Mardi Gras and the Muses Factor

by Pia Heyert

Mardi Gras is one of the most crazy and festive times in New Orleans. There are many different parades which all feature a different krewe. A krewe is a group of people in which members pay to participate and ride on floats in the various parades. The members each ride on a float which has a route specific to that parade. Many floats ride down St. Charles Avenue,and many people set up along this route to secure their spot for the parade. When the floats start rolling, the crowd thickens with more and more people showing up to catch beads and other throws. Mardi Gras is characterized by vibrant floats which are decorated with each krewe’s unique theme. Large crowds, grouped throughout the parade route, are all screaming for the members of the different Krewes to throw them the various goodies –  which are very sought after.. Most of these items are very cheap and even “corny”, but some krewes have unique throws which are distinctive to only that krewe. These are truly “collectors’ items.”

The Muses parade features only female riders. This is a rare opportunity for women to be included in the Carnival tradition. In researching my article, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Staci Rosoenberg, founder of Muses. “I was interested in being in a Mardi Gras parade, but I couldn’t just pick one due to male dominance. There just weren’t many choices for women.” says Ms. Rosenberg. Muses special throws are sparkly decorated shoes, “Heels, wedges and boots make the best Muses shoes.” she added. Each shoe is decorated with shiny sparkles that make them stand out, “Most Muses will only work with fine or ultra-fine glitter, which gives the shoe a polished finish,” says Stacy. These shoes are then dried and put in bags, ready for the parade. During Muses, people surround the glistening and colorful floats, flailing their arms, running alongside the floats, screaming to have a shoe thrown to them –  which all sounds very strange.The shoe is the magic of the Muses. 

“Members have to purchase their own throws. Although there is no set requirement on how much they spend, members tend to spend well over $1,000, some over $2,000, which Rosenberg says is a crucial source of revenue for the organization.” (http://kreweofmuses.org/if-the-shoe-fits)

The Krewe of Muses is not just about the excitement and grandeur of Mardi Gras. The members also give back to their community in a variety of ways. Each year, the Muses foundation donates money to a different organization, derived from membership fees and contributions. “One year we donated to a battered women’s shelter; it’s always towards an organization that helps women,” says Jo Anne Burak, a Muses krewe member. The Krewe of Muses also hosts an annual shoe drive, which is a play on the shoe motif. The shoes donated are contributed to several different charities such as the Odyssey House, Grace House, Kingsley House, Lindy’s Place, Metropolitan Battered Women’s Shelter, YWCA Battered Women’s Counselling Program, and the Dress for Success. 

The concept of parading and the idea of helping the less fortunate are traits that have been indicative of the rich culture of New Orleans for decades. The combining of both is not uncommon, but when merged, creates an amazing exposition of culture and caring in an almost “packaged deal”. New Orleanians know how to party – but also know how to help their fellow men and women in unique ways. The energy and time invested by the members of Muses exemplifies the heart of what it is to live, work and share, in the city where Les Bon Temps Rouler – toujours !

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