Adding a dash of historical perspective to Lundi Gras 2015, Rex, the King of Carnival, and his entourage will arrive at Spanish Plaza aboard elegantly decorated vintage railroad cars. Rex is scheduled to greet his subjects at 6PM, Monday February 16.
Many times revelers have witnessed Rex's arrival in his Winter Capital aboard the Royal Yacht (a Coast Guard cutter), but the King of Carnival's arrival this year recreates scenes previously witnessed in the late 1880's when, for several years, Rex chose to arrive by train rather than by river.
After his arrival by train, Rex will greet the thousands of visitors that typically gather at Spanish Plaza and Riverwalk to watch the Mayor, other dignitaries and Rex celebrate Lundi Gras. Rex issues his official Carnival proclamation and decree. As in past years, Rex will also welcome the Zulu king to join him on the stage. Fireworks will burst over the Mississippi River, a noisy reminder of the deafening sounds of steamboat whistles and cannon salutes celebrating Rex's arrival more than a century ago.
The tradition of Rex's arrival in New Orleans on the day before Mardi Gras began in 1874. The enthusiastic response to their first parades prompted Rex officials to add another element to the celebration — revelers would be treated to the additional spectacle of watching the King of Carnival complete his journey to the Crescent City.
Most years Rex and his entourage arrived at the foot of Canal Street by boat, but for several years in the late 1880's Rex arrived instead by train. At that time trains were becoming increasingly important to New Orleans, bringing visitors and strengthening commerce. Special trains were added to bring Carnival visitors to the city, and advertising materials of the period show the close collaboration of Carnival organizers and various railway companies.
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Since the Rex Organization first paraded in 1872, millions and millions of happy residents and visitors have enjoyed the pageantry of Carnival Day in New Orleans. "Pro Bono Publico," the Rex motto, means "for the public good" and appears on all official Rex documents. Rex places great emphasis on this motto.