Carnival officially begins Friday (Jan. 6), and in a happy coincidence, the date is also Joan of Arc's birthday.
In celebration of both those things, then, revelers who travel down to the French Quarter on Friday evening will find an artistic, whimsical and convivial Francophone parade winding through it. The Joan of Arc parade rolls at 7 p.m., and as is tradition, the 9th anniversary edition of the parade will stay true to its custom of celebrating the French saint who led her fellow countrymen in relieving the siege at Orleans, France, in the Hundred Years War.
Symbolism is imbued in every aspect of the parade's planning. So, too, with its new highlights.
Among the additions in 2017 will be small stuffed ponies distributed by members who will ride newly-crafted horse tricycles or stick ponies escorting a new confetti cannon.
"It's a handmade, authentic cannon, and that's not something you hear everyday," said Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc founder Amy Kirk Duvoisin. "That was made by one of our krewe-members, and ... it shoots confetti -- blue, white and red confetti -- so throughout the parade route, we're going to stop and shoot off the cannon. In the way we do things, it's not random. It's actually an homage to this cannoneer who fought with Joan in the siege of Orleans."
The parade offers some of Carnival's most interesting favors or throws. Among those new and returning also include more of the krewe's playing cards, which describe key figure in Joan's life, a limited edition Joan of Arc doll, sword pendants, yarn sheep, fresh rosemary, doubloons, handmade clothespins and hand-painted Joan of Arc medallions from Saints for Sinners.
Also making a return this year will be the Muff-a-lottas dance troupe, who will offer new, tongue-in-cheek choreography set to the tune of Pink's "Like Fire" within the parade's Flaming Heretic Battalion (For those who don't remember, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic and later canonized.)
The route includes traditional stops for a toast from the Consul General of France, Gregor Trumel, the blessing of Joan's sword at the St. Louis Cathedral and, finally, the traditional King Cake Ceremony at Jackson Square. But this year, there will be one additional stop on the route as two young students -- Abigail and Anna Frances, both daughters of Angeline Restaurant owners Alex and Corey Harrell -- will step out of the restaurant to offer Joan a birthday cake. (See the krewe's website for a breakdown of each stop on its route map.)
"I have this vision of every single restaurant along Chartres ... stepping out of their door and handing somebody a slice of birthday cake," Duvoisin said of her hopes for the parade in 2018, which will mark its 10th anniversary. "That would just be adorable."