Port Orleans Celebrates Mardi Gras
If you happen to be visiting Port Orleans during Mardi Gras there are usually lots of fun little activities around the resort and by the poolside which guests can take part in. Look out for the signs, or ask at the front desk for information.
In 2010 for example, even though 16 February was rather cold there were afternoon pool side activities and games for the kids. The cast members were giving away beautiful free feather-decorated masks and plastic Mardi Gras toys for all the kids who could successfully hula hoop. Of course, it was just our luck that my own nine year old daughter was feeling unwell that day and stayed in bed, as watching a slightly over-weight 47 year old dad trying to hula hoop for her prize probably wasn’t pretty!
Every year, Port Orleans cast members get the opportunity to enter a competition to see which department (Front Desk, Housekeeping, Custodial, Food & Beverage, etc) can dream up the most creative, best themed Mardi Gras parade floats based around the resort’s “pargo” vehicles. These golf-cart like buggies are normally used to ferry cast members, guests and luggage around the resort’s winding pathways, but it turns out that they also provide excellent bases for small parade floats.
The cast members get to parade their imaginative floats around both resorts for guests to see on the official Mardi Gras “Fat Tuesday”, and for 2011 and 2012 it all kicked off from Riverside’s Acadian House at 1:30pm before doing a round trip through French Quarter and back.
Mardi Gras 2009
(The following is quoted from the WDW NewsRoom Release, 09-Feb-2009)
Splash Mountain — decorated by Food & Beverage
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort kicked off Mardi Gras in style Feb 5 with a Mardi Gras parade and float-decorating contest. The parade and contest, which is a popular treat for Guests staying at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, consists of Cast Member-decorated golf carts, that serve as parade floats.
“We wanted to provide our Cast Members with an event that is both meaningful and representative of our theme at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort,” said Nikki DuPuis, Human Resources assistant. “The event is a Cast favorite every year, and they enjoy interacting with our Guests during the parade, some of whom time their vacations each year to Mardi Gras. The event is an excellent way to engage our Guests in celebrating with our Cast Members.”
Each year Cast Members are given a specific theme in which to decorate their float. This year’s theme was “Past or Present Walt Disney World Resort attractions.” Departments at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort worked together to design the following eight floats:
- The Jungle Cruise — decorated by Operations Learning & Development
- Peter Pan’s Flight — decorated by Merchandise
- Splash Mountain — decorated by Food & Beverage
- The Haunted Mansion — decorated by Front Office
- Kilimanjaro Safaris — decorated by Housekeeping/Custodial
- Crush ’n Gusher — decorated by Recreation
- Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — decorated by Watercraft Transportation
- Expedition Everest — decorated by Engineering
Kilimanjaro Safaris — decorated by Housekeeping/Custodial
“The event positively impacts our Guests and really goes along well with our resort theme,” said Scott Berman of the Front Office. “It gives the Guests a chance to relax during the middle of the day, just let go and have a good time. I’ve always enjoyed the celebration of Mardi Gras. I’ve been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans once before, and today brings back good memories of that time with friends.”
Prior to the parade taking to the sidewalks of the resort, Walt Disney World Ambassadors Clay Shoemaker and Vanessa Rosas presented awards for the most creative (Splash Mountain — decorated by Food & Beverage), best themed (The Haunted Mansion — decorated by Front Office ) and best all around float (Kilimanjaro Safaris — decorated by Housekeeping/Custodial).
The Haunted Mansion — decorated by Front Office
“It was awesome,” said Honick Laborde of Housekeeping/Custodial. “My department won the parade, and we really enjoyed that as a team. [Fellow team members] Maria Rosa Vazquez came up with the idea for Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Esnel Josias created everything else.”
In addition to the parade, Cast Members also were treated to a Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ, a visit from Jester Goofy and Mardi Gras King Mickey Mouse, played Wii and Wii Fit, and had chances to win Magic Backstage prizes throughout the day including cooler chairs, duffle bags, plush animals and a 20-inch flat-panel screen TV.
“To me, Mardi Gras means togetherness,” said Shannon Connole of Operations Learning & Development. “This event has sincerely been a ‘one resort, one team’ effort. I was amazed by all of the hard work, effort and creativity from everyone to pull this together.”
Mardi Gras 2010
Here are the winning float certificates for the 2010 cast member Mardi Gras Pargo Parade at Port Orleans. It’s quite obvious that everyone puts a great deal of time and effort into these entries.
Mardi Gras 2012
The 2012 parade theme was Disney Heritage Through the Decades, and it celebrated the 40 year history of Walt Disney World. They even invited Disney Royalty, in the form of Prince Naveen and Princess Tiana from Princess and the Frog, who led off the event in a horse drawn carriage.
Starting at 1:30pm on Tuesday 21st February, the parade began next to Acadian House and worked its way alongside the riverbank over to French Quarter, then it headed back to the Riverside Mill and finally across Ol’ Man Island back to its starting point. See the 2012 Poster for the the full route details.
Mardi Gras Pargo Parade 2012 (Jeff Lange Video)
Mardi Gras 2014
The 2014 Mardi Gras celebrations took place on Tuesday 4 March, and the theme for the annual cast member pargo parade was “Celebrating the Holidays”. Led in suitably New Orleans style by Princess Tiana, the parade started at French Quarter at around 1:30pm and got to Riverside around 2pm. Jeff Lange was again there to record a video of the proceedings:
Mardi Gras Pargo Parade 2014 (Jeff Lange Video)
Mardi Gras 2015
The 2015 Mardi Gras celebrations took place on Tuesday 17 February, and the parade floats had a musical theme this year. Starting at around 10am, Jeff Lange was again on hand to record the event:
Mardi Gras Pargo Parade 2015 (Jeff Lange Video)
Mardi Gras 2016
With all the departmental shake-ups that were going on at Port Orleans and the other Walt Disney World resorts at the time, most of the regular Mardi Gras guest activities, including the anticipated character greetings, were cancelled at the last minute. The Recreation Activity Schedules which had already been printed for the month were withdrawn and destroyed. Well, almost all of them, we got a sneak peak at what should have happened...
Thankfully the annual Mardi Gras ‘pargo parade’ put on by cast members did go ahead on Tuesday 9th February though, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale than in previous years. The theme was "Candyland", but only six instead of the usual ten pargos were used. The different lines of business (Custodial / Engineering / Food & Beverage / Front Desk / Housekeeping / Merchandise / Operations Learning & Development / Recreation / Watercraft Transportation / etc) were combined to create the floats.
The event still seemed very popular with guests, especially the final Darth Vader ‘bouncing head’ float, which has since become one of the most popular videos on Jeff Lange’s YouTube channel:
Darth Vader Pargo Float, 2016 (Jeff Lange Video)