Experience Mardi Gras in a whole new way!
There are two words synonymous with fun in Lake Charles..."MARDI GRAS!" Reflecting upon the season probably brings to mind images of parades, king cakes, beads, masquerades, and zydeco music to name a few. These are just some of the ingredients that go into making this memorable and festive season, and the history and evolution of Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana is as rich and sweet as king cake filling!
If you are ready to be immersed in all things Mardi Gras, you will love your visit to the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu. The museum is located at 809 Kirby Street, on the second floor of the historic Central School Building.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is only $10 ($5 for children) and the experience is priceless! There are a total of SIX rooms of costumes to explore at the museum. There are currently around 280 on display. You will be amazed at the elaborate designs and creativity. There are usually three main events to which the Mardi Gras regalia will be worn. The first event is the announcement of the new court at each of the Krewes' Mardi Gras Ball. The newly crowned Kings and Queens, Captains, Dukes, and Duchesses come together and promenade before crowds at the Royal Gala. This year's Gala will be held at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Lundi Gras which falls on February 24th. After the Gala, costumes will be stored for the remainder of the year and will once again be brought out for 12th Night before they are retired. Many will be retired to the Mardi Gras Museum for you to enjoy!
FACT: The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu houses the largest collection of displayed Mardi Gras costumes in the World!
Upon arrival, you are greeted by the vibrant colors, feathers, sequins, and sparkle of costumes that line the main hall, holding stories of the past Kings and Queens from the many Mardi Gras Krewes of Calcasieu. You will also be greeted by the extremely friendly and knowledgeable Director and Curator, Mr. David Faulk. He'll adorn you with your own souvenir beads as you begin your tour, which really puts you in a festive mood! At the beginning of the tour, one of the first costumes you'll see is that of the SWLA Mascot and Goodwill Ambassador, Gumbeaux Gator. Displayed is the third costume designed for the mascot. It has been infused with the magic of animatronics, allowing Gumbeaux to "come to life" to give you fun facts about the museum and Mardi Gras in Louisiana's Playground. Gumbeaux 2020 can be seen below alongside his predecessor as he passes a good time at this year's 12th Night celebration...full of energy and ready for the festivities!
The Captain's Den
The first room is called the Captain's Den. As you enter, there are photos of past Captains on display and a video to enjoy. Mr. Faulk shared with me the role of a Krewe Captain,
The Captain of a Mardi Gras Krewe serves as the entertainment director and coordinator. The captain not only organizes the Krewe ball, but makes sure that all of the costumes are designed and made according to the year's theme.
Below are two of my favorites from the Captain's Collection. "Disney World", worn by Captain Eleanor Moffett from Krewe of Mystique in 1991 captures the true essence of Disney royalty in the nostalgic and classic design. On the right is "The Puppetmaster", worn by Captain and Founder of the Krewe of Illusions in 1997, David O Quinn. I was amazed at the sheer enormity and creativity of this costume. It is truly a design that must be seen in person to fully appreciate.
Before leaving the Captain's Den, you will see the oldest costumes currently on display at the museum, regalia worn in 1962 by the King and Queen of the Presidential Ball in Washington, D.C. Representing the Majestic Krewe of Louisianians were Queen Rebekah Hannie and King Voris King.
A Little Lagniappe
You will experience a little "somethin' extra" as you enter the next area of the museum known as "The Design Room" Here you will find an array of costume pieces, headdresses, and masks that you are able to try on. This makes for some memorable selfies. Be sure and share them with #VisitLakeCharles after your visit! You may just see them on one of our social media platforms in the very near future! (Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook).
As you continue your tour, you will meet the museum's "King Cake Baby" and learn about the history of King Cake as well as enjoy the beautiful costumes worn by Dukes and Duchesses of Mardi Gras past, including the "Disney" Duke of the Country Bear Jamboree from 1985 as well as "The Winter Olympics" from Krewe De La Famille in 1984. One can only imagine the hours of work that it took to put the details of the designs together. Another costume that blew me away because of its large design was "Wild Horizons" from Krewe of Illusions in 1995.
- Production for one costume can take anywhere between 4 - 6 months
- Costumes can weigh an average of 30 - 35 POUNDS!
- Costumes are rarely reused, but in the instance that they are, they must be redesigned and redecorated so that they are completely unrecognizable
All Hail the King!
Next you are lead into "The Royalty Room", where you will meet the very first Mardi Gras King crowned in Lake Charles, "King Charles I", otherwise known as Mr. Rudolph Krause. Representing the Krewe of Contraband, his reign was in the year 1964. He too "comes to life" to share stories of SWLA Mardi Gras and to greet you as you enjoy the museum.
Throw Me Somethin' Mista!
As you enter the "Parade Float" room, you will find yourself aboard a "parade float" and looking down over what you can imagine as a large crowd cheering and shouting for beads and doubloons. This too, makes for a great photo op!
Did you know? On average, Krewe Members spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on beads and throws to ensure that parade goers get the awesome experience of catching such Mardi Gras treasures! According to Louisiana Travel, officials estimate that upwards of 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras beads get thrown from floats all over the country during the Carnival Season!
Finally, you can stroll the Main Hall before your visit concludes. Throughout your visit, you are likely to gain a new respect for the pageantry of Mardi Gras. Not only in the work and imagination that it takes to create the pieces, but the grace and composure with which the Royal Courts of Mardi Gras are able to maintain while promenading in these elaborate costumes!
Whether this is your very first Mardi Gras or your 50th, you are sure to see and learn something you've never experienced when you come to enjoy the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu. For a full lineup and updates on Mardi Gras events in Southwest Louisiana, be sure and stay tuned to swlamardigras.com. From everyone at Visit Lake Charles, Happy Mardi Gras and Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!