Four revelers dressed up as "The Beantles" for 2019 Krewe of Red Beans parade

A Krewe Headquarters for “the People”

Located in the Bywater neighborhood, downriver from the French Quarter, Beanlandia is a 25,000 square-foot former furniture factory that has been reborn as a vibrant culture factory, community center and base of operations for the Krewe of Red Beans and its growing array of offshoots and civic endeavors.

From humble beginnings, KRB has become a juggernaut that has given new meaning to “superkrewe,” a term usually reserved for organizations that stage the most spectacular parades with the biggest floats in Carnival. It first hit the street on Lundi Gras in 2009, inspired by a culinary signature of New Orleans — red beans and rice — seasoned with flavors of the second line parading tradition and the painstakingly handcrafted suit-making of Black Masking Indians. Sporting bean-encrusted costumes, 25 revelers were accompanied the Treme Brass Band and music legend Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, designated Grand Marshal for Life. The only spectators were people who crossed their path by happenstance.

So began a grassroots revolution that has since blossomed into an exemplar of “people power” and the boundless opportunity Carnival provides for “homemade” DIY creative expression. The phenomenon has spawned the Krewe of Mayahuel, a Mexican folkloric group that rolls with KRB, and two separate parades: Dead Beans, a Skull and Bones/Dia de Los Muertos-themed group, and Krewe of Feijao (“big beans” in Portuguese), with a Brazilian/Cajun bent. Now, hundreds participate in their Lundi Gras festivities, which draw thousands of spectators.

KRB’s vision for creating a better New Orleans, through volunteering, community service and supporting homegrown culture, gathered momentum in 2019, with a campaign for safer bicycle streets in honor of Sharree Walls, a krewe member tragically killed by a drunk driver. Since the onset of Covid, the krewe has raised an astonishing $3.3 million (and counting) to help feed medical workers and culture bearers; and financially support neighborhood bars and restaurants, as well musicians and other culture creators. Its Hire a Mardi Gras Artist effort garnered national and international attention for funding the creation of 24 incredible house floats, demonstrating that not even a raging pandemic could not suppress the Mardi Gras spirit when parades were cancelled in 2021.

Unlike most krewe dens, Beanlandia is intended for the community, not just members. As Mardi Gras 2022 drew near, the space was operational but still undergoing renovation. Work was underway on a Bean Museum complete with bean murals and bean regalia. There’s a crafting room for making bean costumes and “sewing studios” for Mardi Gras Indians. Beanlandia’s goal is to become a kid-friendly “Krewe HQ for the people,” where cultural groups can hold meetings and assemble costumes; where musicians and dance troupes can rehearse; and where the public can attend lectures and workshops and get a behind-the-scenes look at culture being created. Longer-term plans envision Beanlandia becoming a chill hangout, where visitors can experience live New Orleans music, drink a beer in the yard and patronize an oyster bar supporting Louisiana’s sustainable oyster farmers.

To make everything possible and help pay down loans taken out to acquire the building, located at 3300 Royal Street, Beanlandia is seeking founding members before its official opening. Anyone desiring a peek at what’s going on inside is invited to visit during open hours on Saturdays, from 10 am to 2 pm. And everyone is welcome to come out and see KRB and friends before they leave out from Beanlandia on Mardi Gras morning.