been invited to join the Mystic Krewe of Nyx!” My husband was floored when he received my text message reading, “HOLY SHIT I FINALLY GOT INVITED TO JOIN NYX OMG!!!” As much as I HAD shrugged it off, from the moment I got that e-mail my heart was set on it! We went out to dinner to celebrate, I filled out my paperwork and dropped it right in the mail with a check for my deposit, and I made my first Nyx purse after acquiring supplies at three separate stores. I stalked my e-mail even in the middle of the night until I received the confirmation that my application had been processed and I had the credentials to log into the “Members Only” section of the web site, and I was excited to see there were already several events on the calendar.

 

So now here this Chicago/New Orleans girl is, with a large box containing at least a dozen purses ready to be decorated, a black ball gown (found on clearance at Dillard’s among the leftover prom dresses on a shopping expedition with my grandmother), manpower ready to load my throws onto my float, and headed to Houston this weekend to meet the Captain and many other Nyx members. Super psyched, of course!

 

As much as Mardi Gras may never have been in my heart and soul like it is for people born and raised here who enjoyed it as children, and I could even have done without it for a long time, I think I may have finally come to love it. At least, now that I seem to have found my niche among my 3,000-plus sisters. Whose stories are each as unique as my own. Hail Nyx!

 

Megan Boyle is a first-year member of the Krewe of Nyx.

error

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.

 

error

Reflections of the 2019 Krewe of Nyx Title Float winner

Written by:  Jody Braunig

 

The last time I saw my 115 riders, mostly everyone was huddled together under tarps in the torrential downpour during our Wednesday night ride. This was our absolute best year and we can’t wait to showcase our love for the krewe through our made-with-love-and-a-little-wine 2019 Title Float Headdresses.

 

Members of “Jody’s Float” and winners of the headdress contest at the Nyx pre parade party 2018.

Jody’s Float is a community of women, sisters, who spend time getting to know each other through social events and weekly, sometimes daily, headdress crafting parties. We are a float of mothers, students, wives and friends who sometimes take the lead, and sometimes help support. We have the biggest float in the krewe and we believe in the power of sisterhood. We ARE NYX sisters.

I have been a Krewe of Nyx Float Lieutenant for the past six years and we have always been Jody’s Float. Over the last seven years, as the floats have grown from 30 riders to 60 riders to 80 riders and 100+ riders, float names have become an important part of the riding experience.  Members take a lot of pride in their float names, giving each float its own sense of identity.  Glitter Girls, Leading Ladies, Ladies of Mystery, the Glitta Hittas, and Blingtastic Krewe are just a few examples of the creativity riders bring to their float names. Our float flirted with the idea of changing our name to something more creative, but we just couldn’t think of a new name. So, we are Jody’s Float, the 2019 Title Float. And we have alot of pride in that name.

As I turn the page on this year’s ride, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on this past year. My float was the biggest float in the parade and I embraced that honor with pride. However, managing a Mardi Gras Float full of women is a labor love – alot of love, ALOT OF LABOR and more love. This year new leaders emerged, and it was easy for me to delegate responsibilities. We have a Rock Star Treasurer, a different lead for each of our events including float meetings, holiday parties, happy hours, and many more engaged members who stand ready to lend their time and support to creating an amazing experience. Our Headdress Chair is one of the most creative people I have ever met. She is calm, yet authoritative (in a great way!) while engaging everyone who shows up to help paint, glitter and glue. One rider orders the wigs, one rider is in charge of music, one rider oversees the swag and another rider can always be counted on to bring extra food and drinks for our events. Different riders host events in their homes while other riders volunteer to help with costume pickup, float loading and more. I love having the awesome responsibility of building a community for my riders, but we all play a role in making that happen.

At every event, whether it be a NYX Newbie 101 meeting, Wacky Sweater Holiday Party, or the upcoming Brunch, we ALWAYS do an “icebreaker.” My riders may roll their eyes to each other, but I know they love it and appreciate it. It’s how we start the connection that turns into a community and a sisterhood.

In the middle of last year, I was asked to join the Mystic Krewe of Nyx board. I have been at both ends of the table when it comes to board involvement. I have sat on many boards and committees throughout my career and I run my own board as the Girls on the Run Executive Director. Being a good board member is not an easy task. And being a Krewe of Nyx board member is no exception. Running an organization of over 3300 women is extremely demanding and the Mystic Krewe of Nyx board members volunteer hundreds of hours behind the scenes to make it happen. Learning how to work closely with different types of people and learning how to trust each other has been both challenging and rewarding. And FUN! It has been an honor to work together with eight dedicated women who take time away from their families and friends and jobs to make sure every detail is perfect.

 

“Jody’s Float” will ride on Float 5 next year, the title float.

I have learned alot this past year as a Mystic Krewe of Nyx board member. Although there are the frustrations that go along with any type of  board work, the blossoming friendships, the unwavering support of sisters, the fun times and the laughs make it all worthwhile. As the Krewe grows, change is inevitable. Great changes are ahead and I’m sure some mistakes will be made along the way. But I can promise you that when you walk into the 2019 NYX MYX Ball, you will experience a sense of awe and amazement. I promise the board spent time brainstorming ideas to make sure you throw the most unique and sought after throws. And I promise you your board spent hours planning and executing events so members can get to know each other while raising money for charities and Nyx sisters in need. It’s a privilege for me to be a part of it.

Krewe of Nyx Title Float

The Mystic Krewe of Nyx is more than a parade, more than a social club, it’s a family and a true sisterhood. Year seven was my best year yet, so I can only imagine what year eight will bring as the winner of the Title Float. My volunteer role and work as a Nyx board member helped me to truly appreciate the magic of Nyx. I am honored and humbled to lead the 115 sisters on Jody’s Float as we take our place on the Title Float in 2019.

 

Jody is a Charter Member of the Krewe of Nyx as well as a Charter Float Lieutenant.  She also serves on the Nyx Board of Directors as the Director of Fundraising.  You can read some of her other writings about the Krewe of Nyx which have been published in her series:  Goddesses of the Night and Goddess of the Night My Secret Life .

error

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. 

error