Mardi Gras has been synonymous with New Orleans for over 150 years, but the man behind some of the most stalwart traditions of Fat Tuesday is trying to change his city from a one-holiday town. Blaine Kern, the owner of Kern Studios, which produces 80 percent of the floats that zigzag through the city throughout Mardi Gras season, is on a mission to make New Orleans the nation’s new Halloween capital. In 2007, he started the Krewe of Boo, a month-long series of events that culminates in a huge all-out Halloween parade. “We have cemeteries, voodoo parlors, haunted houses, and Gothic architecture,” Kern said recently, enumerating the city’s many creepy assets. With all that spooky stuff, it was a no-brainer for him to launch a new parade and encourage visitors to take part in the costumed revelry.
But the root of Kern’s efforts isn’t simply a passion for goblins and ghouls. He created the event as a way to raise money for his charity, The First Responders Fund, which helps house and support the city’s fire, EMS, and police departments, many of which are still recovering from the impact of Katrina. “I found out that after Katrina most of the police were going home to trailers at night,” Kern says. “The only way I know how to raise money [is to throw a parade]. ” He has partnered with the Salvation Army and plans to construct 10 homes for first responders in the Algiers neighborhood of the city this year. This year’s parade will be held on October 24th, at 7 p.m., followed by the annual Costume Exposé. Tickets to the party are $100, and all proceeds from both events go toward the fund.
Photo: Krewe of Boo