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The Pride of New Orleans Carnival: Mardi Gras Balls

The general public knows Mardi Gras Day as a day of big parades. But there’s more to the entire Mardi Gras Season which lasts for weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day. Many Krewes host grand Mardi Gras Balls, which are often private, VIP events where Kings and Queens are coronated, debutantes are formerly introduced into society, and hosts and hostesses try to outdo each other in spectacularly decorated venues throughout the city.

In the time of reconstruction in the late 1800s, elite Carnival organizations (called Krewes) wanted a way to evoke romance and chivalry, so they turned to the city’s French roots and brought all the ritual and pomp and circumstance of formal celebrations of Mardi Gras back into fashion. Today, they are events that are entrenched in the city’s social order, marked by notions of rank, tradition, and exclusivity.

Mardi Gras Thoth Ball
Thoth Ball

2022 Mardi Gras Balls are More Prolific and Grander than Ever

In our 61-year history, we have rarely seen such heightened enthusiasm for Mardi Gras season, and the number of balls dwarf even full pre-COVID calendars. Cajun Encounters reports that there are more than 137 balls held this year, beginning with the Twelfth Night Ball on January 6th. The season culminates with the grandest balls of all held on Fat Tuesday, March 1.

Messina’s Catering & Events is catering a record-breaking 12 Mardi Gras Balls in the coming weeks. These include the Krewe of Thoth, Krewe of Excalibur, Knights of Sparta, Krewe of Carrolton and Krewe of Argus’ spectacular affair at the Pontchartrain Center. “The Oddball”, the Bal Masque XXXIX hosted by The Lords of Leather at the Alario Center and the grand Krewe of Lul Mardi Gras Ball at the Edward A. Dufresne Center both host extravagant Balls. These balls are designed to delight all the senses and give Messina’s Catering the opportunity to craft tantalizingly delicious catering menus in keeping with the tradition of an evening of decadence and luxury complete with King Cake service.

Mardi Gras Ball Queen of Thoth
Queen of Thoth

The History of the Mardi Gras Ball

It is believed that the first Mardi Gras Ball was hosted by the Mistick Krewe of Comus in 1857. The first Krewe of Rex Ball was held in 1873, and featured world-class entertainment, including the only U.S. appearance by legendary tenor Enrico Caruso in 1920. The majority of Mardi Gras Balls were and remain to this day mostly private affairs where invitations are coveted. Originally, invitations featured intricate, die-cut art printed in Paris that were such a hot commodity that sometimes even governors and local officials weren’t on the guest list. Today such invitations are considered valuable works of art and are framed as collector’s items. Then, as now, Mardi Gras Balls are lavish, social-elite events where ball gowns, bejeweled masks, costumes, and formal attire are required.

The Tableaux Tradition Continues in New Orleans

Also called Tableau Vivant, or “living picture”, Tableaux are a throwback to its first appearance on a ballroom stage in 1857. Known as the Tableau Ball, the Mistik Krewe of Comus presented guests with four tableaux, where costumed individuals were arranged in static poses with elaborate sets, costumes, and related props. Each tableaux showcased a visual depiction of a mythological story. The tradition continues today and will be performed at Balls like The Oddball, hosted by the Lords of Leather at Alario Center. (

Mardi Gras Ball Thoth Tableau
Thoth Tableau

Are You Lucky Enough to Get an Invite?

If so, we are confident you will enjoy the evening immensely and leave with many incredible memories. Chances are good that might include reminiscing about awesome food prepared and served in Mardi Gras style by Messina’s Catering and Events, one of New Orleans top caterers that has been selected by New Orleans CityBusiness readers as one of the Best Caterers for three years running.

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