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Mardi Gras Krewe of Orpheus

Updated on October 15, 2014

Krewe of Orpheus

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Taylor Dayne throws to the crowd
Taylor Dayne throws to the crowd

Orpheus is the last parade before Mardi Gras day

Carnival season in New Orleans starts on Twelveth Night- a dozen nights after Christmas. It goes into full swing about a month before Mardi Gras, with the parades getting bigger and more elaborate by the day- and none more so than Orpheus, the very last parade before Fat Tuesday.


With nearly 40 massive floats decorated with literally millions of LEDs, Orpheus lights up the night for hours and then invites you to party the rest of the night away at the Orpheuscapade, one of the few Krewe balls open to the public!

Wanna go? Here's what you need to know:

Orpheus Parade Route
Orpheus Parade Route | Source

Traditional Schedule: Lundi Gras night. 6pm following Proteus

Route: Modified Uptown. Lines up on Tchoupitoulas, continues on to Morial Convention Center for the post parade party

Themes: G rated, non political

Known for: Lots of huge flowers decorating the floats, famous Monarchs

Annual float favorites:

  • Leviathan and Baby Leviathan:four cars long with a swinging,smoking dragon's head. The final car is a tiny baby version
  • Smokey Mary: six car long locomotive with tens of thousands of led lights. Named after the train that ran between the city and Lake Pontchartrain
  • The Dolly Trolley: Original carriage Barbara Streisand rode in for the movie "Hello Dolly."

See the Smokey Mary in action!

Harry Connick Jr on Orpheus float
Harry Connick Jr on Orpheus float | Source

Orpheus is singer Harry Connick Jr's baby

Founded in 1993, Orpheus was the brainchild of Harry Connick Jr (the jazz singer), his father Harry Connick Sr (who combined his loves of music and the law by becoming the city's "Singing District Attorney) and stage producer Sidney Borey- three men who knew how to put on a show!

They decided they wanted to go big and founded a "Super Krewe"- a club meant to have a very large and inclusive membership. Orpheus opened enrollment to everyone, and were the first fully integrated Super Krewe, inviting women, men, and all races to join in the fun. The first year Orpheus rolled there were over 700 members, and it's only gotten bigger from there.

Harry Connick Jr still comes back every year to ride in his parade, keeping the celebrities company and showing them how it's done. 2013's superstars were Law & Order's Mariska Hargitay and Gary Sinese. People magazine caught this pic of Mariska taking a "selfie" with Harry Connick as they rode.

Parade Night

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Leviathan- the mouth of the beastLeviathanBaby LeviathanTrojan HorseSmokey MaryMandarin dragonChariots riding into battle with their lyresSinging and throwing from the back of the beastOrpheus flowers and krewe membersFlambeaux
Leviathan- the mouth of the beast
Leviathan- the mouth of the beast
Leviathan
Leviathan
Baby Leviathan
Baby Leviathan
Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse
Smokey Mary
Smokey Mary
Mandarin dragon
Mandarin dragon
Chariots riding into battle with their lyres
Chariots riding into battle with their lyres
Singing and throwing from the back of the beast
Singing and throwing from the back of the beast
Orpheus flowers and krewe members
Orpheus flowers and krewe members
Flambeaux
Flambeaux

Do you have a favorite parade?

I have to admit to being biased- I love Orpheus! How about you?

See results

Why choose the name Orpheus?

The mythological Orpheus was the son of a mortal Thracian prince and Calliope, one of the immortal Muses. Calliope was the Muse of epic poetry, and the kingdom of Thrace was renown for their music and art. Between blood and upbringing, Orpheus became the world's most skilled singer.

When the god Apollo gifted him with a lyre, Orpheus gained his godly powers. When playing the instrument every creature within hearing would stop and peacefully come to him, enraptured and unable to move until his song was through. While adventuring with Jason and the Argonauts, Orpheus played the lyre to fend off the treacherous Sirens and calmed a storm that threatened to capsize the ship. Ultimately Orpheus was able to charm the devil himself with his instrument, traveling into the underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice from Hades.

The founders felt that Thrace was an awful lot like New Orleans, and besides- who doesn't come running when they hear a parade on the march? Naming the club after Orpheus seemed like a perfect match.

The lyre is now the Krewe's emblem. They throw lyre shaped beads and it can be seen on the side of several of their floats.

Harry Connick Jr's Mardi Gras song

Last set of original Orpheus royalty- 1966
Last set of original Orpheus royalty- 1966

Super Krewe Orpheus is the third club with the name

In researching the history of the Krewe, I discovered that there was an earlier Krewe in New Orleans named Orpheus. It was a more traditional Krewe, full of high society, and all white. They posted photos of their royal court in the paper each year and had a grand ball, but never actually threw a parade.

There was no notice in the papers as to why or when, but this photo is from 1966, the last listed ball before they quietly dissolved.

