In New Orleans, the 2012 Mardi Gras is just a memory. But for those who collect Mardi Gras memorabilia, the celebration lasts all year.
Some of those collectors will be at the Kenner Mardi Gras Museum on Thursday. It's about a half-hour drive from the French Quarter not a convenient trip for many tourists, and declining attendance is one reason it closed after two decades. Now its collection will be auctioned.
Herbie LeBlanc, president of the Mardi Gras Memorabilia Society, has been collecting for more than 20 years. Among the more valuable items for sale, he says, is a 1911 inkwell.
"Very hard to find one with the original glass insert in it this one still has the glass insert," LeBlanc says. It was given as a favor to women who danced with a Mardi Gras "krewe" member, he says. Nearby, there's something even more rare: scrolls given to the queen of the Rex Krewe.
Passing through a couple of rooms at the museum, LeBlanc points out something impressively flamboyant even by Mardi Gras standards: a 1974 AMC Gremlin that a local artist covered with Mardi Gras beads.
"She's even got the hubcaps completely circled, with mostly purple beads," LeBlanc says.
The Gremlin will likely draw a lot of bids, but LeBlanc has doubts about whether some other items will move.
"How many costumed mannequins can you put in your house?" he asks.
The museum collection was created with donations, and in the days leading up to the auction, the city of Kenner has worked hard to return whatever donors want back.
Liz Canik dropped by to pick up dozens of costume-design sketches drawn by her late uncle, Larry Youngblood. She has hundreds of her uncle's drawings, she says, and while many are unmarked, she can sometimes tell when he created them by the face on the page. It took awhile, but she figured out that he often used his current girlfriend as a model.
"One decade it might be a particular blonde. Another it's this beautiful redhead. So, he was inspired," says Canik, laughing.
Proceeds To Benefit The Neighborhood
The Kenner Mardis Gras Museum opened 20 years ago. Canik says it's a shame it's closing now because it helped tourists understand Mardi Gras better.
"They can get up close and personal and read the history of the clubs and the krewes and see how far back a lot of them actually do go," Canik says.
While a few people, like Canik, have picked up their items, there's still plenty to sell. Auctioneer Bradley Mutz with ServCorp International says he has divided the items into lots, but there's so much in the museum, he might have missed a few things.
"We'll tag it right there in the middle of the auction," Mutz says. "I'm not going to turn it away; I'm going to sell it!"
The city of Kenner says proceeds will be used to improve the neighborhood around the former museum.