A few people have asked me what people need to do to join a Mardi Gras krewe (and how much it costs).
Most krewes, especially the older ones, have closed memberships that have, in some cases, been handed down through families for generations. New Orleans holds its traditions tight, so you have a better chance of being crowned King of Carnival than get a berth in an old-line krewes such as Proteus or Hermes (which even keeps the names of its members secret). It also helps to be male, as most of the krewes restrict their membership by gender.
The recession has prompted several krewes to advertise for membership. especially those that have less popular parading times, The Krewe of Alla, which rolls two weekends before Mardi Gras, put out a call for new members this year, as did the Krewe of Mid-City (both require sponsorship of a current member).
But others, such as the Krewe of Napoleon, the Krewe of Pontchartrain, the Krewe of Pygmalion and the Krewe of King Arthur, take out-of-town riders. Several of the krewes even allow you to join online and pay through PayPal.
So how much does all this cost? It depends on the popularity of the parade. Several of the krewes listed above will let you ride for a few hundred dollars. But for others, such as the famed Zulu parade that rolls on Mardi Gras Day, you’ll pay up to $1,500.
And then there are the “super krewes” of Endymion, Bacchus and the Harry Connick-founded Orpheus, so called because of the size of their floats and their membership ranks. They all have large parties that are open to the public through ticket sales, instead of boring bal masques. To ride in a super-krewe, your best bet is to become friends with someone who is already in it – and be prepared to pay.
In Krewe of Muses, for example, riders can name their own subs for the years that they don’t ride. In this way, you could bypass the long wait list entirely. That’s what my sister did when she rode with me this year (I was lucky enough to get into the Krewe during its first year when I still lived and worked in New Orleans)
It will cost you about $1,800 to ride in Muses. The dues run around $800, there’s a sub fee of $100, and you’ll easily spend another $600 to $1,000 on throws. That might sound like a lot for a few hours of fun. But take it from me, it’s worth it.
Of course, you don’t need to join a krewe and pay a lot of money to have a fabulous Carnival experience. New Orleans has plenty of marching clubs and parading societies that are open to anyone who has the creativity to create a costume and the energy to shake your thing. New groups dedicated to having a good time spring up every year. And that’s what makes Mardi Gras so awesome – and inclusive.