LGBT Mardi Gras
|Photos by Barrett DeLong
Like the rest of the city, the New Orleans LGBT community has been celebrating Mardi Gras since its beginnings in the 1830s. But the first official gay Carnival krewe, the Krewe of Yuga, wasn’t formed until the late 1950s. At the time, Yuga was forced to remain relatively underground, organizing balls and parties in private homes.
In light mockery of traditional Mardi Gras krewes, the Krewe of Yuga’s ball featured a presentation of royalty, complete with a Queen, King, Captain, debutantes and maids. Though the Krewe of Yuga is no longer active, the organization gave birth to other gay Carnival krewes, including the Krewe of Petronius and the Krewe of Amon-Ra, both of which are still active. Today, most gay Mardi Gras krewes continue the tradition of crowning a Queen and King. Balls typically feature elaborate, hand-made costumes and decorations.
Gay Mardi Gras helped usher in the Gay Rights Movement in the United States, and is an important symbol and celebration of pride for the community and its allies. The New Orleans LGBT community welcomes visitors to join the party!
Mardi Gras Balls
Many gay Carnival krewes don’t parade, and Mardi Gras balls are an extremely important part of LGBT Mardi Gras celebrations. They are typically themed and feature dazzling costumes and presentations of krewe royalty. We’ve made a list of some of the best-known gay Carnival balls. Check the krewes’ websites for details on how to participate.
Typically held on the Saturday before Mardi Gras Day, Armeinius’s mission is to preserve the customs of gay Carnival and to help educate those who seek to learn more.
One of the oldest gay Carnival krewes in the city, Petronius was founded in 1961 and has served as a jumping-off point for other krewes.
- Lords of Leather
Lords of Leather is the only leather-oriented Carnival krewe in the country, hosting a masked ball each year with “medieval” traditions.
The Mystic Krewe of Satyricon hosts a bal masque each year toward the beginning of Carnival season.
*Note: There is no Satyricon Ball in 2017.
Named after the Egyptian Sun God, the Krewe of Amon-Ra was formed in 1965. Though the krewe started small, today the celebrations have reached a grand scale.
- Krewe of Mwindo
Organized in 1998, the Krewe of Mwindo is one of the newest and most unique krewes, devoted to promoting the carnival to community members that were excluded from traditional celebrations in the past.
Other Gay Carnival Events
Fat Monday Luncheon
A tradition since 1949, the Fat Monday Luncheon is the oldest organized activity in all of Louisiana LGBT history. The luncheon began when Bob Demmons crowned one of his out-of-town Mardi Gras guests “Queen of the luncheon” during a small gathering at Brennan’s restaurant. After the group grew too large for Brennan’s, the organizers approached Arnaud’s restaurant and were welcomed with open arms. Each year, two queens are crowned: one from out of town and one from New Orleans. In addition, a number of other participants are singled out for various “awards.”
Bourbon Street Awards
The Bourbon Street Awards take place every year on Mardi Gras Day, and are the ultimate costume contest of Carnival season. Awards are given in a variety of categories, including Best Leather, Best Drag, Best Group and Best Overall Costume. Cash prizes are awarded and the event is typically hosted by celebrity emcees.
In addition to the official gay Carnival krewes, the following are also favorites in the New Orleans LGBT community.
- Krewe Du Vieux
A parade featuring (often lewd) political satire.
- Krewe of Barkus
The only Mardi Gras krewe for NOLA’s canine population.
- Krewe of Orpheus
A super-krewe founded by Harry Connick, Jr.
- Society of St. Ann
A marching krewe that parades on foot each Mardi Gras Day.
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