One of the biggest free parties in the world fuels a multimillion-dollar industry for the city of New Orleans and the lifeblood of businesses like Kern’s studio, which has been operating for more than 50 years and makes or repurposes some 400 floats a year, or roughly a float a day, Kern said.
The Mardi Gras season, which includes weeks of parades, fancy balls and parties leading up to the big day, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to New Orleans each year, said Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. Schulz said a recent study conducted by Tulane University estimated the direct economic impact of Mardi Gras at roughly $144 million.
Some studies estimate the economic impact at more than $500 million, said Arthur Hardy, a Mardi Gras historian.
“There’s no way to know for sure because we don’t sell tickets,” Hardy said. “Mardi Gras started small, in private homes and private balls, and it’s evolved into this festival that some estimate produces more than a half-billion dollars a year.”
Attendance is also hard to gauge, but every Mardi Gras hotels are full, or close to it, Schultz said.
“The city will be virtually sold out,” Schulz said. “Mardi Gras and music, especially on the international scene, are our big sells.”
In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, more than 100 parades roll into New Orleans and its suburbs. The big parading clubs, like Rex, Zulu, Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus and Muses, hire Kern’s studio to build the floats. Smaller clubs make their own by decorating trailers with everything from paint to crepe paper.
Hardy said more than 100,000 people ride in parades each year, and each rider can spend as much as $2,000 to $3,000 in fees, costumes and throws. Thousands more are spent on king cakes and the grand balls and parties, he said.
“It’s a money-maker for the city, but that’s not why we do it,” Hardy said. “We do it because we like to celebrate. It’s a free party we give ourselves and our guests.”
Strange Random Mardi Gras Quote:
“If no tourists came, we’d still have Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a state of mind.” – Ed Muniz
- Mardi Gras float makers getting ready for next year (ctv.ca)
- For Mardi Gras float makers, next year is here (sfgate.com)
- Floatmakers already catering to next year’s Mardis Gras (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Live from New Orleans, It’s Will Ferrell, Mardis Gras King [Mardi Gras] (jezebel.com)
- Nod to NOLA in Honor of Mardi Gras (rutheh.com)
- Mardi Gras (lechicelefant.com)
- Mardi Gras World Works Year Round on Floats (shoppingblog.com)
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Strange Random Tourism Quote:
- Fantasy island FT.com / Travel (masterliving.wordpress.com)
- Captain Cook New Fiji Cruise (cruiseblogjohnpond.com)
- Pearls of Uganda – New Uganda Tourism Resource (wildugandablog.com)
- In Transit: Beaches and Jazz in Fiji (intransit.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Paradise paradox – Bounty Island Fiji, Fiji (travelpod.com)
Tomorrow is the big one for millions of children and of course, their parents: Three Kings Day, Epiphany, Twelfth Night (or what you will), Little Christmas. It can only mean two things – presents and cake. It’s also the first day of the New Orleans Carnival Season, for anyone who needs another excuse.
Epiphany (from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια “appearance”, “manifestation”)
The Western Christian Church traditionally celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men (Magi) or Kings to Bethlehem, whereas the Eastern Christian Church celebrates Jesus‘s Baptism in the Jordan as his manifestation to the world. This is often also called the Theophany.
The tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas (as told in the Christmas carol or song) is believed to have started in the fourth century, when the Western Christian Church aadopted the 25th of December as the day of Jesus’s birth, linking this date with the 6th of January as the start and finish of the Christmas season. In fact, it is still traditional in many countries to remove the Christmas tree and decorations on the 6th of January.
So to the food! As the Three Kings make their way through most Spanish cities tonight, they will be throwing out sweets to the crowds, but this is just the beginning. Working on a similar principle to Mr. Claus – “he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice” – the Kings will deliver the presents they have been asked for to the “good kids” and the “bad kids” will get (candy) coal. But this won’t happen to you, of course, we know that
The biggest sweet tradition in Spain and many Latin American countries is the Roscón or round, sweet cake, normally containing a special figure (originally a Jesus doll), as well as a bean. The person who finds the figure is King For The Day, while the one who gets the bean has to pay for the cake.
As we mentioned at the beginning, tomorrow is also the start of the Carnival season in New Orleans, which ends on “Fat Tuesday” – Mardi Gras – the day before the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. And surprise, surprise, they also have a traditional Kings Cake, as you can see at this rather delicious-looking website, KingCakes.com.
Have fun, be good and here are a few links to find out more:
Strange Random New Year Quote:
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account – Oscar Wilde