Mardi Gras 2006
New Orleans down; is Mardi Gras out?
Katrina damage at Mardi Gras World
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Posted: 7:34 p.m. ET
A quick trip over the Greater New Orleans Bridge brought the CNN krewe to Algiers and Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World. He is one of carnival's most prolific float builders, creating the rides of some major parades like Orpheus, Endymion and Bacchus. Their revelers snake through the streets in huge, blinking double-deck floats.
Obviously, Mr. Kern has a huge stake in the success of Mardi Gras. New Orleans is always looking for a good celebration -- in the best of times and worst. The business of bead tossing brings in an estimated $1 billion to the city's economy. It's a worldwide party event and a major fundraiser for New Orleans.
We interviewed Mr. Kern in his gigantic Mardi Gras emporium. It was like a sauna. I was really sweating ... another NOLA summer humidity affliction. He was cool as a cucumber in his seersucker suit.
Another classic New Orleans character, Blain Kern was really upbeat. He said more people have signed up for the carnival than ever before. Call it support or sympathy, but it seems like the world is ready to help New Orleans get back to the business of partying.
He has talked about the idea of a scaled-down Mardi Gras. He did not explain what that meant. A route change, fewer attendees, different logistics? The reality is that you can't invite the world without hotel rooms. I also asked about the idea of corporate sponsorship, which is illegal in Orleans Parish.
He said he was not in favor of corporate logos on the floats, but was very happy to have companies pay the way for riders. At about $1,000 a pop for beads, costume and daylong party, there's big money to be made. It's a cottage industry that goes from local pizza vendors on the street to the factories of Asia, which supply most of the "throws" -- beads, cups, stuffed animals and other trinkets of carnival.
Kern is a very savvy man. Many locals believe he's a bit of an opportunist, but he definitely has his heart in the right place. And he's been out there bringing up the issue.
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