TITLE: Mardi Gras Float Rider Masks
TYPE: face masks
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: New Orleans, Louisiana
DESCRIPTION: Set of Three Plastic Float Rider Masks
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mardi Gras
AGE: 2019
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; sequins; silicon adhesive; elastic strap

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the United States, the holiday is nowhere more vigorously celebrated than in New Orleans, Louisiana. There, a two-week Carnival season terminating on Mardi Gras is celebrated with parades composed of elaborate costumes and masks, floats, marching bands, all organize by private “krewes” composed of public-spirited citizens dedicated to preserving the Mardi Gras tradition. Krewes tend to have a fairly constant structure of officers, who frequently ride horseback in handsome costumes and draped masks, float riders who chuck “throws,” or small gifts such as plastic beaded necklaces, toys, or mementos (usually with the krewe’s name and insignia) into the cheering crowds, and a guest “king” and “queen” of the krewe.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is also typically celebrated with formal balls held by the krewes in honor of the king and queen, and to celebrate the season.  Mask wearing among street celebrants is common as well. Traditionally, Mardi Gras masks are made of formed and painted leather, and can represent any character from real life or fantasy.  In modern practice, cheap masks mass manufactured of sequined cloth or paper maché covered in dyed feathers have become common.

These float rider masks are purchased in mass quantities, usually from Chinese manufacturers, for the krewe members whose chief task is to deliver throws to the parade audience. All were worn by float riders during Mardi Gras 2019. In the case of the thin, flexible masks, the float riders have hand-cut wider holes around the eyes and mouth to increase the field of vision and to make it easier to drink beer without removing the mask.

Click above to watch a short documentary about Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2019 and 2020.