Why Is There a King of Mardi Gras and What Does He Do?

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Though there technically is not a single king of Mardi Gras, the king of the Rex Krewe is known as the king of Carnival, a position that holds special significance. The Rex Krewe king of Carnival participates in the Rex parade and appears at the annual meeting of the courts event along with the krewe's queen. Some consider this event to be the formal end to New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations.

During Mardi Gras, multiple people can carry the title of king because each krewe usually selects a member as king, though some krewes invite a celebrity to serve as the king of their parade. Celebrities that have served as kings for various Mardi Gras krewes include Louis Armstrong, William Shatner, Dick Clark, Hugh Laurie and Charlton Heston. Like other kings, these celebrity kings typically appear in the parade of the krewe that invited them.

The Rex Krewe king and queen of Carnival are selected from amongst Louisiana and New Orleans natives who have family connections to the Rex Krewe. The kings tend to be significantly older than queens, a trend that has typically not been updated as other parts of the celebration have modernized.