Ryan Ballard, co-founder and "High Priest" of the Krewe of Chewbacchus science fiction-oriented Mardi Gras parading organization issued an interstellar communication Wednesday (April 8) that clarified plans for the first "Shoeboxus" shoe box float parade.
The mini parade is not scheduled for next year's Mardi Gras season; it will roll on May 4, honoring the tongue-in-cheek Star Wars holiday. You know, "May the Fourth Be with You."
The king of the inaugural parade will be actor and sci-fi fan Drew Varick, who has appeared on popular television shows such as "Cirque du Freak," "American Horror Story" and "Conan." Varick, who, according to the Chewbacchus announcement, stands 42 inches tall, will costume as "King Yoda."
Marchers in the 2015 Chewbacchus parade recognized the actor in the crowd along the route and invited him to join in and attend the party that followed, Ballard said. Later Ballard invited him to reign over the first "Shoeboxus" parade and, as Ballard put it, "he was real into it."
"He does a phenomenal Yoda imitation," Ballard said.
The theme of the parade will be "Lighten Up," which will be printed on Star Wars light sabers for the event. To best understand the theme requires a bit of backstory about an unlikely Carnival rivalry.
The 'tit Rex parade is a bitingly satiric miniature parade presented annually in the Marigny neighborhood. Though 'tit Rex is an all-adult organization, it is meant to recall the tiny shoebox float parades traditionally created by Crescent City school kids to celebrate Carnival.
The Chewbacchus parade rolls on the same evening and the same general neighborhood as 'tit Rex. 'Tit Rex is tiny and compact. Chewbacchus is long and leggy. 'Tit Rex began parading in 2009. Chewbacchus came to the neighborhood in 2013. The two krewes have been locked in a real or imagined conflict -- depending on who you ask -- ever since.
That war of words reached a Facebook flashpoint when someone posted a spurious suggestion that Star Wars light sabers (a Chewbacchus staple) were unwelcome along the 'tit Rex route. Since then it's been a social media Hatfields and McCoys situation.
Last month, Ballard announced that Chewbacchus would stage its own off-season shoebox parade for kids. He said he offered the parade as a symbolic "olive branch" to 'tit Rex and even invited 'tit Rex officials to participate in the float judging. But for every onlooker who saw Ballard's gesture as conciliatory, there was another who saw it as provocation.
Read the March 15 story: "Chewbacchus schedules Mardi Gras shoebox float parade for May 4" and don't miss the sizzling comment stream.
'Tit Rex swiftly declined Ballard's offer to play along, wishing to keep their shoebox parade concept undiluted. And so it stood, until Wednesday, when Ballard announced "The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus will present the BIGGEST little Sci-Fi themed shoebox parade in the Universe."
According to Ballard, upping the ante is just part of the Chewbacchus modus operandi.
"Chewbacchus is a big joke. It both worships and mocks pop culture," Ballard said. "We worship a space Bigfoot, dog-man in a movie from the 1970s mixed with the Roman god of wine. Taking self-deprecating jokes and pushing them to the conceptual limit is what we do. We don't take ourselves seriously much less anyone else."
"And," he said, "if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it all the way."
According to Ballard's announcement, "the parade will include floats by students from the Talented Visual Arts program at Martin Behrman Elementary, students and artists in the KID smART program, students at several other schools and arts outreach programs throughout the city, as well as the children of Krewe of Chewbacchus members."
Plus, he wrote: Any "adults who never grew up are welcome to build their own mini-floats too, of course."
Proceeds from donations to "Shoeboxus" will benefit KID smART.
The parade rolls May 4 at 6, starting at the corner of Royal and Frenchmen streets in Faubourg Marigny. It will follow a nine-block rectangular route back to the starting point. A post-parade party takes place from 8 p.m. to midnight at Handsome Willy's, 218 S. Robertson St.
For full details and a map visit the Chewbacchus site.