Legendary New Orleans figure, Blaine Kern Sr., dies at 93
NEW ORLEANS — A leading figure in New Orleans' history and a key part of the city's Mardi Gras season has passed away.
According to WWL-TV, Blaine Kern Sr., the legendary artist and high energy entrepreneur who turned Mardi Gras float building into a multimillion-dollar business died Thursday.
Kern is widely recognized as one of the most important figures in 20th century Mardi Gras. The company he founded as Blaine Kern Artists in 1947, now known as Kern Studios, became known for designing and building parades for the biggest and best-known krewes, including Rex, Zulu, Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus and Muses. Because of that, Rex gave him the title “Mr. Mardi Gras” in 1988 and Kern, ever the shrewd businessman, trademarked it.
“I bring happiness to millions of people every year,” he said in a 1997 WWL-TV interview. “Everybody’s got a big grin on their face, everybody’s smiling and shouting and having fun, so I figure I’m bringing joy and fun to millions of people.”
Kern and his team introduced numerous parade innovations such as double-decker floats, multi-unit tandem floats, giant animated prop figures, splashy lighting and animatronics. The most recognizable floats in modern Mardi Gras are all Kern creations – including Rex’s Boeuf Gras, Jester and King’s float; the Bacchus King Kong family, Bacchagator and Bacchasaurus; the Orpheus Leviathan and Smokey Mary; signature floats for Endymion and Muses; and the floats that carry Zulu’s king and hierarchy of characters.
The artists and craftspeople of the company he created, Kern Studios – now overseen by his son Barry – also produce parades for nearly a dozen other krewes in the metro New Orleans area and along the Gulf Coast. They also produce parades, floats, figures and props for Universal Studios, the Walt Disney Company, Six Flags and commercial clients and theme parks worldwide. Kern liked to say that every day, somewhere on the planet, a Blaine Kern parade was rolling through the streets.
After Kern retired in 2010, though suffering from health conditions his creativity continued to thrive and he increased his philanthropic giving.
Organizations that benefited from his giving included Catholic Charities, the Little Sisters of the Poor and Holy Name of Mary School. Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Algiers (now the University of Holy Cross) named its library after him in recognition of his support.
His passing was confirmed by his wife, Holly.
In addition to his wife, Kern is survived by five children: Blaine Jr., Thais, Barry, Brian and Blainey; as well as 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchildren.
Kern was 93 years old.
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