GRAS SHOEBOX FLOAT
Growing up in New Orleans,
children of all ages anxiously wait for the coming
of the Mardi Gras season so we could build our
annual Mardi Gras floats. These are still today
the fondest remembered tradition to young and
old alike. No one actually knows when the tradition
first actually started. Many believe it's roots
come from the actual building of scale models
for the larger floats. Others say it was always
was a custom uniquely to the Crescent City and
the Carnival season that has spread around the
These floats are made using
a shoebox covered with aluminum foil first as
the base and decorated according to a given theme.
In this craft, an upside-down shoebox is the base
of a festive parade float. The lid of the shoebox
is the backdrop of the miniature float.
ShoeBox Floats Then and Now
A shoebox float is a small
replica of any large float that might appear in
a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, Especially the
Krewe of Mid City since there huge floats were
in fact covered and decorated in Aluminum foil.
Many believe the parade was designed by that idea
as large shoeboxes for floats. The Krewe of Mid
City Parade began in 1933 organized by local Mid
City business men, The parade was actually the
first neighborhood parade in the history of Mardi
Gras not following the traditional routes of other
parades . Many in New Orleans still wonder what
came first the parade foil covered floats or the
mini home made shoebox floats.
Some local elementary schools
from the 1940's- 50's-60's often would line up
the floats and have a mini parade down the long
halls this is often the memory of those who still
cherish the mini float designs. After the annual
school parade the kids would take them home so
their parents would often use them as a table
centerpiece for a king cake party or place them
on their front steps or porches as a homemade
Mardi Gras decoration. The shoebox Mardi Gras
float tradition still keeps parading on even today
in the 21st century.
New Orleans Mardi Gras Shoebox Float Competitions
Many local groups, organizations
and schools hold annual Shoebox float Competitions.
Sometimes awarding prizes and honors to the winners.
The competitions usually draw hundreds of entries
because it is one of New Orleanians favorite holidays.
Floats are often displayed at schools and local
shopping centers, malls,Churches and hotels. Many
Mardi Gras New Orleans Krewes often solicit these
schools to make them as to be used as grand table
center pieces for their Masked balls often following
that years Parade theme.
The Krewe of Mid City at one time sponsored and
organized a Shoe box Float Competition that was
a traditional highlight to the carnival season.
The contest was open to all Kindergartners through
fifth-graders who attended public and private
local New Orleans Mid City Area schools each year.
The winning floats would receive the honor of
having their floats displayed proudly mounted
on the front and sides of the King's float and
paraded down the streets of New Orleans at Mardi
Gras. Usually 6- 7 floats would be chosen and
placed along the sides of the float, the overall
winner was placed in the center front spot of
Each school would have students make floats then
they would judge the best from each school and
the finalist would then be judged by Krewe Of
Mid City's own Betty Ray Kern, Mid City's Float
Designer. The floats were judged on overall theme,
originality and aesthetic beauty. Float design
categories also included special effects and animated
design something that Mid city was known for.
How to make your own Mardi Gras Shoebox Float
Take your box and cover
both parts (the lid and the base) with the colored
foil wrapping paper or plain aluminum foil. Then,
flip the box over and attach
the lid to one side of the box using the stapler
or, a hot glue gun, or tape.
· Shoe box with lid
(one for each float you'll make)
· Glitter, tissue paper, construction paper,
aluminum foil, paint, paintbrushes, or other decorative
Step One: Pick a theme for
your float. or use an actual New Orleans Mardi
Gras Parades theme. Be creative when choosing
your theme. It could be anything you like your
favorite movie, political or current events or
even Mardi Gras as theme itself.
Shoe Box Float Themes
Usually decorations on Shoe
box floats followed simple themes from book report
stories, Movies, favorite television shows of
which represented story characters scenes and
events, to serious themes like "Just say
no to drugs", or "Hurricane Katrina
Recovery" or "The kingdom of make-believe!"
just as an example. These floats theme and design
are limited only by your own imagination and of
what you have on hand to decorate with.
Remember a Mardi Gras Float is rolling scenery
or just a background for the riders. Some floats
are castles others battlefields and places created
from the imagination of the float designer.
Step Two: Remove the lid
from the shoebox, turn the box upside down on
the table and glue the lid (so that it stands
up) to one end. Now your float will have a back.
Step Three: Decorate your
float using tinfoil, tissue paper, glitter, paint,
markers, and other materials. Toys and even Christmas
cards or pages out of story books. Get creative
and as they say think out of the box!
Some local New Orleans Artist
make elaborate mini Paper Mache' floats as special
collector items in French Quarter shops, often
sold as center pieces with a special place for
flowers to be placed. These floats are often seen
at conventions, weddings and parties with a Mardi