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New Orleans bursts at the seams with parade-goers and excitement during its annual Mardi Gras season, when the entirety of the city celebrates its unique cultural festivities. Although the Mardi Gras parades only occur once a year, where people enjoy one last party before the beginning of Lent, the parade floats and decorations can be seen year-round at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.
A factory-sized warehouse located just a few minutes drive from the French Quarter is where Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World houses an extraordinary amount of Mardi Gras memorabilia. Operating since 1947, the Blaine Kern Studios is one of the most prominent artist studios that produce some of the most exceptional work for Mardi Gras.
A majority of the floats and props seen in the New Orleans’ parades are created by the Blaine Kern team. Upon arriving to the warehouse, people are immediately greeted by a walkway lined with elaborately designed statues of animals, cartoon characters and celebrities. The larger-than-life scale of these statues is just a glimpse of what’s to come throughout the warehouse.
A one hour guided tour of Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World kicks off in the gift shop, where ticket holders are each given beads, New Orleans’ signature party favor throughout Mardi Gras. The group is taken into a screening room, where everyone gets to watch a short film on the history of Mardi Gras.
It’s in this film that people are able to gain a better understanding of the cultural importance Mardi Gras plays in the city of New Orleans. Tour goers have a chance to taste one of New Orleans’ signature sweets as well. The King Cake, a pastry that is a crowd favorite during Mardi Gras, is colored in shades of green and purple, traditional colors of the Carnival season.
After everyone has a chance to have a piece of King Cake and a cup of coffee, the tour is led into the main warehouse where all the artistry of creating and producing the Mardi Gras floats happens. A knowledgeable tour guide explains to the group how months of preparation and work goes into making the floats for the Mardi Gras parades.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the tour of Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World comes from seeing the artists at work. Talented artists with a love of Mardi Gras are busy painting and designing the floats as the tour group passes by. Each work station shows a detailed sketch of the design of the float, while pieces of the larger than life product are constructed before everyone’s eyes.
Station after station holds different intricately designed floats, all which are made to roll down the streets of New Orleans for Mardi Gras. These floats are never used for more than one Mardi Gras season. Once the parades are over, the artists go back to the drawing board to start planning their floats for the next year.
Everything from colorful flowers, towering elephants and gorillas, famous sports stars, celebrities, musicians, and cartoons are recreated. The floats are larger than expected and some can hold more than 100 people who throw beads and cups to parade onlookers. When the tour is over, visitors are encouraged to take their time wandering around the warehouse, to marvel in the floats’ elaborate designs and character.
Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an experience that just can’t be found anywhere else in the country. For those who happen to visit the city when Mardi Gras isn’t in full swing quite yet, a stop at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World is a must. Transportation to and from the warehouse is made extremely easy, as a free shuttle with multiple stops across the city are available. For more information on seeing the floats of Mardi Gras first hand, visit Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/21061651@N08/