Krewe of Athenians Ball fit for a king

Every year as Carnival season draws closer, many Krewes in Louisiana finalize the preparations for their infamous parades. A more exclusive event for each Krewe, its Mardi Gras Ball, also receives finishing touches.

Mardi Gras Balls are unique to each Krewe and celebrate an individual Krewe’s history. These elaborate parties, deeply rooted in tradition and formality, differ greatly between Krewes. While some Krewes have been founded more recently, others were established in the 19th century.

The Krewe of Athenians is no exception. Established in 1909, the Athenians honor their namesake Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and battle. On Feb. 10, the Athenians celebrated their 108th ball at The Orpheum Theater.

Ball attire varies from Krewe to Krewe. While some encourage costumes, others adhere to black tie. At Athenians, men are required to wear tails, while women wear formal dresses or ball gowns. After the cocktail party in the lobby, guests proceed to the main theater to find their seats. Many sit upstairs, as the main level of the theater is reserved for the families of the queen, king and debutants.

The main event begins with the pantomime, a performance in which cast members engage in satire rooted in current events. The 2016 election was the theme for the pantomime this year. The audience watched as Krewe members engaged in a political debate in which Athena moderated between “Hillary the Horrible” and “Donald the Dastardly.”

A procession of important Krewe members follows the pantomime. First come the lieutenants, high ranking seniors in the Krewe, donning colorful, sequined costumes and hats that mask their faces. Next is the King of the Krewe, who enters and sits on a large throne in the center of the stage. Each year’s king is typically an older member of the Athenian Krewe, and the decision is often based upon involvement, in terms of time and financial contributions.

After the King’s grand entrance, the debutantes, all young women dressed in elegant white gowns, are escorted by the lieutenants to curtsy and bow to the king. Then the Queen of the Krewe, often the daughter of a dedicated member in the Krewe, is brought out by the Captain of the Lieutenants. After the royals have their first dance, all attendees are invited to dance on the main level of the theater.

The sequence of these events has its roots in century-old traditions. Shortly after the processions, guests head to the Queen’s Supper at the New Orleans Country Club to eat breakfast and enjoy live music. The Queen’s Supper offers guests a chance to let loose and relax.

Attending any Mardi Gras Ball is a great way to experience a different side of the Carnival season. The Krewe of Athenians’ ball, while more formal than most, thrives in its roots from century-old traditions.

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