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Cleopatra's Reign

All-Female Krewe Celebrates 40th Anniversary with First-Ever East Bank March

Next weekend the Krewe Of Cleopatra will march down the traditional Uptown-St. Charles parade route after 39 years of parading on the West Bank. The first all ladies parade this season, Cleopatra is also the only all female, night time parade that will ride on a weekend.


Although the krewe has been in existence for 41 years, they did not parade the Mardi Gras after Katrina when the storage facility for their floats was flooded and decimated by the storm.  Therefore, it is this season that the krewe will celebrate its 40th enchanting year, in a new home, by paying homage to the themes of Carnivals past.  Each float will correspond to a theme from the Krewe’s history, except for the crown jewel of the parade, the Queen Cleopatra’s barge, a beautiful float adorned with jewels and crafted in Spain.  The NOLA Defender caught up with D (name has been abbreviated to protect her identity, as it is traditional not to reveal who the captain of a Krewe is), to talk about the Krewe’s history, identity, and what fun goodies the parade-goer can expect.


D started Cleopatra with her sister in 1972.  Having been enjoying parades their entire lives as native New Orleanians, the two women decided they wanted to start their own organization.  They contacted a friend at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, who encouraged them to form the krewe. Once they received the go-ahead from the mayor of Gretna and the proper authorities in Orleans Parish, Cleopatra was born.  When asked why D formed an all women’s krewe instead of a co-ed organization, the captain once again gives a nod to Carnival traditions.  


“All of the old krewes: Rex, Endymion, Comus, Bacchus, they were all male at that time. That’s just the way it was done. You didn’t have men and women together on a float. And I think it's better that way, having the women in their own organizations and the men in their own organizations. Women have more in common with other women. The West Bank didn’t have a women’s organization at that time, so it was a chance for women to get in touch with each other.”  


When asked why they chose Cleopatra as their muse, annual Queen D replied, “We wanted Cleopatra to be a celebration of strong, beautiful women.  We were inspired by Vivien Leigh's performance in the 1946 film.  Cleopatra was an incredible woman, and we wanted the krewe to be a place for great women to get together.”


The krewe is moving to the East bank and parading a week earlier this year because of the Super Bowl, and the extra police presence required in Orleans proper for the event. Cleopatra was given two options: either parade exclusively in Jefferson Parish on the West Bank (the ladies traditionally ride in both Orleans and Jefferson parish on the West Bank), or move over to the East Bank, in order to loosen some of the strain on NOPD.  The ladies decided to move over to the East bank.  


“I'm sad to say good-bye to the West Bank but most of our members are very excited.  Membership was dwindling and once we announced we were moving to the Uptown parade route it skyrocketed,” D said.


Still, the krewe is not sure if the move is permanent, as over the years they have developed a strong bond with the Best Bank. Parade goers can expect a myriad of fun throws such as Frisbees, footballs, medallions, and of course, beads.  A signature throw has not been decided yet, but D mentioned purses and Cleopatra wigs as possibilities.


Cleopatra rides January 25 at 6:30 PM Uptown.  Join the lovely ladies before and after the parade at Generations Hall on Tchopitoulas for food and fun.

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