Making Mardi Gras Magic
This fantasy factory and tourist attraction on the Mississippi River, in addition to serving as a float warehouse, or “den,” and parade-staging area, houses a working studio for making floats, sculptures, props and thematic architecture not just for Mardi Gras but also an international clientele including theme parks, casinos and hotels, restaurants and retail emporiums. The complex occupies a wharf offering prime views of the busy Port of New Orleans and the twin spans of the Crescent City Connection.
All kinds of realms and characters come to life here. Jesters and prancing satyrs mingle with ancient deities. Movie stars and superheroes, famous athletes and historical personages compete for attention with undersea creatures and jungle animals, spooky ghouls and gargoyles. There are, to be sure, photo-ops galore.
Touring the facility provides a sense of Mardi Gras as mixture of centuries-old traditions and high-tech innovations. Visitors can see up close some of the most iconic and spectacular floats in Mardi Gras. Nearby, artisans sculpt, finish and paint giant disembodied heads and other figures; fabrication techniques utilize clay, styrofoam, fiberglass and variations on papier mâché.
Blaine Kern Artists, Inc. (now known as Kern Studios) got its start in 1947, after its eponymous founder returned from serving in the U.S. Army in Korea. Mr. Mardi Gras, as he came to be known, set about building a business that would transform what was essentially a seasonal ritual for locals, with a handful of small-scale parades, into a bedazzling, internationally recognized tourism magnet anchored by dozens of parades in the New Orleans metro area.
Tours, which run every 30 minutes, begin with a 15-minute video presentation and last about an hour. The first tour starts at 9:30 am and the last entrance is 4:30 pm. Admission is $22 for adults; $17 for military personnel, students and seniors; and $14 for children ages 2-12. The expansive gift shop displays costumes and historic photographs. A free shuttle, picking up from Canal Street, is provided with ticket purchase. Call (504) 361-7821 to schedule a pick-up.
Mardi Gras World is open seven days a week, from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, except for Christmas and Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, Easter and Mardi Gras Day.