NEW ORLEANS — It's always carnival time at
Mardi Gras World. The family-run business has been making mega-floats
for some of the biggest and best Mardi Gras parades for more than 60
The company is now showing off its innovative designs in a
300,000-square-foot warehouse, a fantasy world of paper mache,
fiberglass, plaster and millions of twinkling lights populated by
pharaohs, superheroes, fairies, gorillas and many other creations.
The facility is a popular attraction with tourists and locals alike.
"I'm amazed at how big they are and how elaborate they are," Serena
Skews, 22, from England, who was touring the place, said of the floats.
"I can't be here for the real Mardi Gras, but this gives me an idea of
what it's like."
Other visitors included dozens of students from St. Stanislaus High School in Baton Rouge. They marched in, mouths hanging open, cell phones held aloft to record the wonders stretching before them.
"Oh, look, look," girls' high-pitched voices called out. Even the
more sedate boys elbowed each other as they strolled past well-endowed
replicas of Marilyn Monroe, Wonder Woman, and assorted harem girls.
of Mardi Gras World cost $18.50, including a 12-minute movie and a
chance to dress in various Mardi Gras costumes and take pictures. Guides
show visitors the floats, the workshop where decorations are made, and
discuss Mardi Gras history and customs. Visitors finish up with king
cake, the traditional cinnamon-and-sugar-covered Mardi Gras confection,
The Kern family is the creative force behind Mardi Gras World. Blaine
Kern, the son of a sign painter, started building and decorating floats
when he returned from World War II. Over the years, he and his family
became known for their extraordinary designs — including some of the
mega-floats for the so-called super krewes.
"I say we don't do floats for all the parades. We do them for the best parades," said Kern's son Barry, 47, who now heads Mardi Gras World.
The business had been housed in a 70,000-square-foot warehouse on New
Orleans Westbank, but last year moved to the larger new facility where
visitors can watch workers creating new additions and see the floats
that will be rolling this year.
Mardi Gras takes place Feb. 16, but the parades begin the weekend of
Jan. 30. Mardi Gras World is providing floats for 18 parades this year,
including Rex, known as the King of Carnival,
Zulu, Bacchus, Endymion and Orpheus. All will roll the final weekend of
Carnival and will be viewed by upward of 1 million people.
The parades' themes change each year. Even parades that use the same
named mega-floats over and over update and reinvent their floats
depending on the new parade themes.
Mardi Gras World not only creates floats for local parades, but also
does Mardi Gras-type parades for theme parks around the world, including
Japan, Korea, Singapore and Paris.
"Every day our company is part of a parade somewhere in the world," Kern said.
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