So, this past Saturday, I had a blast participating in The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus Mardi Gras parade. It was my third year marching with The Leijorettes, a subkrewe of Chewbacchus; this is my second year writing about it.
For those of you not from around these parts, here’s the interpretation of that first paragraph. The name of the parade is an amalgam of Chewbacca, the legendary Wookiee warrior of Star Wars fame, and Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine. The organization that pulls a Mardi Gras parade together is called a “Krewe;” so if a parade consists of many different marching groups, like Chewbacchus, those groups are called subkrewes. The Leijorettes are a subkrewe honoring Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (also of Star Wars fame).
I think I saw Chewbacchus listed as an “alternative” parade in the official Mardi Gras guide. It’s been around for less than a decade…I’m not sure how much time it takes in the eyes of the official Mardi Gras guide to no longer be alternative. It sure felt bigger than alternative. This is from Chewbacchus’s website: “Chewbacchus has grown from a scrappy band of a couple hundred Science Fiction lovers into a walking super krewe of a couple thousand enthusiastic freaks and geeks representing the vast spectrum of pop culture fandom.” Judging by the thick crowds we marched through, Chewbacchus seems to resonate with a lot of people.
But I’m sure the crowds gathered for Chewbacchus pale in comparison to those who come out for Bacchus, the huge parade that rolls through the streets of New Orleans the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. Bacchus the parade has been around for nearly fifty years, and it’s likely what most folks in New Orleans think of when they hear the word “Bacchus.” It’s the opposite of alternative parade.
It’s kind of interesting, because according to Wikipedia, Bacchus the deity has a more comprehensive title than just god of wine. He’s listed as “god of the vine, grape harvest, winemaking, wine, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre.”
I can’t think of a more perfect descriptor for Mardi Gras than “ritual madness.” Truth be told, that madness is one of the reasons I’m very picky about how and when I partake in Mardi Gras. At my age, I’ve grown to dislike standing around in a crowd, much less a rowdy crowd. In any given year, I might be a spectator at two parades, and that’s only if I have immediate access to a nearby establishment where I can sit down, eat, take a respite from the noise (and use the facilities, if necessary).
Which brings me back around to why I thoroughly enjoy participating in the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. The theme of this year’s parade was “The Revel Alliance.” Walking to The Leijorettes’ spot in the lineup, I got to see some fantastic costumes, banners, and themes. I loved the 1984-themed subkrewe (picture featured at the top of this post.)
And then when the parade rolls, I don’t have to worry about standing around in a rowdy crowd. Instead, I get to see the crowd’s reaction when they hear the taps on the boots of nearly one hundred Princess Leias, or see those same Leias dancing to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Chewbacchus’s brand of ritual madness is, for me, especially cathartic.