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  • Frances Schwabenland

If you Can't Get to The Mardi Gras Celebration...Go Here!

Enormous is the word that comes to mind when I think of Mardi Gras... New Orleans becomes a hub for an enormous amount of tourist. The size and scope of the floats is truly enormous and the fact that everything is recycled from year to year is also - you've got it...enormous and extraordinary!!!



However if you cannot get to New Orleans for the 12-14 day celebration (little did I know, I thought is was 1 day!) then a must see is the Mardi Gras World.



The early days of what has grown into Kern Studios started with Roy Kern, a local artist-turned-sign-painter who worked his way through the Depression by painting names and signs on the bows of freighters and barges since it is located next to the Mississippi River.

Roy and his son Blaine built their first Mardi Gras float together on the back on a mule-drawn wagon in 1932. Unable to pay his mother’s medical bills, Blaine offered to paint a mural in the hospital, which caught the eye of a surgeon who was also the captain of a Mardi Gras Krewe. This captain invited Blaine to design and build floats for his Krewe, and Kern Studios was officially founded in its current form in 1947. One float led to another, and before long Blaine became the city’s leading parade designer and builder, working with Rex, Zulu and other legendary krewes. After many requests for private tours of Kern Studios from people wanting a sneak-peak of Mardi Gras, the Kerns decided to open up the working studio to the public. In 1984, Mardi Gras World was created as a tourist attraction to provide visitors a behind-the-scenes look of our work. Widely successful, the attraction draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world each year. Guests tour the 300,000 square foot working warehouse where floats are housed and created which is again, enormous considering there are over 500 floats built and decorated each year!



I purchased a ticket on line with a guided tour and was picked up at a very convenient location near my hotel. Adults pay $22., Children ages 2-12 pay $14 and Military, Students and Seniors pay $17.00. It is open 7 days a week from 9:00 -5:30 pm. I was taken around the warehouse and told of the floats being renewed and as well as newly created. I was given a history of the parade with a very informative video followed by a delicious piece of King Cake! Unfortunately, no one in the group discovered the lone plastic baby hidden within the cake! I would never have gotten this close to these amazing pieces if I went to the parade! The access to this Mardi Gras magic is a photographer's dream come true!



Within a glass-walled, temperature-controlled showroom 100 by 30 feet wide, visitors can watch as a robot uses drill bits attached to its long metal arm to carve styrofoam, wood, clay, stone and even metal within 1 millimeter of accuracy. This mechanical wonder was fondly named "Pixie" after Jerelyn "Pixie" Hall Naquin, a beloved very long time employee of Kern studios. A I and Pixie are changing the world as we know it!

Our guide told us that "Pixie" is working all day long...employees go home and the next day return to find that a piece of styrofoam perhaps the size of a car, has been cut perfectly into an entirely new character for the parade!


Nothing is thrown away...it is all saved from year to year and transformed as needed...morphing one character into another.




This "Fire Float" will be in the 2024 Mardi Gras parade.



Being here and being up close and personal with these larger than life vibrant creations is the perfect spot to be in touch with the Mardi Gras experience if the date is not February!




So if you want to take in the enormity of this warehouse, of rich and vibrant colors, and the enormity of vision and creativity, The Mardi Gras World is not to be missed!


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quaff.zithers_0v
Jul 16, 2023

Wow! Amazing photos and I love the story behind the studio! Never would have imagined things being reused and recycled! Thanks for the tour!

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