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Endymion at 50: How Ed Muniz created Mardi Gras’ biggest parade

Keith Spera

The New Orleans Advocate

Matthew Hinton/The New Orleans Advocate
Endymion Captian Ed Muniz founded the parade 50 years ago.
Matthew Hinton/The New Orleans Advocate Endymion Captian Ed Muniz founded the parade 50 years ago.

Long before he won elections or struck it rich in radio, Ed Muniz was a good Catholic boy from Gentilly who loved Mardi Gras enough to start his own parade. In need of a name, he flipped through a library book about mythology. A description of Endymion, the Greek god of eternal youth and fertility, caught his eye.

Muniz had once placed a winning $2 bet on a horse named Endymion. Otherwise, “I never would have stopped on Endymion,” he recalled recently. “That book had a lot of pages in it.”

Fifty years later, Muniz, now 75, is still the captain, heart and soul of the Krewe of Endymion, which stages Carnival’s biggest, brashest parade.

With more than 3,000 members, an hourslong procession of marching bands and elaborate, multiunit floats, and an annual operating budget of $7 million, it is a superkrewe in every sense. If the weather cooperates, hundreds of thousands of spectators will experience the 50th anniversary of Endymion on Saturday.

That it is the only major New Orleans parade not to follow the now-standard Uptown route — it starts at the border of Lakeview and Mid-City — reflects Muniz’s founding philosophy. His parade would value fun over formality, salt-of-the-earth types over scions of society.

It still does. The postparade Endymion Extravaganza at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is essentially a mass tailgate party for 20,000 people in formal wear. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and rapper Pitbull are this year’s headliners.

“Our whole existence is to have fun,” Muniz said. “We must be doing something right.”

On Saturday, he will ride at the head of an epic parade that includes the riverboat-themed “Poppa Joe’s S.S. Endymion.” Muniz named it for his late father, who died three days before the float made its debut in 1976.

Despite its size, Endymion is, at its core, a family affair. Muniz’s three daughters each have served as queen. This year, his youngest granddaughter, Jamie Hanzo, will reign. His son-in-law Darryl d’Aquin is the organization’s vice president. D’Aquin’s son is on the board, and his father leads the float committee.

The extended family pitches in; dinner table discussions sometimes involve potential parade themes and entertainers.

Muniz, the patriarch of it all, has lived for decades — and often held office — in Jefferson Parish. But he reshaped Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

“The transformation of Endymion from an ordinary neighborhood parade into an extraordinary superparade is the result of pure genius, the genius of one Edmond Muniz,” said Arthur Hardy, publisher of the annual Mardi Gras Guide. “It would not be an exaggeration to declare him one of the most significant figures in the history of Mardi Gras.”

Or, as d’Aquin put it, “It’s Ed’s world. We just live in it.”

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