A krewe (pronounced "crew") is a social organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, but is also used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida and Springtime Tallahassee, as well as in La Crosse, Wisconsin and at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.
The word is thought to have been coined in the early 19th century by an organization calling themselves Ye Mistick Krewe of Comus, as an archaic affectation; with time it became the most common term for a New Orleans Carnival organization. The Mistick Krewe of Comus itself was inspired by the Cowbellion de Rakin Society that dated from 1830, a mystic society that organizes annual parades in Mobile, Alabama.
Krewe members are assessed fees in order to pay for the parade or ball. Fees can range from thousands of dollars a year per person for the most elaborate parades to as little as $20 a year for smaller clubs. Criteria for krewe membership varies similarly, ranging from exclusive organizations largely limited to relatives of previous members to other organizations open to anyone able to pay the membership fee. Krewes with low membership fees may also require members to work to help build and decorate the parade floats and make their own costumes; higher priced krewes hire professionals to do this work. Parading krewe members are usually responsible for buying their own throws such as beads and coins, which are thrown to parade spectators according to tradition. Some krewes also have other events, such as private dances or parties, for members throughout the year. Some also make a point of supporting charities and good causes.
Some krewes restrict their membership to one gender, while others allow co-ed membership. For example, the Krewe of Endymion from New Orleans and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla from Tampa are currently restricted to men only. Examples of female only krewes include the New Orleans' Krewe of Cleopatra and Krewe of Muses and Tampa's Krewe of Venus.
The first Krewes to parade during Mardi Gras are referred to as "old line krewes". These include the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the Krewe of Proteus, Rex, Twelfth Night Revelers, and the Knights of Momus.
While there is no official definition for "super Krewe", it is generally accepted that a super krewe possesses over 1000 active dues paying members and maintains at least 500 riders for its parade each carnival.
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