Mardi Gras hits Universal Studios

By Anna Gerrol
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One of the largest and most outrageous parties in the country is being held right around the corner. For the past 16 years, Universal Orlando Resort has hosted their own family oriented version of Mardi Gras, packed with everything that you’d find in New Orleans; authentic Cajun cuisine, hand-picked bands and performers, colorfully decorated floats, and plenty of beads.

“If you can’t be in New Orleans or if you can’t get enough of Mardi Gras, then Universal Orlando is the place to be,” said Jim Timon, senior vice-president of entertainment for Universal Orlando Resort. “We bring all of what makes Mardi Gras great together with national-level musical artists to create a family-friendly celebration that fills the entire theme park.”

The most spectacular part of Mardi Gras is definitely the parade. A ton of time goes into building the floats and making sure they are designed as elaborately as possible. Blaine Kern Artists from Kern Studios, who also builds many of the actual New Orleans Mardi Gras floats, has a large part in the production of Universal’s parade.

“It takes about a month for our artists to design and create it, and then we work hand in hand with Kern Studios in New Orleans,” said Lora Wallace, member of the creative department.

As soon as Halloween is over, construction of the floats begins, which is a full 4 months ahead of time. Each year, the team tries to outdo the previous parade, and improve on anything they can.

“This year, out of the 12 floats, 11 of them have two levels. We also added affects. On the fire float we have actual live flames. On the water float we have bubbles. On the earth float we have a lot of smoke to make it kind of look like a morning dew,” added Wallace.

The theme this year is Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. In addition to these four new floats, some of the same floats from previous years are still featured, such as the Gator float and the King and Queen float. They each make their way through the park, while carrying hundreds of riders who toss out pounds of colorful beads to anxious spectators.

Not only are the floats a big deal, but the actual parade performers are very important as well. According to Wallace, “Six-hundred people auditioned for the parade, and we hired about 100 people.” With so many individuals interested in being a part of the parade, it’s no wonder why this event is so popular.

Following the parade every Saturday night, guests can keep the party going with a live concert. This year’s line-up consists of all types of performers, from Rock to Pop to R&B. Newer acts such as Pitbull, Sean Kingston, and Neon Trees are set to perform along with older groups like The Beach Boys.

“There’s something about the music. When I hear it, all I want to do is dance. It just moves me and takes over,” Canadian resident Andria Dopp explained in regards to her first visit to Mardi Gras. With 15 different and unique headliners, there’s bound to be something to please everyone.

Along with these big names also comes a select group of New Orleans bands performing the best of “The Big Easy’s Blues, Jazz, and Zydeco.” These performers have been pulled straight from Louisiana and brought to Orlando exclusively for Mardi Gras. They perform every Saturday night in the “French Quarter Courtyard,” where the festivities continue. Here, you can find a variety of New Orleans inspired foods such as Jambalaya, Shrimp Po Boy sandwiches, Kings Cake, and more.

Whether you’re a food connoisseur, a music buff, or just a regular party-goer, Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is sure to keep you entertained.

The festivities continue every Saturday and select Fridays through April 23, so do not miss out! For more information or to purchase tickets, visit