Aside from a few little outings, Saturday was all about the Endymion Extravaganza.
My Dad received a gracious invitation to the event through a work colleague who is a member of the Krewe of Endymion. To our luck, the host extended the invitation to include Paul and I. Tickets to this event are few, sold early, and quite pricey. In addition, our tickets were not actually for the general event, but were for space on a private, catered veranda overlooking the Superdome floor. What an invitation!! Our friends and visitors for the week, Matt and Laura, agreed to watch the kids (on their vacation!) otherwise, we would not have been able to go. (Thanks, again!!!)
We’ve heard two numbers for attendance at the Extravaganza: 12,000 and 14,000. In other words, a lot of people! Getting there — in the middle of parade crowds on one of the biggest parade days of the season — was tricky. We left between parades and had to drive all the way around the Quarter and enter from the East in order to get to the Canal Place, the one place we were told we could find parking. Then we met my parents in their hotel room, finished getting ready, and rushed out into the cold night to catch our bus to the Superdome.
Thank goodness my parents brought a coat (an off-white boxy number once worn by Grandma Betty) otherwise, I may have frozen in line. And what a line! At least 10,000 people were gathered from all angles waiting to enter the Superdome — all in formal wear, many carrying trays of food or king cakes and trailing coolers. Each guest was checked at arrival: for tickets, attire (women in dress pants are turned away!!!), and gear (we saw a guest told that he could not bring his cooler in to the event because it was Styrofoam!?)
The Superdome itself is an impressive arena. It was the first time I’d been inside. It is also the first and only time I’ve ever wondered if I was inside the Spaceship from the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Dome is a huge ring of lights that exactly mimics the movie. (I was shocked that we got through the night without my Dad humming those 5 notes.) The verandas were tremendous sections of scaffolding built over the Superdome’s seats going down the sides of the arena. Huge black cloths hid the seats from view and a series of stairs connected verandas at different levels. We were on the veranda closest to the floor and had a wonderful view over the room. The enormity of it all was hard to take in. We kept having to remind ourselves that there was a football field under all of it.
We had just enough time to eat and explore before the parade began to arrive. The Endymion parade leads to the Superdome, winds through it, and then ends so that the riders can depart and get the party officially started. The floats used to circle the interior edges of the ‘dome, meaning that those in the verandas had the premiere spot to catch throws. This was stopped last year, after someone was killed after falling off a chair and onto the floor below. Now the floats circle through the interior of the huge floor. As the parade neared, crowds gathered at the metal fencing used to create the enormous thoroughfare.
Paul and I spent the beginning of the parade on the floor in the huge crowd. I stood on a chair (fatiguing) and took photographs. When throws came our way, I ducked — they were terrifying!! Not the gentle, tossed with eye-contact throws in Uptown. After the event, we noticed that the backs of our tickets held detailed disclaimers about any number of horrifying injuries that could befall us at this party — and from those warnings, I think I was smart to duck. After awhile, we joined my parents on the veranda. Paul went back down to try and catch light-up throws for Will and I joined him for the last 5 minutes or so of the parade… and in that 5 minutes, we caught enough to fill a box. People leave this event with more throws than we have collected in an entire Mardi Gras season! The riders, known for throwing more than any other Krewe, unload all their remaining loot at the Extravaganza… watching the amount of stuff being hurled from these gigantic, flashing, beautiful, floats is truly an incredible sight. With the lights, live music, people, fireworks (yes, fireworks!), and unbelievable energy, extravaganza is honestly the best word to describe the experience. The pictures below do a better job of telling the visual story… what an awesome sensory overload!
Here we are at the hotel, waiting for our bus:
The crowd arriving… a football field is under all of that!
Looking out into the crowd (towards the stage) as we wait for the parade to arrive:
Stilt walkers were included as ushers for the parade — the one on the far left is the son of friends of ours. He had also walked the 6 mile parade loop two nights before on stilts. Last year, he did the same route for several Krewes riding a 6 foot unicycle. (Seriously talented guy!) We didn’t know he would be in Endymion so it was a cool surprise!
Tailor Hicks was this year’s Grand Marshall. We missed his stage performance, as we left on the 12:30am shuttle to get back to the kids. It was the longest amount of time I’ve ever been apart from Kate – about 11 hours (we were stuck in the parking garage for an hour and didn’t get home until 2!)
Journey was another headlining music performance. They played after Taylor (at around 2am) so we missed them as well.
Styx was yet another headliner. They were the last stage show at around 3am. Yup. Missed them, too.
Every Krewe has it’s maidens… these ones had pretty awesome costumes!
Crowd shot — lights, spotlights, confetti, streamers, throws, music, dancing, crowds….!! A float as seen from the floor:
Crowd detail from the floor:
My favorite party-goers from the night! This couple (whose names I never did understand) watched the entire evening of madness from their wheelchairs on the edge of the floor. The gentleman told me that he rode with Endymion for 11 years, “in the 1800s.” I gave them beads at the end of the parade.
When we finally went upstairs, my Mom told us to find Dad “in the middle of all the girls.”
Endymion boasts “the largest floats ever assembled” and they are not kidding. Those things are GIGANTIC. They are intricately beautiful in detail and almost too much to take in, with flashing multicolor lights, themed decor, and hundreds of riders. Many floats are in several parts with their own generators trailing behind them.
Seeing it up close helps to get the scale of how big the room is when the floats are further away… errr… downfield?Here you can see one float way behind another. The scale is quite hard to describe.
A sense of the incredible length of the floats.
The crowd in front of the stage. See all those arms up? The riders actually get throws that far! Orthopedics must get a ton of business from Endymion Krewe members this time of year. The title float, Endymion’s Endangered and Extinct Species. Themed floats included the Polar Bear, Dinosaurs, Whooping Crane, and others. This title float sat on the outer rim of the Superdome after it wound around the crowd as a beautifully lit backdrop.
Title float in the distance with video view above. Each of those streamers were wider than I am tall.
Multiple floats near and far.
Catching junk… the American way…?
Beautifully detailed floats…
See the float lit up in the background?
The lights on the floats and the spotlights in the room changed color constantly. It was a different sight at each second.
Can you spot Paul in the picture below?
More float detail…
And more flag!
In addition to the live bands playing on stage, bands were also on many floats. Plus, the standard marching bands within the parade itself. Many layers of music floating around as the parade went by and wound through.
Colors, lights, sounds…
After the parade… party-goers have loot everywhere. Folks start to pack up and get ready to enjoy the rest of the night. Krewe members join their family and friends as the main musical acts get ready to take the stage. Al Green was the first major headliner — he was great. We left as he was finishing up his set.
Looking out from an upper balcony over one of the verandas. What a great view of all the action!
It was an overwhelming, incredible night — a complete extravaganza!!! We hope to go this year… (except next time, stay in a hotel downtown and arrange for all night babysitting!!) We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to go and had an incredible time!