In Greek mythology, Endymion could have been a handsome Aeolian shepherd or hunter, or, even a king who ruled and was said to reside at Olympia in Elis, but he was also said to reside and was venerated on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor. There is confusion over the number of Endymions, as some sources suppose that one was or was related to the prince of Elis and the other was a shepherd or astronomer from Caria. In New Orleans, there is no confusion. There is one Endymion, and it is the mother of all krewes.
To fully appreciate the history of the largest and most successful Carnival organization in the history of New Orleans, it is helpful to examine the celebration in the years that preceded Endymion‘s inception in 1966. A typical Mardi Gras season in the mid-Sixties consisted of about 20 parades with relatively small floats and fairly conservative amount of throws. Tableau balls were declining in popularity. Hotel occupancy rates of less than 60% at Mardi Gras were common. Many felt that carnival was in a slump. Something new was needed to inject life into the celebration. In 1969, the new Krewe of Bacchus issued a wake-up call and Mardi Gras was forever changed. Endymion’s 1974 emergence into a super krewe had equal impact.
Endymion brought young people back to Carnival, by changing the sound and feel of Mardi Gras. Contemporary music and pop stars from radio and television were presented within the parade, and Carnival suddenly had glitter and flash. The krewe also brought an element of variety to the celebration that had been absent.
A list of more than 50 stars that Endymion has imported for its Extravaganzas reads like a show-biz Who’s Who, yet the krewe has always included local talent in its entertainment. As the city’s number one cheerleader, if there is ever a way to stretch a Crescent City component into a parade theme, float title, or maid’s costume, Endymion does it. Even its fleur de lis logo is pure New Orleans!
With the largest floats ever assembled, and parade themes with which everyone identified, Endymion quickly became the people’s parade. The krewe also changed the look of Carnival, making an instant impact with its magnificent court costumes and enormous headdresses. The concept of showcasing the krewe’s royalty and court within a parade was novel. People actually came to see Endymion’s “pre-parade” of mini-floats, just to catch a glimpse of the visual spectacle.
People also came to Endymion’s parade to do more than look. As the most generous club in Carnival, krewe members lived up to their motto, “Throw until it hurts.” Literally, millions of beads, cups, doubloons and trinkets were tossed-then as now, no one goes home from an Endymion parade empty-handed.
Thanks to Bacchus and Endymion, four day hotel packages on Carnival weekend became an easy sell, much to the delight of tour operators. But Endymion did more than attract tourists and provide jobs; it played a major role in the democratization of Mardi Gras, opening its doors to some who had been barred from the old-line clubs. Endymion’s membership represented, then as it does now, a cross section, a virtual microcosm of New Orleans, from cab drivers to attorneys, from janitors to U.S. Senators. Without fanfare or fuss, Endymion opened its membership to the entire community. And what could be more democratic than Endymion’s selection process for its monarch? The club’s annual blind draw, performed by the reigning Queen, makes it an organization in which any man can wear Endymion’s crown.
Most of all, Endymion has succeeded because it is fun-fun for the public and fun for the members who live for their special and for their very special parade. This spirit has produced a sense of loyalty that is rare in Carnival organizations. All Hail Endymion! Mardi Gras Main Event.
The Krewe of Endymion Parade, rolls once again on Saturday, February 21st 2009 on it’s traditional Mid-City route. Although this year’s theme was “Tales of Sleep and Dreams,” we doubted that the hundreds of thousands of Mardi Gras revelers along the Endymion parade route would be resting as twenty-five spectacular Super-Tandem Floats led by celebrity Grand Marshall Kid Rock—carrying over 2,400 masked revelers—will bombard the enthusiastic crowds with MILLIONS of strands of Mardi Gras beads and Endymion 2009 Collectible throws.
What follows is our account of a day that started with maneuvering around police barricades in order to get to an undisclosed location where we proceeded to indulge in beverages and food, before heading for the neutral ground on Canal Street.
The 2009 Endymion parade exprience