Krewe of Galatea celebrates 45th year
Charter members of the Krewe of Galatea gather annually for a luncheon to reminisce about the organization that was created in 1969 by the late Adrienne Engel. The group purchased a pier mirror that has been donated and placed in front of the Paul Schreier Memorial Theater at the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium. Charter members also purchased a plaque that displays the names of all 120 original members of the krewe. The plaque is displayed in front of the auditorium’s office. On hand for the donation were, seated from left, Mary Catherine Gray, Audrey Thibodeaux, Rosemarie Vining, Lorraine Brownell Moreau and Muriel Manuel. Standing from left are Katherine Distefano, Carolyn Fondren, Dez Kapp, Gail Davis, Marina Lee and Honorine Abel.
(The Daily Review Photo by Diane Miller Fears)
The Krewe of Galatea, the ladies’ mystic Mardi Gras krewe in Morgan City, celebrates its 45th birthday this year.
Formed in 1969 by the late Adrienne Engel, the krewe got its start when Engel announced at a sewing group that she wished to form what would later become Galatea.
Engel said in a 2004 interview, “I called, and I got some of the ladies to help me call different prominent ladies in the town, and that’s how we got our membership.”
Dues that first year were $150, and the first meeting was held at Sacred Heart School’s cafeteria. It is estimated that membership that year topped 50.
Fast forward one year. The krewe held its first ball and parade in 1970.
Charter member Carolyn Fondren said “the first ball almost didn’t happen because the costumer announced that afternoon that the krewe costumes weren’t finished. Like true Galateans, many ladies carried their sewing machines to the auditorium and completed the job. The ball started exactly at 8 p.m.” That ball was the story of Galatea. In Greek mythology, Pygmalion, a sculptor, makes an ivory statue representing his ideal of womanhood and then falls in love with his own creation. He named her Galatea. The goddess Aphrodite brings the statue to life in answer to his prayer.
Fondren said that for the first parade, Galatea rented floats from a Houma krewe.
“They were barged to Morgan City by the generosity of several business men. They were housed in the old (National Guard) armory where we redecorated them. The parade started exactly at 2 p.m. and was a huge success,” Fondren said.
Catherine Guillory was the first queen of Galatea, and Julian Fernandez, instrumental in getting floats for the first parade, was king.
Galatea charter member Muriel Manuel said in 2004, “I remember Adrienne and Bea Peebles going around with the crown pretending to put it on different people’s heads until they got to Catherine Guillory … she was our first queen.”
After that year, the krewe made its own floats. Engel bought wagon bases from Sears; husbands built the floats from the ground up; and krewe members were taught by McKinley Cantrel — the float master of Comus, Proteus and Momus — to cover and decorate the floats. Those floats are still in use today.
Charter member Rosemarie Vining said, “Each float group of ladies paper painted and decorated their float according to that year’s theme.”
Additionally, Fondren said 35 husbands each loaned the krewe $1,000 to build the Galatea den, where floats, props and costumes are stored.
To raise funds, the krewe has held bazaars and other fundraisers including the Plantation Breakfast and Style Show which was held in conjunction with the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival for many years.
Preparing for Mardi Gras is a yearlong event. Carnival festivities barely end before the board meets to decide on the theme and court for the coming year. Float lieutenants meet to discuss float decorations, all the while trying to keep the theme and court members a secret from the general krewe membership.
“Secrecy is very, very strict. Maybe four people know who the court is before they are announced at the ball,” Manuel said in 2004.
To commemorate its 45th year, Galatea placed a gilded mirror at the entrance to the Paul Schreier Memorial Theater at the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium. Charter members also purchased a plaque that displays the names of all 120 original members of the krewe. The plaque is displayed in front of the auditorium’s office.
Fondren said of the donation, “we had a plaque made in the 1980s that included charter members in krewe at that time, but it eliminated the ladies who had died. … I particularly wanted something for the auditorium since we use the whole auditorium during Mardi Gras.
Galatea parades at 2 p.m. Sunday in Morgan City. The procession will organize on Second Street in Morgan City under the U.S. 90 Grizzaffi Bridge and proceed north to Onstead Street, Sixth Street, Marguerite Street (where a toast will take place at the reviewing stand), Ninth Street, Clothilde Street and Victor II Boulevard, ending at the auditorium.
The children’s Krewe of Nike will parade with Galatea.