Mardi Gras - Fun Facts

Would you Believe? 

More than 500,000 king cakes are sold each year in New Orleans between January 6 and Fat Tuesday, and another 50,000 are shipped out-of-state via overnight courier. 

The sugar-coated pastries include a tiny plastic baby doll inside; the person who finds it is declared "king" and must buy the next cake or give the next party. 

The metro area's 30,000-plus hotel rooms are traditionally 95% filled during Mardi Gras weekend. 

An economic impact study released by the University of New Orleans estimates that Mardi Gras generates over $840 million annually. 

The largest of about one dozen Mardi Gras supply houses in New Orleans sold 41 million pairs of beads for Carnival, 1991. 

The super parades of Endymion and Bacchus, scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday before Fat Tuesday, feature a combined total of 75 floats, 60 marching bands and more than 250 units. Their 2,300 members toss more than 1.5 million cups, 2.5 million doubloons and 200,000 gross of beads. 

"An economic study released by the University of New Orleans estimates that Mardi Gras generates more than $840 million annually."

One of the most photographed objects in all of Mardi Gras is the Boeuf Gras float in the Rex parade. Since the Middle Ages, the bouef gras (fatted bull) has been the symbol of the last meat eaten before Lent. While once a live bull was included in the procession, now a huge papier-mache' figure appears. 

The five truck parades that follow the krewes of Rex, Argus and Grela on Fat Tuesday feature more than 350 decorated flatbeds with nearly 15,000 costumed maskers aboard. 

Each year on the evening of January 6, the Phunny Phorty Phellows (PPP), a group of about 50 costumed men and women, trumpet the official opening of the Carnival season by riding a decorated streetcar along the St. Charles Avenue line. Accompanied by a lively Dixieland band, the group feasts on king cake and tosses throws to the delighted onlookers. On Mardi Gras Eve, the Lundi Gras (Fat Monday) celebration takes place at the Spanish Plaza on the adjacent to the Riverwalk Marketplace. The event features the riverboat arrival of Rex, a jazz concert, fireworks and a masked ball. Mardi Gras Maskathon, a family-oriented costume contest, is held on Fat Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the 600 block of Canal Street

A new Mardi Gras exhibit premiered January 2000 at the Presbytere, featuring hundreds of rare historical artifacts intermingled with interactive displays. The attraction concentrates on the evolution of Carnival. By highlighting the artifacts from the various social and ethnic groups that first participated in Carnival, visitors will understand the myriad facets of Mardi Gras. Some of these materials include hand-sewn suits belonging to members of Mardi Gras Indian tribes, documents of the celebrations of early women's and African-American krewes, and invitation to a clandestine 1895 ball and costumes worn by early monarchs.

This article was written by Arthur Hardy, publisher of the annual Mardi Gras Guide magazine. This material may not be reproduced without permission of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau and full credit must be given to the author.