Mardis Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu
Location: Lake Charles, Louisiana
Type of Venue: Off-site, museum
Capacity: Up to 450 guests
Nearby Accommodations: Holiday Inn and Suites Lake Charles South
Anne Monlezun wears many hats — figuratively and literally. This former dance teacher is not only a seamstress, designer and owner of Lords and Ladies, Inc., a company that makes formal wear and fashion headpieces, but also the leader and director of costuming of a Lake Charles Mardi Gras Krewe.
Aside from Monlezun’s long-standing involvement in Mardi Gras parades, it was her passion for glitz and pageantry that ultimately inspired her to open the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu on 12th Night in 1998. The museum houses the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes in the southern United States, with more than 280 costumes on display throughout six different rooms. Groups of up to 80 people can visit the museum, where they’ll be given a brief introduction and history before being set free on a self-guided tour.
The first room on the tour explains the history of Mardi Gras, followed by the Captain’s Den and a third room that helps unravel the art behind costume design. A history of king cakes and the history and symbolism of 12th Night are explained in the following room, and the fifth room’s costume displays delight guests with elaborate gowns, costumes and masks. The final room acts as the finale for the museum; there, guests can climb on board a Mardi Gras parade float to enjoy a re-creation of the sights and excitement of these momentous parades.
The museum sits on the second floor of the historic Central School Arts and Humanities Center off Kirby Street in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the heart of what has become known as Imperial Calcasieu. Although the Mardi Gras Museum has no rooms available for groups to rent, the building in which it resides offers meeting spaces groups can use for meetings and events. From king cake tastings after museum tours to board meetings with a twist, the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu offers the chance to celebrate in style.
The location of the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu within the Central School Arts and Humanities Center allows for its guests to take advantage of a number of unique meeting spaces throughout this National Register of Historic Places building. The Theater is the largest space within the building, with space for up to 450 guests, and the Alcove snack bar area can comfortably seat up to 30 guests. There are three classrooms that groups can reserve for meetings or events, one of which is large enough for up to 100 guests. The other two can hold up to 30 guests each.
Since the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu does not have an on-site caterer, groups are free to select a caterer of their own choosing. The staff at the museum are happy to refer groups to trusted caterers or food trucks in the area, including bakers behind the much beloved Lake Charles king cake at Cinnamon’s Bakery. For a broader spread of culinary options, many groups choose to use Marilyn’s Flowers and Catering, which can supply everything from table linens, custom decorations and floral arrangements to event planning and, of course, food. Alcohol is allowed.
Groups are in charge of bringing their own audiovisual equipment and decorations, but the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu can provide tables and chairs for groups meeting within its historic building. The staff at the museum gladly organizes king cake tastings for groups to enjoy before or after a museum tour and can even arrange for the Mardi Gras Revelers to greet the group wearing costumes and playing authentic Mardi Gras strut music. For the ultimate experience, groups can opt for a personal greeting by local legend Gumbeaux Gator, the official Lake Charles mascot.
At the Museum
Mardi Gras never ends at the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu. Groups can tour the museum at a discounted rate of $5 per person, normally $10 for adults and $5 for anyone under 18 or over 50. The entire museum typically takes about 45 minutes to complete; groups are encouraged to try on masks, crowns, headpieces, collars and even a few costumes to immerse themselves in the pomp and circumstance of a Mardi Gras parade. Typical add-ons for groups at the museum include king cake tastings, rum tastings and visits to the two art galleries in the building.