Chewbacchus Mardi Gras parade 2016: new route, 'NCIS' celebs, ...

On Monday (Nov. 16), the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, the science fiction-oriented Carnival organization, announced details of its 2016 parade, which rolls at 7 p.m. Jan. 30. 

The parade, which took place for the first time in 2011, is a do-it-yourself affair, with home-made costumes, hand-built mini floats and self-directed marching groups celebrating "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Doctor Who" and other, some might say, nerdish passions. The name is a contraction of the furry "Star Wars" sidekick, Chewbacca, and the Roman god of wine, Bacchus.

Last year, the krewe became an official religion, for tax purposes anyway.  

Here's a list of spacey new parade features to look for in the new year.

Theme 2016

Chewluminati: Nerd World Order

New float

The "giant" -- OK, 12-foot-tall -- Chewluminati Pyramid "with an interactive all-seeing eye."

Celebrity guests

Chewbacchus co-founder Ryan "High Priest" Ballard said he is happy to announce that the cast and crew of the "NCIS New Orleans" television show will be marching in Chewbacchus 2016. The show's star, Scott Bakula, Ballard explained, is a science fiction icon for his role in the 1990s time-travel television adventure "Quantum Leap."

The NCIS folks plan to build a bicycle-powered version of the dreaded Cantina from the first "Star Wars" movie. They may film their participation in the parade, Ballard said, but he's not sure.

"I just told them they can do whatever they want," he said.

Also joining Chewbacchus this year will be Corey Glover, singer for the band In Living Colour.  Ballard said that Glover visited the Chewbacchus den last month and declared: "'Great, a nerd parade with all these huge toys and cool people. Sure, I'm riding.'"

Including autism spectrum kids

The 2016 parade will feature what Ballard describes as "a collaborative experiment by the NOLArts performing arts education center, the folks from the Preservation Hall jazz club, and the iDIYA inventors and craftsmen studio "to create a safe place for children with on the autism spectrum to participate in the parade along with their parents, guardians and caretakers, while marching along with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band."

As Ballard explained it, the experiment may take the form of a specialized float where kids can experience the parade in a non-threatening environment.  

 

Chewbacchus parade, Mardi Gras 2015 in New Orleans The science fiction-oriented Chewbacchus parade charmed crowds in the Bywater and Marigny on Saturday (February 7) during Mardi Gras 2015. As usual, Chewbacchus had the vibe of a costume party that spilled onto the city streets and rambled along at it's own odd rhythm. For more, go to mardigras.com.

Supreme Lizard Person

Ballard explained that the krewe recently inaugurated an online competition to select a "Supreme Lizard Person." The contest is a sort of scavenger hunt that will take participants to places in the Crescent City area and cyberspace in search of clues. The winner will have a place of honor in the parade and be made a lifetime member of Chewbacchus. For competition information, visit the Chewbacchus website.

Growing like Tribbles

Ballard said that last year roughly 1,000 members marched in Chewbacchus.  This year, he said, he predicts the krewe could double that number. The membership fee is $42, a magical figure from "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

Motorized vehicles

For the first time, Chewbacchus will permit some art cars into its ranks. Ballard said they hope to have at least one vintage DeLorean automobile, familiar form the "Back to the Future" movies in the procession.

Four-legged friends

For the first time, leashed dogs are welcome to march in the parade. Such mascots will automatically be inducted in the subkrewe "Star Woofs."

The 2016 Train-Avoidance Route

Ballard explained that last year's serpentine parade was sliced into three parts by those pesky trains that bisect St. Claude Avenue. So this year, the krewe has hit on a new strategy to avoid unwanted segmentation. For a large part of the route, the parade will go in the opposite direction of last year's procession.

The 2016 parade will form up at the Krewe du Vieux den at 42 Architects Alley and will begin marching upriver on North Peters Street. After turning on Frenchmen Street and heading back downriver, the parade will parallel railroad tracks for five blocks along Press Street, before heading down St. Claude toward the Chewbacchus den at 4321 St. Claude Ave. 

That stretch of Press Street will allow parade leaders to keep an eye on the comings and going of the slow-moving trains, Ballard said. The parade can either proceed with confidence that it will cross the tracks in its entirety. Or, Ballard said, if there's danger of the parade being interupted by a passing train, the marchers could stop for a 10-minute block party, until the coast is clear.

Note: this story was updated slightly at 12:30, Nov. 17. 

The parade begins at 7 p.m. at 42 Architects Alley, turns right on North Peters Street, right on Esplanade Avenue, right on Frenchmen Street, right on Franklin Avenue, left on Chartres Street, left on Press Street, right on St. Claude Avenue, continuing to the den at 4321 St. Claude Ave. 

Chewbacchus parade route 2016.jpg