Then, in 1987, a group of friends in Mandeville (a town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain) got together and founded the Krewe of Orpheus with between 100 and 120 members. Their concept was 180 degrees from the original Krewe- they didn't want to have fancy parties or lots of expenses- they just wanted to get some friends together and have fun.

They still exist and changed their name to "The Original Krewe of Orpheus" when the New Orleans club was founded.

Unfortunately, the suburban krewes have been struggling, with many being forced to cancel their parades. Throwing a parade is immensely fun, but also expensive, and with the economic downturn, many members simply can't afford it. Sadly, the Original Orpheus is one of these, and they haven't been able to host a parade in the last two years. They hope to return for 2015.

Behind the scenes- getting ready and lining up

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Between each float comes a school marching band or other group- these kids have been marching nightly for weeks. No wonder they're pooped!Harry Connick's float, pre boardingWith the fire department looking on, the flambeaux carriers get lit up. All the flambeaux alight. These are traditional for night parades from before there were streetlights to show the way2013 was a wet, windy, cold day, but as long as there's no lightning, the show must go on. These kids were wrapped in plastic and ready to march.The Lady Godivas ride between the floatsMost of the floats have steps and doors, but some you have to access the hard way!It's very crowded around the riders, with mountains of bead bags, and full hooks behind them. As they ride, the piles quickly shrink.Last year was the Orpheus' 20th anniversary, as their title float announces. They recreated one float from each year's theme. Meanwhile the tractor driver catches up on some zzzs before facing the crowdsMore than a thousand flowers are made by Blaine Kern Studios throughout the year, sorted by color and style, ready to be afixed to their float
Between each float comes a school marching band or other group- these kids have been marching nightly for weeks. No wonder they're pooped!
Between each float comes a school marching band or other group- these kids have been marching nightly for weeks. No wonder they're pooped!
Harry Connick's float, pre boarding
Harry Connick's float, pre boarding
With the fire department looking on, the flambeaux carriers get lit up.
With the fire department looking on, the flambeaux carriers get lit up.
All the flambeaux alight. These are traditional for night parades from before there were streetlights to show the way
All the flambeaux alight. These are traditional for night parades from before there were streetlights to show the way
2013 was a wet, windy, cold day, but as long as there's no lightning, the show must go on. These kids were wrapped in plastic and ready to march.
2013 was a wet, windy, cold day, but as long as there's no lightning, the show must go on. These kids were wrapped in plastic and ready to march.
The Lady Godivas ride between the floats
The Lady Godivas ride between the floats
Most of the floats have steps and doors, but some you have to access the hard way!
Most of the floats have steps and doors, but some you have to access the hard way!
It's very crowded around the riders, with mountains of bead bags, and full hooks behind them. As they ride, the piles quickly shrink.
It's very crowded around the riders, with mountains of bead bags, and full hooks behind them. As they ride, the piles quickly shrink.
Last year was the Orpheus' 20th anniversary, as their title float announces. They recreated one float from each year's theme. Meanwhile the tractor driver catches up on some zzzs before facing the crowds
Last year was the Orpheus' 20th anniversary, as their title float announces. They recreated one float from each year's theme. Meanwhile the tractor driver catches up on some zzzs before facing the crowds
More than a thousand flowers are made by Blaine Kern Studios throughout the year, sorted by color and style, ready to be afixed to their float
More than a thousand flowers are made by Blaine Kern Studios throughout the year, sorted by color and style, ready to be afixed to their float
The Leviathan's lights, close up in the den at Mardi Gras World
The Leviathan's lights, close up in the den at Mardi Gras World

If you're visiting but the timing is off...

... there's always Mardi Gras World!

Carnival can be a crowded and expensive time of the year to visit. If you'd like to get the flavor of the parades at any time of year, Mardi Gras World is just outside of the French Quarter and offers free transportation to the studio where artists create the floats year round.

After the parades are over, the floats return to Mardi Gras World, where the temporary themes are stripped off in preparation for the next year, and the signature floats are checked for damage and repaired.

Several of those floats are on display and you can take your time to fully inspect their beauty and artistry- plus you can watch the artists at work!

It's a great place to visit, and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a destination. Plus, check the tourist guides at your hotel- they'll generally have coupons for several dollars off your visit. Cameras are welcome, and they'll even give you a slice of King Cake at the end.

Share your Orpheus thoughts and experiences, I'd love to hear them:

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      Mklow1 3 years ago

      This is a great Hub! Once upon a time, I was invited to be in the Pete Fountain Half-Fast Parade and it was one of the most fun times of my life. I now live in a Mardi Gras area, but none are the same as New Orleans. Maybe when my kids get older, I can go back.

    • PaigePixel profile image
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      Paige 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      C'mon back- how old are they? I'm sure they'd love watching uptown from the top of a parade ladder, and I'll be happy to pass you a piece of cold Popeye's! lol

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