Saturday night, New Orleanians began the Mardi Gras season with dancing space princesses, stomping snow beasts and roaring Wookies. The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus had the honor of being the first parade of the season and they did not disappoint. This wasn’t just any Mardi Gras season for Chewbacchus, as they celebrated their 10th year of rolling. Their theme for this anniversary was “The Roar of the Wookie!”
Despite having a huge number of krewe members, Chewbacchus is still regarded as one of the smaller Mardi Gras parades as it doesn’t have the elaborate floats or beads and throws that parade-goers expect to see at most of the other Mardi Gras parades. What Chewbacchus does have is a large enrollment in its krewe, as any creative fandom group is welcome to join the parade as long as they meet the qualifications set by the krewe’s organizers. In place of floats, you instead see smaller contraptions of droids, Daleks, aliens and monsters pulled by a bicycle. While you may not leave the parade with a dozen pounds of beads hanging around your neck, you will definitely get some of their more unique Mardi Gras throws like handmade patches, stickers, toys and other light-up gadgets.
The Krewe of Chewbacchus’ first year rolling in Mardi Gras was in 2011. A smaller parade than it is today, their overall theme sci-fi and other fandoms stand in stark contrast to the other parades in New Orleans. While many parades are named after various figures from history and myth like Bacchus and Poseidon, Chewbacchus is named for Chewbacca, Han Solo’s stalwart companion throughout the “Star Wars” saga. The various small groups that make up the krewe take inspiration from as many pop culture and geek fandoms you can think of, from “Star Wars” to “Lord fo the Rings” all the way to “Doctor Who.”
However, since this IS carnival season, these different fandoms take on lives of their own as krewe members take creative liberties by combining some of their favorite things like “Star Wars” and “Pokemon.” They also take inspiration from other groups like the 610 Stompers, but in this case it’s the 610 Wampas, another reference to “Star Wars.”
As Chewbacchus’ 10th year parading seemed like their biggest celebration of geek and pop-culture yet, the krewe has had its share of bumps along the way. In 2016 after the death of national treasure and beloved Princess-turned-General Leia Carrie Fisher, Chewbacchus was met with some local blowback in their effort to organize a second-line in her honor, a parade in itself often taking place after a funeral as mourners grieve the loss of their loved one. Many in the city felt that the geek parade’s memorial of Fisher was cultural appropriation. Then, in 2017, a mural depicting Princess Leia painted on the warehouse owned by Chewbacchus by L.A. graffiti artist Muck Rock was vandalized and covered in green paint.
Despite these controversies, Chewbacchus puts on a fantastic show each year and their enthusiasm is only rivaled by the hundreds of parade-goers who line streets eager to see what the krewe has in store.