A sea of pink wigs, laughter, beads and plastic platform shoes paraded down St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans on Thursday night.
“Throw me something, miss!” someone in the crowd screamed as the Muses Krewe Parade streamed by.
“They are unique,” said Melissa Gemeinhardt, a New Orleans native who brought her three kids to see the parade.
The largely female krewe — a local term for any group that participates as costumed paraders in the annual Mardi Gras celebration — kicked its way into the male-dominated world of Carnival parades five years ago with its signature high-heel Fiberglas shoe float.
Unlike other krewes, they have no queen, king, or court. This group organizes itself through consensus, and so far it’s been a huge success.
‘Muses Got Game’
The 659 riders and 25 colorful Muses floats paraded down the streets of New Orleans asthe crowd roared and jumped to try to get one of the most prized throws during this Mardi Gras season: the shoe bead.
“Muses Got Game” was the title of one float. An all-female band serenaded the rowdy crowds with the sweet sounds of the trumpet, and the Pussyfloaters danced in fluorescent pink-and- black costumes.
“I like it; it’s a chance for women to do their thing,” said Mike Peyton as he tried to catch some throws. “It’s one of the more colorful parades.”
The Muses Krewe's parade is one of 8-year-old Destiny Mosley's favorites.
“They don’t throw any bad stuff,” she said as she put beads in her Muses backpack.
Gwedolyn Mosley, Destiny’s mother, said it was very important to bring her daughter to Mardi Gras this year after having to flee their home in Algiers because of Hurricane Katrina. “The more people come out, the more people will see that New Orleans is coming back,” she said.
Hoping to lift spirits
That’s exactly what the Muses Krewe was hoping for. “If you don’t laugh, we’ll cry,” was this year’s motto for the Muses.
Stacy Rosenberg, president of the krewe, said she didn't want Katrina to stop the group from parading. “Those who lost everything were the most committed to ride,” she said.
She said she told her members: “If you can be in New Orleans, we’ll find a way you can ride.”
Everyone showed up, and they even had 400 women on the waiting list to ride on their floats.
“Our emphasis is on lifting the local spirits and whoever is out here in the crowd,” Rosenberg said.
The Muses are not just a barrel of laughs they give back to the community.
The krewe donated $50,000 to Katrina victims and provided emergency grants to members who needed money after the hurricane.
Their masks are made by local public school kids with school supplies they donate.
The Muses could not end the parade without making a statement, so they left their last float empty and riderless to remember those lost in Katrina.
All shapes and sizes strut their stuff
But that didn’t dampen the celebration. Among the beehive wigs, the “Candyland” float of prescription pills and the “Hungry Hippo” float, there were women young and old strutting their stuff.
“It’s nice to see mature adult women of all shapes and sizes be comfortable with their bodies,” said Ivan Sickmann, when he saw a group of middle-aged women dancing their hearts out.
His sister, Susan Cleades, of Washington, D.C., had never seen a Muses parade. “Women over 50 and [they] look great,” she said. “I want to join one of the dance groups! It’s the best parade I’ve ever seen.”
Just because they are a majority women krewe, that doesn’t mean they don’t let men parade, too. There were the Elvis impersonators on scooters, and the local brass band called Rebirth.
In the Muses Krewe, all are welcome as long as they know how to celebrate and laugh, even when times are hard.