Yet another new Mardi Gras custom may have been born Friday (January 6) in the chilly Crescent City, as a rolling Twelfth Night party rumbled along the tracks of the recently opened St. Claude Avenue/Rampart Street/Loyola Avenue streetcar line. The nascent krewe known as La societe pas si secrete des Champs-Elysees, or The Not So Secret Society of the Elysian Fields, or simply the Societe des Champs Elysee, chartered a car in order to welcome in the 2017 Mardi Gras season with Champagne, king cake, conviviality, and a touch of chaos.
The evening began at Kajun's Pub, with fireworks and fanfare to greet guests and krewe royalty, including rhythm and blues maestro Al "Carnival Time" Johnson and activist Kathleen Barrow. Despite a relatively stiff rain, the 40-member costumed rabble rambled to a red streetcar that waited two blocks away and climbed aboard. With a lurch and a round of cheers, a new element was added to the growing downtown do-it-yourself Mardi Gras scene that has mushroomed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Society of Elysian Fields is similar to the venerable Phunny Phorty Phellows krewe that has ceremoniously ridden a St. Charles Avenue streetcar on Twelfth Night since 1982, though perhaps a tad more bohemian. In fact, rattling along with the costumed Not So Secret Society passengers was like finding oneself in the belly of a Bob Dylan song ... in the best way.
The inclement weather probably diminished the impact of the Not So Secret Society's first excursion. The Krewe des Fleurs, botanical-themed marching group had intended to await the streetcar at Esplanade Avenue, but their elaborate botanical costumes would have certainly wilted in the intermittent showers. And the number of Marigny, French Quarter, and CBD pedestrians, who might have waved at and remembered the passing party was at a minimum.
Still, the Society had made their mark on Mardi Gras history. The founder of the group, David Roe vowed that 2017 was only the beginning. He said his wish is that the new custom lives on after he is gone. And why not?
Note: The name of the new krewe was spelled incorrectly in the first version of this story.