An unusually high number of extraterrestrials will invade the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods starting at 7 Saturday (stardate Jan. 30), when The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus parade hits the streets. The Mardi Gras 2016 procession will roll along a new route that's supposed to eliminate the possibility that it will be separated into segments like an unlucky exogorth (giant planetary worm) by the passing Press Street freight train, as happened in 2015.
Formed in 2011, Chewbacchus is a science fiction-oriented marching group whose symbolic champion is a mash up of the Roman god of wine and Han Solo's furry sidekick in the Star Wars movie series. In addition to Star Wars, the coalition of self-described nerds celebrates Star Trek, Doctor Who, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and so forth and so on.
In 2014, Chewbacchus became an official church, for tax purposes anyway. Ryan Ballard, the krewe's co-founder is their high priest.
Multiplying like tribbles
Ballard isn't sure exactly how many aliens, robots, and assorted space heroes will march with Chewbacchus this year, because, at this writing (Tues. Jan, 7), it was still possible to sign up -- dues are $42.
"Memberships are coming in hot and heavy, like crazy right now," Ballard said. "I think we're going to end up rolling about 1,500 krewe members."
Which, he said, is roughly a 50 percent increase over last years' 1,000 marchers.
"We've got over 100 (official) subkrewes," Ballard said, referring to the clusters of thematic costumers such as this year's new 60-member Wonder Woman marching group. "We'll probably top out at 120-ish."
Plus, he said, "there will probably be 20 or 30 unofficial subkrewes in addition to those who just don't bother registering or don't want to register."
For instance, Ballard said, the group of mysterious ninja warriors from North Carolina doesn't make their appearance known in advance, "because they're ninjas, right?"
If you go
- This is one of those do-it-yourself walking parades: The fun is inspecting the crazy home-made costumes and contraptions.
- Chewbacchus is a comedy: But it's not political or sexually explicit like Krewe du Vieux. There may be a scanty costume here and there, but by and large the parade has always been cool for kids.
- It's not Endymion: So don't expect to be showered with beads and throws, though the hand-made souvenirs passed out by the participants are precious.
- Be patient: The fun-loving foot parade sometimes takes a while to arrive and to pass by - think of it as a meandering costume party.
- For the optimal downtown DIY Carnival experience: Study the parade maps so you can catch the 'tit Rex mini float parade, which takes place in the same area at 5 on Saturday (Jan. 30).
- Be comfortable: Dress for the weather, wear walking shoes, bring a bag of Zapp's, a bottle of water (or other beverage) and, as always: May the force be with you.
- To learn more about the Chewluminati: Visit the Chewbacchus website.
Considering the early arrival of Mardi Gras this year, Ballard said he's been more or less camping out at the krewe's St. Claude Avenue den in order to complete parade preparations, particularly the Reptilian DeLorian, a time-traveling mini float decorated with rubber snakes.
"Of course," Ballard said, "the only way to build a time machine is, like, with not even close to enough time to do it."
Chewluminati: Nerd World Order
Also look for the peddle-powered, smoke-exuding, laser-lit, pyramid float modeled on the mysterious eye-topped triangle on the back of the dollar bill. The rolling pyramid somehow ties in with the 2016 parade theme, "Chewluminati: Nerd World Order" which, conspiracy theorists will tell you, proves once and for all that Chewbacchus's secret goal is global domination. It's a charge that High Priest Ballard does not deny.
"Chewbacchus is taking over the world," he said.
NCIS in the Cantina
Members of the cast and crew of the "NCIS New Orleans" television show will be joining Chewbacchus 2016, Ballard said, in a beautifully constructed, bicycle-powered version of the outlaw Cantina from the first "Star Wars" movie.
Also joining Chewbacchus this year will be actor Drew Varick of American Horror Story fame. Corey Glover, singer for the band In Living Colour, intended to march, but bowed out due to a scheduling conflict.
Rolling tiki bar
There will be one.
A group of seven young people who have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum will be marching in Chewbacchus 2016. Their hand-decorated costumes will reflect a combo of Star Wars storm troopers and the British percussion ensemble STOMP - the storm trooper helmets second as drums.
The STOMP Troopers, who were launched by NOLArts Learning Center, will be led by a landing party of brass players from Preservation Hall.
All hail the STOMP Troopers!
Wow, post-parade party with Morning 40 Federation and Win Butler
Starting at 10 p.m. at Castillo Blanco Art Studios, 4321 St Claude Ave., with the Morning 40 Federation (dubbed the Morning 42 Federation for one night only), Win Butler from Arcade Fire, DJ Quickie Mart, DJ Tristan Dufrene, DJ Mic Phedusa. Admission is $20 at door. $15 at door in costume.
All hail the Sacred Drunken Wookiee!