Changing Planet

Mardi Gras Goes to the Dogs

A scene from the 2011 Barkus parade. Photo courtesy of


Some may picture Mardi Gras as a wild celebration — suited for tail chasing, party animals.

They would be right.

But only in the case of the Mystic Krewe Barkus, New Orleans most prestigious dog Mardi Gras celebration.

Barkus will host its 21st annual parade this Sunday, Jan. 27 at 10:30 a.m.  Both bipeds and quadrupeds march together in this French Quarter parade, starting in Armstrong Park. Profits from the celebration go to area animal non-profits.

Daytime parades, like Barkus, are so tame dogs — and children — join in the fun.  Krewes, or parade organizations, that roll in the morning and afternoon are family events.  But they keep the joyous, satirical Mardi Gras spirit.

Barkus’ themes have embodied the Carnival spirit of parody; for example 1998’s “Titanic: Dogs and Children First” and this year’s “Tails and Tiaras: Here Comes Honey Bow Wow!”

Yes, the dogs do wear avant-garde costumes.  My favorites on from years past include Bark Obama and The Wizard of Oz foursome.  And, it wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras parade without floats.  While some dogs walk the route on a leash, other families use wagons and shopping carts to construct small canine sized floats.

Barkus, just like other krewes, crowns a King and Queen.   The king is usually a member of the organization while the queen always comes from humble beginnings.  To be the queen of Barkus, one must be a rescue.

She is announced at the annual Barkus Ball, the Friday before the event.  Just like a human Mardi Gras ball there is great food and fun.  Formal wear, however, is optional and four-legged guests can wear nothing at all.

To find out more about Barkus, please visit



Caroline Gerdes recently graduated from Louisiana State University where she studied journalism and history (her major and minor, respectively). As a native of the Greater New Orleans Area, she decided to explore her own backyard with help from a Young Explorers Grant. Caroline is currently conducting an oral history project about the New Orleans Ninth Ward. She seeks to record the community’s full history — its immigrant beginnings, the development of jazz, the depression and prohibition, desegregation and hurricanes. Caroline’s exploration is also a personal quest as her father and paternal grandparents grew up in the Ninth Ward. Her blogs reflect an inside look at New Orleans life and culture, especially the edible aspects.

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