The brainchild of artist and entrepreneur Ryan Ballard, Chewbacchus maintains a mission of inclusivity and accessibility, so long as its members keep in mind that their priorities for the evening are centered around costumes, spoofs and overall revelry. Even the organization’s name is a satirical mash-up that acknowledges Bacchus, the Roman god of wine (and the namesake of another major New Orleans parade), and Chewbacca, the beloved Star Wars Wookiee. Its members pay just $42 to participate, a cheeky numerical reference to the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series.
Comprising the organization are a number of festively nerd-ish sub-krewes (“krewe” is a local term for a Carnival organization that puts on a parade or soirée). Examples include The Wonder Women, in honor of the famed comic book series; the Leijorettes, who honor Princess Leia; and the Rolling Elliotts, who ride bikes with aliens in the basket, as a nod to E.T. Other highlights are the Krewe of the Living Dead, the Krewe of P.U.E.W.C. (People for the Inclusion of Unicorns, Elves, and Whinebots in Chewbacchus). Unlike some organizations that throw beads from massive floats, members of Chewbacchus parade primarily on foot or via (often elaborately decorated) bicycle, handing out handmade tokens that reflect their theme.
More than just a Mardi Gras krewe, though, Chewbacchus is a registered nonprofit and, in the eyes of the law, an official religion after its founder filled out the federal and state forms necessary to achieve the same nonprofit corporation status granted to mainstream churches (one perk of this is that some of the krewe’s “overlords,” a.k.a. officers, can officiate geek-themed weddings). Chewbacchus also hosts art camps for kids and other charitable events throughout the year.
Since its inception eight years ago, the spectacle has become a popular alternative to the city’s more traditional parades that take place across town – but perhaps it’s best to say that it’s quickly becoming a colorful and much-favored tradition on its own.
Check out more photos below and learn more about the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus here.