Stepping through the warehouse doors of Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World is like stepping into a “Roger Rabbit” movie, where out-of-towners are dwarfed by larger-than-life “Toons” sculpted from layers upon layers of paper machéd Styrofoam, and painted in comic book colors.
With 400,000 square feet of working and storage space on the port side of the Mississippi,
a treasure trove of floats waits to be recycled in preparation for next year’s Mardi Gras parade just moments after masked marauders have tossed the last strand of beads.
Since 1934, four generations of Kerns have been perfecting the art and business of celebrating Carnival, always managing year after year to surprise the public with fresh ideas infused with craftsmanship and technology.
Kern Studios works with dozens of carnival organizations (known as krewes) who finance their own parades through member dues and fund-raising to offset expenses for:
float warehousing, designing, sculpting, construction, decorating, tractor pulling, audio, lighting, and parade route security–all routinely costing $100,000 or more for each 28 foot display on wheels.
But what’s a krewe to do if they eschew the usual bayou reissue? The Krewe of Bacchus commissioned Blaire to produce extravagant figures and floats on a more grandiose scale. He obliged them with 18 feet replicas of King Kong in 1972, and Queen Kong in 1973.
In later years, a Bacchus signature float extended to 105 feet, accommodating 86 riders.
This year, the Krewe of Rex, Mardi Gras’ longest-standing parade organization (since 1872) launched 27 floats for their 134th parade. And with 70 different parades running this season, Kern produced over 450 floats for them and others…
…which makes it (big) easy to see why Mardi Gras is such a cash cow for New Orleans, and Blaire Kern,
unless you’re a Buddhist.