Science fiction fandom and Mardi Gras go together like rice and beans, but they didn't show up together as much as they should until just the past few years. Historically, the Louisiana krewes that stage Mardi Gras events consisted of wealthy folks who felt bound by tradition. No one else could feasibly finance the fancy floats and balls. However, modern krewes are popping up to stage marching parades without floats, and they finance parties by attracting large numbers of dedicated, if not wealthy, fans.
The most notable addition is the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, formed in 2010 as Ryan Ballard and a couple of friends at a bar discussed the need for science fiction in the Mardi Gras celebrations. Ballard is an artist and puppeteer who had worked with the Krewe du Vieux on Mardi Gras projects, and a member of the Louisiana Bast Alpha Garrison of the 501st Legion of Storm Troopers. Melding Mardi Gras with the world of Star Wars fandom just made sense for him.
Ballard went to work, and found many like-minded fans to join him. The Chewbaccus Parade debuted in 2011.
The security wing of the krewe is the Redshirt Rebellion, who wear red shirts and are willing to face death at any time. Here they are seen escorting the krewe's beer-dispensing robot, Bar2D2.
The krewe scored a major coup for the 2013 Chewbacchus Mardi Gras parade held on January 26, as Peter Mayhew and his wife Angela rode a Millennium Falcon float as parade royalty. Mayhew, dubbed the krewe's "Emperor for Life," played Chewbacca in the Star Wars film series.
As the Krewe of Chewbacchus grows, the parades become more elaborate. Mayhew rode in a float called the Millennium Falcon, built by Ballard and other krewe members and funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbaccus is serious about being an inclusive group. Although dedicated to Star Wars at the core, all science fiction fans are welcome. The dues stay at a low $42, because 42 is the answer to everything. For fans of other science-fiction universes, sub-krewes were developed, and invited to participate in the Chewbaccus parade. As the sub-krewes grow, they stage their own spinoff events.
One of the popular sub-krewes is the Krewe du Who for Doctor Who fans.
Another of the Chewbaccus sub-krewes is the Krewe of the Living Dead, who participate in Zombie Walks and other activities all year long. In addition to zombies, vampires, ghouls, and other monsters are welcome in this krewe. They also staged the Mardi Gras Day Massacre, a walking parade through New Orleans' French Quarter. The 2013 theme is "BEADS, BOOZE, and BRAINS."
Louisiana's Bast Alpha Garrison of the 501st Legion, the nationwide group of Stormtrooper cosplayers, participates in the Chewbacchus Parade and other Mardi Gras parades as well, most recently the Krewe of Tucks Parade, shown here.
Science fiction fans are gradually finding their way into the biggest traditional parades, too. Matt Staggs shot this picture of a float in the Krewe of Morpheus Parade.