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February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras: Behind the Scenes at Universal 

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!
While the party in the Big Easy will wind down in just hours, at Universal Orlando it is just warming up.
The Studios park's annual Mardi Gras celebration kicked off Saturday.
And Even before you reach the park gates you know this has become one of Universal's signature events.

entrance

Universal's PR Team gave myself and other web writers a tremendous backstage tour as they staged the first Mardi Gras Parade of the year.

Staging the parade

Each of the colorful floats is hand-crafted  by Blaine Kern Artists - the same company that designs floats for the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
And the music of New Orleans is featured in one of four new floats this year.

spirit of jazz

The other three reflect this year's theme "Colorful Cultures Around the World," and include  the  Elegance of India  


india

The Chinese New Year

new year float

and the Mexican Day of the Dead  

DOD

The costumes for the 80+ performers are often very elaborate, as you can see in this picture I took with a Day of the Dead performer.

dod woman

Even more impressive when you consider she keeps her poise while posing on stilts.

DOD Woman 2

The park's parade team also showed off another new stiltwalker, a man helping bring the Chinese New Year to life.

new year guy

The floats are impressive, with beautiful details. The New Year float features elaborate lighting on the dragon and the sides.

China Lights

The Day of the Dead float features fog and candles.

DOD Foggy

But they really shine on the parade route itself, when the crowds are going wild for beads, and the performers are throwing them by the handful.

India Night

This being Universal, the parade is more adult than at Disney. But  while some costumes are revealing, none (to my eyes) crossed a line most parents would be comfortable with.

adult1
adult2

Universal also prides itself that it brings in live music for the event, which is included in your park admission.

Live Music
The bands all come from New Orleans, and they play in a courtyard in the New York area of the park that features tasty, authentic, and reasonably priced food (for a theme park).

Courtyard

After dining on favorites like jambalaya, crawfish, beignets & King Cake, the hordes descended on the music amphitheater.

Crowd

Where Indy rock band Lifehouse took the stage performing both new material and favorites like "Hanging By A Moment," "You and Me" and "Whatever It Takes."

lifehouse
While the crowd was pumped when lead singer Jason Wade came into the crowd & another band member took a panoramic photo of the audience.

in crowd

Personally, I was more impressed by a different touch. Universal includes sign language interpreters at the concerts for the hearing impaired.

sign language

The band puts on an energetic show, and to my ears sounds better live than on their albums. The concert is included in admission. Quite a value.

Mardi Gras continues on Saturday the 15th and runs through April 20th.
Here's a link to Universal's Mardi Gras site for more information.

Below is a reprint of the concert schedule.
 

  • Saturday, February 16 - Steve Miller Band
  • Sunday, February 17 - Boys Like Girls
  • Saturday, February 23 - Trey Songz
  • Saturday, March 2 - Demi Lovato
  • Saturday, March 9 - Montgomery Gentry
  • Friday, March 15 - Sean Kingston
  • Saturday, March 16 - Matchbox Twenty
  • Friday, March 22 - Austin Mahone
  • Saturday, March 23 - Phillip Phillips
  • Saturday, March 30 - Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
  • Saturday, April 6 - Kool & The Gang
  • Saturday, April 13 - Pitbull
  • Saturday, April 20 - The All-American Rejects

Look for more on Mardi Gras, including an interview with show director Laura Wallace & a construction update from Universal later this week in the Theme World Blog.

I've turned over a ton more behind the scenes parade photos to the ClickOrlando.com team. They promise to have a slide show up later this week.

And here's a link to my previous Theme World Blog entries.