This past weekend I marched, for the second time, with the Leijorettes. The Leijorettes are a Mardi Gras marching krewe honoring Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. We wear the traditional Leia costume (from A New Hope, hemmed to make it more conducive to dancing and marching) with white majorette boots.
Last year, when my friend Nicole asked if I wanted to join her in the Leijorettes, everything about them sounded right up my alley. Sci Fi nerd? Check. Star Wars fan? Check. I’m not much of a dancer, but I’m a helluva marcher. And I’d always thought majorette boots were really cool. I was assured that the dance routines were simple and short. (They are, but I still need to practice a lot to accommodate for my natural lack of rhythm).
The Leijorettes are a subkrewe to the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. Their website does a good job of explaining just what Chewbacchus is, but it’s their stated mission that sold me on joining:
The mission of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is to save the galaxy by bringing the magical revelry of Mardi Gras to the poor, disenfranchised, socially awkward and generally weird masses who may have never had the opportunity to participate in a Mardi Gras Parade Organization. Through our works, we hope to elevate all aspects of Fandom and celebrate Carnival in our own unique way.
Chewbacchus strives “to be the most inclusive krewe in the Universe.” I read how this year they were working, through a collaborative effort, to create a safe way for children on the Autism spectrum to participate in the parade. I didn’t get to see how that worked out (that’s the thing about marching with a group—you only see your part of the parade), but I definitely applaud the effort.
Speaking of Autism, my brother Stephen was among the spectators (not the participants) this year. My brother Jerry told me Stephen enjoyed the parade, except for the fact that they were near a fire truck for a good portion of the evening. Every time that truck blew its horn, it didn’t go so well for Stephen. (He has Hyperacute hearing).
More on the point of inclusion, a highlight for me was seeing one of my fellow Leias correspond with her Han-dler in sign language over the course of the night. (Han-dlers are handlers and non dancers who dress as accompanying Star Wars characters. The “Han-” is like Han Solo). I didn’t know what they were saying, but I loved watching them communicate.
Another thing to know about Mardi Gras in general: “throws” are a big deal. This is the stuff that goes out to the parade spectators. After the big, traditional motorized parades, you’ll usually see the streets littered with buy-in-bulk plastic beads. Chewbacchus is a walking parade, and they aim to leave a very small trash footprint in their wake. As such, they encourage their participants to hand-craft their throws, and only bring as much as you can comfortably carry.
Last year, I handed out Leijorette-logoed drink koozies, and also some koozies that I wrapped in fake fur and made into little Chewbaccas (wooziees). I did the same this year, but also added little crocheted Star Wars characters, all the handiwork of my very crafty sister Elizabeth.
Leia Sally, one of the two leaders of the Leijorettes and a founding member, complimented me on the crocheted cuties, but also commented, “That could be dangerous, you know.” I’m pretty sure she meant the way I had them displayed, velcroed to the strap of my crossbody bag.
Out in the open like that, they were sure to elicit some oohs and ahhs, and perhaps some impassioned pleas. Luckily, no one in the crowds tried to grab at them, but I did hear plenty squeals of “Oh my God, look at the little Chewie,” and similar. I’m enough of a Mardi Gras veteran to have been able to hear the plaintive tone in those squeals—they want one, they want one.
But I had certain, specific spectators in mind for those throws. By the time I got halfway through the parade without seeing even one of those spectators, I began to feel like Frodo carrying the One Ring. Everybody’s looking at me wondering what I intend to do with these covetous things.
The crowds were much thicker this year than last, and the Leijorettes were more plentiful. I am short, and being dressed the same as everyone else, with my blond hair tucked under a brunette wig with Leia buns, I was kind of hard to find. But finally, my niece Katie managed to pick me out in a spot where the crowds were a little thinner. She was with a small family entourage. It was time to throw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.
I unloaded most of the little throws then. I gave Stephen one of the Wookiees—Elizabeth called him Chewbacca’s dad. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Stephen didn’t recognize me. It was loud, and I didn’t hear, but the family tells me Stephen asked me my name. This is something he is wont to do when addressed by someone he doesn’t know. Everyone jumped in and explained, “Stephen, it’s Annie!”
To which he replied, “Oh, it is you, Anne?”
I saw Stephen and Jerry one more time; I had to tell Stephen, “Good night.” During that exchange, I could tell Stephen was fired up, in a good way. He seemed like he was having a good time. And I also heard that he took his Wookiee back to his apartment, which is a big deal. A lot of times when you give Stephen a gift, part of Christmas or a birthday celebration at the family home, he opts to just leave it there, rather than take it with him when he returns to his apartment at the end of the weekend or holiday.
To conclude on the inclusivity theme, I’m very grateful to Nicole for asking me to join this group. And also to Sherri, another friend and original Leijorette who didn’t discourage it. And to all the people in the Leijorettes who put so much time, effort, organization and love into pulling this off. I love being a part of it, and I love that the Leijorettes accept me despite my shyness, lack of rhythm, and general sense of awkwardness in a crowd.