The first Saturday has long been very full parade day, with five krewes and their accompanying bands and dancers keeping the Uptown route lively from early afternoon until late evening.
Now it’s even livelier. A new parade, the Legion of Mars, debuts this year, making the number of parades an even half-dozen. The krewe made up of military members, veterans and first-responders has previously paraded with the Krewe of Freret and with the Krewe of Alla. This year, for the first time, it has a parade of its own, leading the way on the first Saturday of Uptown parades.
Legion of Mars
Revelers on Saturday can cheer on the Legion of Mars as the military krewe presents its debut parade. The krewe was formed a decade ago by combat veterans who wanted to bring Carnival activities to service members and their families. It holds a ball and rode with other krewes in 2018 and 2020.
The Legion of Mars was named for Roman god of war because, the krewe notes on its website, “Unlike Ares, the Greek God of War, who was viewed primarily as a destroyer, Mars used military power to secure peace.”
A partnership with the city of New Orleans gave Mars a chance to present a parade that includes first-responders — police, firefighters and medics — and veterans from through the country as well as local service members.
Start: 11:30 a.m. at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street
Theme: “The City of New Orleans Honors Its Heroes”
Look for: The Purple Heart float carrying wounded warriors is the heart of the parade. Revelers will also enjoy the famed U.S. Marine Corps Band, World War II relic vehicles and celebrity special guests.
Catch it if you can:The krewe’s throws have a Mars theme.
Krewe of Pontchartrain
The krewe named for the 630-square-mile estuary that borders the city’s northern edge, and its parade celebrates marine life and all things New Orleans. The Krewe of Pontchartrain has about 350 male and female riders parading on 15 floats to the tune of 10 marching bands.
Start: 1 p.m. at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street
Theme: “Guess What Day It is”
Look for: Mr. Mudbug, Super Grouper and the King Cake Baby are among the signature floats.
Catch it if you can: The signature throw is a decorated crawfish tray. The krewe’s logo throws include the Pontchartrain dog leash.
Krewe of Choctaw
The Krewe of Choctaw joined the migration to the Uptown route after parading on the West Bank since 1939, when the krewe famously bought some old mail wagons from the U.S. government to carry its first floats. The old stripped-down wagons formed the chassis for the first Choctaw parade floats.
This family-oriented krewe’s 275 riders include men, women and children on 16 floats.
Start: 2 p.m. (follows Pontchartrain) at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street
Theme: “Life Is a Fairy Tale”
Look for: The co-ed krewe will have several floats with women only.
Catch it if you can: Signature throws include hand-decorated tomahawks and plush spears.
Krewe of Freret
The first Krewe of Freret paraded for 40 years before disbanding in the mid-1990s. In 2014, a group of Loyola graduates took the name and paraded with it, adding a distinctive salute New Orleans music to the daytime parade lineup on the first Saturday.
Its marquee floats include one of the largest props ever affixed to a Mardi Gras float — a giant bust of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. The parade culminates in the Shorty Gras, part music festival and part Carnival ball.
Start: 3:30 p.m. (follows Choctaw) at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street
Theme: “Let the Band Play On”
Look for: A second-line procession is traditionally incorporated into the parade.
Catch it if you can: Freret is known for locally produced throws. Its signature throw is a hand-decorated mask.
Knights of Sparta
The Knights of Sparta present a traditional Carnival procession on the first Saturday of Uptown parades. The krewe has been parading since 1981, 30 years after it formed to present an elaborate bal masque.
The krewe’s motto is “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat,” or “Let He Who Merits The Palm Possess It,” highlighting the Spartan value of achievement through hard work.
The all-female Mystical Order of the Phoenix, a spinoff of the embattled Krewe of Nyx, now parades with the all-male Knights of Sparta, making it a co-ed parade.
Start: 5:30 p.m. at Jefferson and Magazine
Theme: “Carnival’s Songful Celebrations”
Look for: This parade features traditional elements such as flambeaux carriers lighting the way, mounted officers, and royalty floats carried by Clydesdale horses.
Catch it if you can: LED helmets are a signature throw. The Knights also have an annual mystery throw that’s top secret until the parade.
Krewe of Pygmalion
The Krewe of Pygmalion, which closes out the first Saturday, was founded two decades ago by a group of Carnival veterans who wanted to strengthen the parade lineup during the first week of the Mardi Gras parade season.
In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a king of Cyprus and a sculptor who fell in love with one of his works, a woman carved from ivory. Pygmalion’s 2023 parade pays tribute to a “Randy” Morrison, the creative genius behind the krewe’s luscious sculptures. Morrison died in early 2022.
Start: 6:15 p.m. (follows Sparta) on Jefferson and Magazine
Theme: “The Wonderful World of Thomas Randolph Morrison”
Look for: Morrison’s exquisite, sensual statuary
Catch it if you can: Lighted headbands and wands are among the krewe’s throws.