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Visiting Mardi Gras World

Before visiting Mardi Gras World I knew very little about Mardi Gras, and it turns out most of what I knew was wrong.

For example, I assumed that Mardi Gras was just one big parade. It’s not. There are dozens of parades, each put on by different krewes. Each krewe is responsible for coming up with a theme and decorating their own floats. Since there are a bunch of krewes, each krewe is responsible for creating a bunch of floats based on a theme, and the theme changes each year, you can see how the creation of floats could become a full time business.

Enter Mardi Gras World.

Located in New Orleans, Mardi Gras World is responsible for many of the large creations you see on the floats that make their way through New Orleans each year. According to them about 70% of what they make is for Mardi Gras floats. The other 30% are for commercial accounts, like Walk Disney and Chick-fil-A.

I’ve always been a big fan of special effects, and walking around Mardi Gras World felt like being “behind the scenes.” After watching a brief video explaining the history of Mardi Gras floats, we got a tour of the 250,000 square foot warehouse.

Mardi Gras World makes their creations using one of two methods. Traditional float decorations are created using “quick and dirty” methods. The frames are made of wood and they are often wrapped in plastic or foam before they are covered with paper mache and painted. Their more permanent creations are made using molds and fiberglass. One thing our tour guide stressed to us was that nothing is ever thrown away. Figures and creations are recycled year after year. In the video we watched, Shrek’s house from last year became a cave for Hobbits this year. Because of that, it was hard to tell in the warehouse which creations had come from recent parades and which had been sitting in the warehouse for years. It didn’t matter to me; I thought all of them were awesome.

Some of the things we saw, like this statue with Miss Bianca and Bernard from Walt Disney’s The Rescuers obviously had ties to the Disney theme parks. Whether this one was coming or going, I couldn’t say.

In the back of the warehouse set a few of the floats from last month’s Mardi Gras celebration. These floats will be stripped and completely redone again next year with some new theme. The floats do not have engines — the smaller ones are pulled by people and the larger ones are pulled by tractors. The big floats like these have solid rubber wheels (no flat tires). Each float holds (I think) up to 60 people and comes complete with two porta potties on board.

Mardi Gras World was one of the coolest thing I saw during our vacation. The quality of the artwork was literally amazing and we had a great time looking at all the float decorations both old and new. There were things to enjoy for all ages, and if you are looking for something to do in New Orleans and like pop culture I highly recommend visiting Mardi Gras World. We thought it was out of this world!

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