This past Saturday night, I got to do something very fun. As
part of the press event for the kick-off of this year's Mardi Gras celebration
at the Universal Orlando Resort ...
Copyright 2013 Universal Orlando
Resort. All rights reserved
I got to go backstage at Universal Studios Florida to see the
floats to be featured in this year's Mardi Gras parade before they rolled through that
Photo by Angela Ragno
I have to admit that -- having seen a number of these units
in years previous as they moved down Hollywood
Boulevard, loaded down with costumed cast members
who -- as the music blared -- then threw beads to USF visitors who stood along
the parade route ...
... it was almost kind of eerie to see these very same
floats at rest. Looking very much like fish out of water ...
... as they just sat backstage, being readying for that
night's performance. But even so, it was still very, very cool to be able to
walk around and get this close to the various units that Blaine Kern Artists
(i.e. the very same company that designs & builds floats for Mardi Gras
parades in New Orleans) had created
for the Universal Orlando Resort.
This experience gave me a renewed appreciation for all the
hard work and genuinely artistry that goes into the creation of each of these
Of course, one of the main reasons that Universal Orlando
was granting the press this sort of backstage access was that they wanted to
show off the three new “Colorful Cultures Around the World” units which had
been built for this year's Mardi Gras parade. There's a "Chinese New
Year" float (which celebrates the beginning of the Chinese calendar year)
that features an enormous, ornate dragon.
Not to mention an "Elegance
of India" unit. Which uses music, light & color to recreate the magic
As well as a "Mexican Day of the Dead" parade
float. Which came complete with brightly costumed performers on stilts who
helped pay homage to this holiday celebrated South of the Border.
I really enjoyed getting to see this year's edition of
Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras parade up-close. But as it got closer to when
these units really did have to begin rolling through that theme park, we were
escorted out of this backstage area and then led up the second floor of Lombard's
Landing. Where the members of the press were then treated to authentic New
Orleans fare like crawfish boil ...
... and that Mardi Gras favorite, King Cake.
Once our bellies were full, it was time to head back out
into Universal Studios Florida. Where we then got to see the parade floats that
we'd just seen at rest now in their full glory. Cruising up Production Central
... before they then made the turn onto New
And I have to tell you. Between those three new
"Colorful Cultures Around the World" units to old favorites like the
"Music of New Orleans" float (which obviously received some TLC in
the off-season), Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras parade has never looked better.
And speaking of music ... Once the parade was over, it was
now time to move over to the Universal Music Plaza Stage. Where a thousand or
more USF visitors had gathered for a live concert by alternative rock band Lifehouse at this theme
park's outdoor amphitheater.
Saturday night's concert was just the first in a series of
high-energy performances which will be presented as part of USF's Mardi Gras
celebration. Among the other sought-after names who will be appearing in this
theme park now through April 20th are internationally-renowned rapper Pitbull,
2012 People’s Choice Award-winner Demi Lovato, “American Idol” winner Phillip
Phillips, teen heartthrob Austin Mahone and chart-topping country duo Montgomery Gentry. Which is a pretty eclectic
mix of music, don't you think? Almost a jambalaya of entertainment (which --
given the event that's being celebrated at USF over the next 10 weeks -- is an
entirely appropriate metaphor).
Thanks again to the nice folks at the Universal Orlando for
letting JHM peek behind-the-scenes to see what it actually takes to "Let
the Good Times Roll" at USF's annual Mardi Gras celebration, the biggest bash this side of the Bayou.