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Rapscallions' Ride

Streetcar Krewe Welcomes Carnival Season

While the rest of the country is settling into post-holiday blues and winter hibernation, we're gearing up for the main event.


Grocery store shelves throughout the city have been cleared of Christmas ornaments and replaced by King Cakes.  Reviewing stands and barricades are being strategically sprinkled as we speak, and the faded beads of last year’s celebration dangle from trees and balconies awaiting their replacements. 


This year, Fat Tuesday falls well later than normal on March 8. Even though many come to New Orleans during this time to throw off the chains of piety and remorse, the Carnival season remains dictated by the Catholic calendar.


The end of the Christmas season is heralded on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or the Feast of the Epiphany. Marking the arrival of the three kings to deliver riches to the Christ child, the feast day falls each year on January 6. Traditionally, the end of the Christmas season means the beginning of preparations for Lent – a period of fasting and sacrifice which is in turn a preparation for Easter.


The French who settled New Orleans marked the hedonistic period with festivals, revelry – and, of course, parades - outside the confines of the Church. In France, many Carnival festivities were outlawed over different periods, though in Nice the season remains strong. Here in New Orleans, the period has flourished culturally, as balls, parties and parades all run up to the city's biggest holiday – Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day).


The night of Epiphany, known as Twelfth Night, is the traditional kickoff to the season. Ringing in Carnival in traditional fashion tonight will be the Phunny Phorty Phellows, a small krewe who will take their annual streetcar ride in full mask and costume from Carrollton Avenue to Canal Street to remind the city once again that the hour of debauchery and gluttony is upon us.


"We are honored and delighted to kick off carnival this year,” said krewe member Peggy Laborde. “Come on down and say hello!"


The Phunny Phorty Phellows are an historic Mardi Gras organization that made their first appearance on March 5 1878 following Rex down their historic route, according to krewe history.  Though modest in size, the krewe surprised many onlookers with their fantastic themes, bizarre floats, and grotesque maskers. The Phellows established themselves as an alternative to the pretentious Mardi Gras Krewes of Rex and Comus. Leading businessmen supported the krewe, making it the “dessert” of Carnival for a period, the history says.


The PPP followed Rex and held balls from 1880 until 1885 at both the Odd Fellows Hall and the St. Charles Theater, yet the Krewe began to fade by 1886 and were not heard from again until 1981 when they were reestablished by a group of friends and Mardi Gras enthusiasts.  The tradition of riding in streetcars began in 1982 as a new “Boss” and queen were chosen for the new Mardi Gras season. 


As they ride the streetcar, the Phellows will be accompanied by the Storyville Stompers. The costumed and masked krewe will assemble at the Willow Street Car Barn off South Carrollton at 6:30 pm and will board the Streetcar at 7pm sharp.   


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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


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Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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