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Sophie Unterman

Chartres Street was packed, a thick crowd lining the curb. Krewemembers dressed as giant penises danced down the street. Severalclutched sippy cups, taking swigs as they passed out condoms, beadsand plastic packets of “Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.” Perched atop afloormate’s shoulders, I watched the homemade floats roll by andreached for beads. A middle-aged man dressed as a sperm shoved afistful of beads down my shirt and skipped back into line. My firstMardi Gras parade freshman year, KdV set the standard incrediblyhigh.

Krewe du Vieux is not your typical Mardi Gras parade.Established in 1987 after the Krewe of Clones folded, KdV aimed touphold the original Mardi Gras traditions. While most Krewes movedUptown and switched to giant, motor-powered floats, Krewe du Vieuxpreserved the New Orleanian customs including mule-pulled floats,costumes and revelry, and the French Quarter location. KdV hasneither the long list of parade rules nor the sky-high expenses ofthe other Krewes. Instead, members meet up to plan the parade themeand floats and make their costumes. Unlike many of the Krewes inthe city, which pride themselves on exclusivity and rosters of oldNew Orleans families, KdV is made up largely of New Orleanstransplants. These New Orleans expats join natives and give theparade a sense of inclusivity unparalleled in other parades.

Themes for KdV focus on political satire – and usually a healthydose of genitalia. This year’s parade, Crimes Against Nature, willroll through the Marigny and the French Quarter Saturday. Previousthemes include: last year’s 25 Years Wasted, 2008’s Magical MiseryTour and 2006’s KdV Says C’est Levee. Queen of KdV this year isDeon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With a Vision. Like allKrewes, Krewe du Vieux contributes a significant amount of money tocharity, and its members spend time volunteering in the community.Krewe du Vieux Doo, the party following the parade, will be held at2830 Royal Street and will benefit Project Restore Habitat forHumanity.

Day drinking is encouraged. Spectators run to and from the bars,replenishing hand grenade bottles and plastic cups before, duringand after the parade rolls past. This debauchery-fraught parade isalso the most toe-tapping, featuring 19 brass bands, including NewBirth and Treme brass bands.

The parade begins at 6:30 in the Marigny, winds through theLower French Quarter. A map of the route is on the Krewe website,www.kreweduvieux.org. Be sure to get to your favorite corner early,as space fills up quickly.

Don’t miss this spectacular kick-off to the Mardi Grasseason.