Designed as a celebration of Mardi Gras when it opened in 1992, a museum in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner has closed and its stock of memorabilia will go on the auction block.
The Mardi Gras Museum suffered from a drop in attendance, and its city-sponsor, like many communities around the country, has been forced to tighten its budget. Bidders will have the chance to acquire costumes, classic invitations to exclusive balls and other items associated with Louisiana's famous festival.
Auctioneer Bradley Mutz will handle the March 8 bidding and expects buyers generally will get the stuff at bargain prices. But the president of the Mardi Gras Memorabilia Society who appraised the holdings said some are rare or one-of-a-kind and will draw higher interest from Mardi Gras collectors.
"The most striking to me, being a collector myself, were two Rex queen scrolls," Herbie LeBlanc said.
The scrolls are given to the queen of Rex, one of the signature parading groups of Mardi Gras. They announce the selection of make-believe monarchs, drawn from social circles, to "rule" over lavish balls and parades during the Carnival season.
"In close to 25 years collecting I have never seen one available to buy before," LeBlanc said.
Among the items expected to draw the highest bids are the elaborate costumes, including one from 1987 worn by the king of the Krewe of Poseidon, a framed 1893 invitation to the Rex ball, a Rex card holder — which would have been given by a Rex member to his escort at the ball — from about 1900.
Kenner officials have tried to contact donors of some of the items to determine whether they wanted them returned before the auction. Among the items being reclaimed is a 1974 Gremlin automobile, completely covered with Mardi Gras beads, said deputy city attorney Leigh Roussel.
Mutz, whose family has been in the auction business for generations, said he's impressed with the quality of the items up for auction, but he doubts the sale will yield a financial bonanza.
"I'm not seeing a whole bunch of money here," Mutz said. "I don't see anything that I'd expect to go over $1,000."
Whatever is raised will go to the Kenner general fund.
"It's sad to see it go," Roussel said. "It was very successful when it first opened, but it no longer has the patronage and support and Kenner is not in a position to keep offering support."