Mardi Gras World, located in New Orleans and opened in 1984 to the public, is a 300,000 square foot “working” warehouse where Kern Studios has made floats for the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans since 1947.
The enormous warehouse rests alongside the Mississippi River where guests can view various vintage floats, float characters, and unique pieces that are on display year-round.
A most special feature of a tour of Mardi Gras World is the studios’ adjacent boardwalk which affords not only an up-close and personal view of the river but also the cantilever Crescent City Connection bridge that straddles it.
Father and son Roy and Blaine Kern began building floats in New Orleans as early as 1932. But after painting an impressive mural at a hospital, Blaine Kern was soon commissioned by a local Krewe—headed by one of the hospital’s surgeons—to build a Mardi Gras float, and Kern Studios was born.
According to the Mardi Gras World site, son Blaine Kern—aka “Mr. Mardi Gras”—became a world-traveled apprentice in float and costume making who later brought the “extravagant concepts and animation” that he gleaned from the European style of float building to New Orleans, creating the lavish grand-scale floats that Mardi Gras parade lovers have to come to love and expect for decades.
Taking from classical, mythological, and comic book hero fiction, the varied and colorful floats depicted a variety of ornate contemporary scenes, carnival lore, and bursts of giant flora. For this tour, they were glittering and alive with light and accompanied by New Orleans’ own live marching jazz.
From a visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2019 while volunteering for the Online News Association annual convention, here’s a gallery of just a few of Mardi Gras World’s vibrant pieces through the years.