Sunday, January 6, 2008


Hurricane Katrina damaged its floats in 2005. A tornado tried to wipe out its den in 2007. Yet the Krewe of Mid-City has rolled on each year.

A tornado's destruction couldn't keep it from rolling. Neither could the devastation left in the wake of a catastrophic hurricane.

The Krewe of Mid-City's 18 unique tinfoil floats, including a new float carrying 55 riders, will hit the streets next month, celebrating the organization's 75th anniversary after surviving some major potholes in the road.

With 54 parades on tap, this year's Carnival season officially kicks off today. Mid-City will make its appearance on Feb. 3.

Hurricane Katrina didn't keep Mid-City out of the Carnival 2006 lineup: It paraded with damaged floats gussied up in blue FEMA tarps.

Mid-City's 2007 parade, featuring floats rebuilt in eight weeks by krewe volunteers, went ahead as scheduled despite tornado damage to metal siding on the South Murat Street den a week before the event.

Now -- with the den repaired, all floats redecorated from top to bottom and its first new float since 1974 -- Mid-City seems ready to roll. Except for one problem.

The krewe is having trouble locating all of its living former kings, queens and riders because a database of names and phone numbers was lost when a member's Lakeview home flooded after Katrina, said Gerard Braud, the club's executive officer.

"We've been using Yellow Page searches and Google searches to locate past royalty and riders, but it is not yielding great results," Braud said Thursday, in asking the general public to help find those individuals, many of whom have moved since Katrina. Anyone with such information can send it via e-mail to or, Braud said.

"We know some of the oldest have passed away but realize their children would like to honor them at the 75th anniversary events," he said.

Katrina causes problems

To some extent, Mid-City's adversity continues because its den has been without electricity since Katrina, except for a brief period just before the club's 2007 parade when the power company installed a temporary meter. The company then removed it after people began using extension cords to steal the building's electricity, Braud said.

But the krewe's decorator, Ricardo Pustanio of Covington, has worked with head lamps and generator-powered lights as he shaped colored aluminum foil, used uniquely by Mid-City, to make the club's 16-rider floats new again and get its first megafloat ready for the streets, Braud said. With repair of its den's metal siding recently finished, Mid-City is waiting for a permit to restore electricity to the building, he said.

Mid-City, formed in 1933 by business owners in that part of town, still bears the name of the neighborhood where it paraded for decades, starting in 1934, with a half dozen floats drawn by mules, a couple of bands and horseback riders. The krewe's first king, Charles A. Bourgeois, who reigned with his wife Gertrude as queen, designed the Mid-City logo, an interlocking heart.

Bourgeois' float designs in 1947 lead to Mid-City being the first krewe to use animation. The movement came courtesy of a group of Boy Scouts, hidden inside the floats, who pedaled stationary bicycles hooked to strings and pulleys that moved the float's decorations.

The Scouts were later replaced by small motors, but the motors have now also gone by the wayside.

"Due to new (city) electrical requirements, we have not reinstated motors on floats since Katrina," said 1989 Mid-City king Michael Haydel, who said meeting the requirements would cost the krewe several thousand dollars.

Despite the absence of pedaling Boy Scouts and motors, Mid City floats will still sparkle. Their sculpted foil decorations are designed to move with the breeze or the rocking from rolling down the street.

With its motto of "Pour La Joie de Vivre," or "For the Joy of Living," Mid-City has gained a reputation for having parade themes dedicated to children and the young at heart.

During a candy-themed parade in 1955, the floats used atomizers to spray the scent of the particular candy represented by the float.

Traditions return

Potato chips made their first appearance as a Carnival throw in 1991, when Mid-City introduced Zapp's chips in 1-ounce packages stamped with the krewe's name.

For two years after Hurricane Katrina, there were no Mid City parade potato chips. But look for them to reappear Feb. 3.

"We redesigned the bag to bring it back for our 75th," Haydel said. "Because of its bright colors, it looks like one of the floats. When the bags fling out of the float, it's going to look like a piece of foil."

Until it left Mid-City in 2002 to parade on St. Charles Avenue, the krewe every year elected a boy and girl from the Ronald McDonald House on Canal Street to serve as honorary king and queen.

Haydel said the krewe is planning to reinstate the practice.

Mid-City, in fact, has a history of reviving its most popular traditions.

One of them, the Greatest Bands in Dixie, was a part of Mid-City parades from the early 1960s until 1983, when the oil bust made it too costly for the krewe to pay the expenses of bands that traveled here from all over the South for the competition, , Haydel said.

But in 2000, the krewe launched what Haydel said is not a battle of bands but a showcase of the greatest bands in America.

This year's parade will feature 10 bands, including the St. Augustine High School band, a "perennial favorite," Haydel said.

The krewe's 2002 move to the St. Charles Avenue parade route came after the New Orleans Police Department, dealing with post-Sept. 11 security concerns, said it couldn't provide security for both an Uptown and a Mid City route.

Braud, who in 2001 was the last king to preside over the krewe's original route, said that even before Mid-City began using the St. Charles Avenue route six years ago, the number of spectators lined up for its parade on Canal Street had begun to drop considerably in the blocks below Jefferson Davis Parkway.

One year, he said, "there were more cops in some blocks than people. It was truly embarrassing"

After a slight dip in membership the year after Katrina, Mid-City's roster is back up to 250, including 55 women. About a third of the members live outside Louisiana. Of the rest, only two people, a couple who joined last summer, actually live in Mid-City.