The Joan of Arc parade, which marched triumphantly through the packed streets of the French Quarter on Saturday, is absolutely one of the best parades in a town that knows a little something about parades.

The Jan. 6 procession is a cultural twofer, celebrating both the start of traditional Carnival season and the birth of our favorite medieval teenage warrior woman.

If you’ve never seen it, the Joan of Arc parade is like a roving Renaissance festival, with lots of kings, queens, knights, shepherds, monks, saints, maidens, and such. The procession first took to the streets in 2008. 

January 6 is the traditional start of the Mardi Gras season. It’s also the birthday of the 15th-century teenage warrior Joan of Arc. One of New Orleans’ best parades celebrates both.

Heaven only knows what Joan herself would think. She would probably dig the abundant religious allusions and nods to French patriotism — she was all about faithfulness and fealty after all.

She would have surely sheathed her sword in order to applauded the jugglers and stilt walkers, the giant flying dragon puppet and the droning bagpipers — medieval entertainment would have been Joanie’s jam.

And she may have blushed behind her helmet visor at all the personal attention, including the young women dressed to look like her in various stages of life, the four-tiered birthday cake, and all the banners and flags in her honor.

Joan probably wouldn’t have liked the “Flaming Heretics” marching group, and the fact that some parade participants were handing out books of matches. Absolutely nobody wants to be reminded of being burned at the stake, right?


Artist Max Bernardi glows in her handmade flame costume for the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc parade in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Saturday, January 6, 2024. (Photo by Chris Granger, The Times-Picayune)

It’s hard to say how the fearless, 15th-century cross-dresser might have felt about the silly, surrealistic, anachronistic parts of the parade. Like the fake rolling sheep, the tiny bars of soap passed out by some marchers to wash away our sins, the tiny cocktail swords handed out by others (meant for stabbing maraschino cherries, not English soldiers) and the fact that there was a boom box playing The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” as the beyond-beautiful troupe of silvery angels strode by.

Joan might not have been comfortable with the vaguely disrespectful tone of the whole affair. But here’s the thing, Joanie, during Carnival, vague disrespectfulness is, uh, de rigueur. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you, baby. It means we do. It means that, for one night anyway, you can get down off that big golden horse on Decatur Street and loosen up a little.

See, Joan, our reverence for you, as a symbol of New Orleans’ debt to French culture, is cool. But being able to have a little fun with it is cooler still. That’s what makes your parade so blessed good.

For those of us who have seen the parade before, there were notable changes. Shout out to the Krewe des Fleurs, who debuted their 2024 lighted floral costumes modeled on the clematis blossom. As a Fleurs rep put it, “as the ‘queen of climbers,’ the clematis overcomes many obstacles to reach new heights.” Just like Joan did. We loved how the botanical darlings danced around a Maypole.


The Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc parades and dances through the French Quarter of New Orleans on Saturday, January 6, 2024. (Photo by Chris Granger, The Times-Picayune)

We miss the real horse that the “Warrior Joan” usually rides. We liked the rolling imitation white horse too, but by the time the parade reached the corner of Chartres and St. Phillip streets, “Warrior Joan” wasn’t riding anymore. No big deal. The young woman in the role of “Warrior Joan, AKA The Maid of Orleans” was Marley Marsalis, granddaughter of the late jazz master Ellis Marsalis. She was adorable with or without her steed. All hail!

Speaking of steeds, an NOPD motorcycle leading the parade apparently caught fire on Chartres Street, causing the crowd to momentarily scatter. We hope that neither the officer nor anyone else was harmed. In the aftermath, it appeared that everybody was OK.

Note: This story was updated with new information.


The Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc parades through the French Quarter of New Orleans on Saturday, January 6, 2024. (Photo by Chris Granger, The Times-Picayune)

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