Hermes!

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Brochure for the Krewe of Hermes, 1940 (courtesy John Minor Wisdom collection, UNO)

Hermes parade and ball over the yearshermes

Krewe of Hermes, 1938 (Teunisson photo)

Even in times of adversity, New Orleans uses Carnival to give the city an emotional boost. Carnival time got the city through the Great Depression. In typical New Orleans fashion, a group of businessmen expanded the celebration for the 1938 Carnival season.

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Hermes Ball, 1938 (Teunisson photo)

Carnival parading grew from Comus in 1857 to Rex and Momus in 1872, to many more by the 1930s. In 1938, the Friday night was empty. In 1937, Congressman F. Edward Hebert sponsored a group of businessmen in their effort to start a krewe. These businessmen gathered enough interested men to hold a parade the following year.

Hermes on Canal Street, 1987 (courtesy Infrogmation)

The Krewe of Hermes was an instant hit. Looking to introduce new ideas to the Carnival celebration, the krewe outlined their floats with neon lights, so that the floats lit themselves as well as drawing light from the flambeaux carriers marching along with them.

Dukes and Maids

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Queen of Hermes, 1938 (Teunisson photo)

Hermes adopted the tradition of holding a bal masque that doubled as a debutante ball.

Hermes parade in 1987. A duke rides in a convertible. (Infrogmation photo)

A number of parades extend the length of their celebration by using “Maid/Duke floats” which are smaller than the average krewe float. The queen and maids of Hermes don’t parade, but the dukes do. In the 1970s and 1980s, the krewe’s dukes rode in convertibles.

Hermes today

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Hermes 2007: Float, “Apocalypse of Ragnorak” (Infrogmation photo)

Now in its 80th year, the krewe still parades on the Friday before Mardi Gras, on the Uptown route. The krewe holds its formal bal masque the night before the parade. The king and his court are presented to the guests, and a festive supper dance is held after the ball. On the street, the Hermes parade is followed by the Krewe d’Etat.

Walking to the parade

In addition to the float parade on Friday night, Hermes continues a long-standing tradition of a “walking parade” in the French Quarter. Carnival organizations have long been restricted from bringing their floats into the Quarter, mainly for fire safety and traffic control reasons. Mindful of their roots, however, Hermes members, dressed in business suits with krewe-logo ties, gather on Royal Street and march through the Quarter, throwing beads and doubloons. They then make their way to the parade’s Uptown staging area for the ride.