Students create shoebox floats for Mardi Gras


Photo by: Andrew Brain

Displays lined the tables in CEMC for the third-annual Mardi Gras event shoebox decoration competition.

The FMU Modern Languages Department hosted a Mardi Gras event from 1 to 2 p.m. on March 1 in the Cauthen Educational Media Center (CEMC).   

Announced in February, students had a chance to create and submit shoebox Mardi Gras-themed floats during the week before the event. On March 1, the same day as the start of Mardi Gras, winners were announced, and those who came to the event celebrated with king cake.  

“Normally, we would have a big Mardi Gras party, but because of social distancing, we have decided to do a socially distanced Mardi Gras,” Kyrie Miranda, assistant professor of French and Spanish, said. “Normally for Mardi Gras, there are about 56 parades for six weeks. All of the parades have a theme, and they’re run by a specific ‘krew’ (with a k). Because I lived in New Orleans for 14 years, I decided to bring that tradition here as much as I could.” 

Decorating the hall with greens, yellows and purples, the traditional Mardi Gras colors, a table was laid out with the eight entries submitted this year. 

“Elementary school children usually make shoebox parade floats like this in New Orleans,” Miranda said. “I decided to do this for this competition to keep it socially distanced. Usually, for every krew, there is a king and a queen, so we crowned two sovereigns, and they got a cash prize based on the votes for who had the best float.” 

“My float was a chandelier-style with dice in it, with a car pulling the float,” said Torie Williamson, junior English major on the design of her float. “I did it as a thing for my Spanish teacher. She’s really big on getting in with the different cultures.” 

In terms of where the inspiration came from, Williamson said her son Googled Mardi Gras floats. There were a couple of different designs he pulled up, and they tried to combine both of them. They wanted to incorporate dice, beads, masks and feathers, so Williamson’s son came up with most of the design.  

This is not the first time a Mardi Gras celebration has occurred on campus.  

“We have done this two times before at FMU,” Miranda said. “Our first year was great; we had about 60 people come. The second year we had about 40 people because it was a different time of day.” 

While this year’s festivities were kept to shoe boxes in a hall of CEMC, it was not always that way. Miranda said the first year there was a party in the Cauthen Café. Then, the following year, there was a box parade, which involved taking a large box, putting suspenders on it, decorating the box and wearing it in a parade. People then voted on which box float they liked the best, and the winners were crowned and given a prize. 

The Creole and cajun festivities have been staples of New Orleans’ culture for a long time, with the tradition having evolved from religious practices dating centuries ago. Starting on the day before Ash Wednesday, the campus got its own little slice of Mardi Gras, with plans currently in place to host yet another celebration next spring.