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3:24 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

'Les Bon Temps Rouler' To The Auction Block

Originally published on Wed March 7, 2012 6:08 pm

In New Orleans, the 2012 Mardi Gras is just a memory. But for those who collect Mardi Gras memorabilia, the celebration lasts all year.

Some of those collectors will be at the Kenner Mardi Gras Museum on Thursday. It's about a half-hour drive from the French Quarter — not a convenient trip for many tourists, and declining attendance is one reason it closed after two decades. Now its collection will be auctioned.

Herbie LeBlanc, president of the Mardi Gras Memorabilia Society, has been collecting for more than 20 years. Among the more valuable items for sale, he says, is a 1911 inkwell.

"Very hard to find one with the original glass insert in it — this one still has the glass insert," LeBlanc says. It was given as a favor to women who danced with a Mardi Gras "krewe" member, he says. Nearby, there's something even more rare: scrolls given to the queen of the Rex Krewe.

Passing through a couple of rooms at the museum, LeBlanc points out something impressively flamboyant — even by Mardi Gras standards: a 1974 AMC Gremlin that a local artist covered with Mardi Gras beads.

"She's even got the hubcaps completely circled, with mostly purple beads," LeBlanc says.

The Gremlin will likely draw a lot of bids, but LeBlanc has doubts about whether some other items will move.

"How many costumed mannequins can you put in your house?" he asks.

The museum collection was created with donations, and in the days leading up to the auction, the city of Kenner has worked hard to return whatever donors want back.

Liz Canik dropped by to pick up dozens of costume-design sketches drawn by her late uncle, Larry Youngblood. She has hundreds of her uncle's drawings, she says, and while many are unmarked, she can sometimes tell when he created them by the face on the page. It took awhile, but she figured out that he often used his current girlfriend as a model.

"One decade it might be a particular blonde. Another it's this beautiful redhead. So, he was inspired," says Canik, laughing.

Proceeds To Benefit The Neighborhood

The Kenner Mardis Gras Museum opened 20 years ago. Canik says it's a shame it's closing now because it helped tourists understand Mardi Gras better.

"They can get up close and personal and read the history of the clubs and the krewes and see how far back a lot of them actually do go," Canik says.

While a few people, like Canik, have picked up their items, there's still plenty to sell. Auctioneer Bradley Mutz with ServCorp International says he has divided the items into lots, but there's so much in the museum, he might have missed a few things.

"We'll tag it right there in the middle of the auction," Mutz says. "I'm not going to turn it away; I'm going to sell it!"

The city of Kenner says proceeds will be used to improve the neighborhood around the former museum.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Mardi Gras 2012 is just a memory now, but for those who collect Mardi Gras memorabilia, it never really ends. Tomorrow, in Kenner, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans, there is an auction. A museum there has closed and its collection is up for sale, and NPR's Jeff Brady got a look at some of the costumes, beads and other items that will keep the good times rolling for some lucky bidders.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: We're outside the Kenner Mardi Gras Museum, which is about a half hour drive from the French Quarter. That's not a convenient trip for many tourists and declining attendance is one reason it closed. We're about to go inside to check out some of the treasures.

HERBIE LEBLANC: We're passing by some of the costumed mannequins that will be for sale.

BRADY: Our guide is Herbie LeBlanc. He's been collecting Mardi Gras memorabilia for more than 20 years. LeBlanc points out a rare 1911 metal inkwell. He says it was given as a favor to women who danced with a Mardi Gras crew member.

LEBLANC: Very hard to find with the original glass insert in it. This one still has the glass insert.

BRADY: Nearby, scrolls given to the queen of the Rex Krewe. Pass through a couple rooms and LeBlanc points out something impressively flamboyant, even by Mardi Gras standards. It's a 1974 AMC Gremlin that a local artist covered with Mardi Gras beads.

LEBLANC: She's even got the hubcaps completely circled with mostly purple beads.

BRADY: It'll be interesting to see if somebody bids on that.

LEBLANC: I think they will. You know, there are some items that I have doubts whether they'll sell because, you know, how many costumed mannequins can you put in your house?

BRADY: The museum was built on donations, and on the days leading up to the auction, the city of Kenner is working hard to return whatever donors want back.

Liz Canik is here to pick up dozens of costume sketches drawn by her late uncle.

LIZ CANIK: Some of them don't have a name on them, so I don't know what they are. (Unintelligible). Luckily, somebody stamped it on there.

BRADY: Canik says she has hundreds of her uncle's drawings. While many are unmarked, sometimes she can tell when he created them by the face. It took a while, but she figured out he often used his current girlfriend as a model.

CANIK: One decade, it might be a particular blonde. Another, it's this beautiful redhead, and I would put them together and I'd go, yeah. There's definitely something to that. And when I would check, he'd say, oh, yes. Oh, yes. We dated. Oh, she was beautiful. So he was inspired.

BRADY: The Kenner Mardi Gras Museum opened 20 years ago. Canik says it's a shame it's closing now because it helped tourists better understand all the hard work and history that goes into Mardi Gras.

While a few people like Canik have picked up their items, there's still plenty to sell. Auctioneer Bradley Mutz says he's divided up items into lots, but there's so much in the museum, he might have missed a few things.

BRADLEY MUTZ: And, you know, I'm not going to turn them away. I'm going to say, all right. Well, give me a sticker. We'll tag it right there in the middle of the auction and I'll be like, hey, now, I got $100, a hundred and a quarter, a hundred and a half, two hundred over there. I'm not going to turn it away. I'm going to sell it.

BRADY: The auction begins tomorrow at 10:00 in the morning. The city says proceeds will be used to improve the neighborhood around the former museum.

Jeff Brady, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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