New Orleans – Out of town guests have departed, ball gowns have been sent to the dry cleaner, and the next parades will be decorated with green for St. Patrick’s Day, rather than purple, green and gold for Carnival.
You might also be wondering what to do with all your beads and baubles. In the early years of Carnival, you wouldn’t have had to worry about where to store it all, because it didn’t exist!
One place where much of the history of Carnival lives is the Rex Den. It stores floats, but it also stores costumes, jewels, legend and lore.
Rex 2017, Dr. Stephen Hales, is also the Krewe of Rex historian and archivist. He gave our Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, a closer look at the evolution of Rex.
“This is the Lieutenant’s Room, we have lots of interesting things here. One of my favorite images of early Mardi Gras is this panorama; this is Canal Street in 1913,” says Dr. Hales.
“Here is the Rex procession going by, but what you don’t realize until you stop and look at it: there’s not a single hand up. Nobody is asking for beads because they weren’t throwing them,” points out Dr. Hales.
The culture of throws didn’t start until the 1930s or 40s. That’s right, the early fans of Carnival dressed up Mardi Gras morning simply to enjoy watching the gorgeous floats, known as “rolling tableau,” as they paraded down St. Charles Avenue.
Of course, beads are thrown today, and when it comes to innovative throws, Rex leads the way. Rex riders threw the very first doubloons in 1960, and just four years ago the Krewe started another trend.
“With 27 floats we thought, ‘Well why don’t we have individual beads for every single float?’ We ended up with a set of 27 individual beads, one for every float. A lot of people on the parade route are trying to collect one of every bead,” says Dr. Hales.
This year’s floats honored the theme: Visions of the Sun.
And our final fun fact: The Krewe of Rex has an official song, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” which dates back to the time when Rex was created. One theory says it came from an 1870’s musical, “Bluebeard.”
The song is played at the Rex Ball, which happens on Mardi Gras evening, also known as Shrove Tuesday.