Six rows of neatly displayed wigs decorate a brick wall in Kerry Maloney’s French Quarter apartment. They’ve been collected from Mardi Gras costumes throughout the years. They’re decked out with stars and plumes, birds and elaborate handmade crowns. There’s the French aristocrat, the drum major, the conehead, and the wizard. Like the dozens of framed snapshots that cover the opposite wall, each of these wigs holds a memory and tells a story of spirited camaraderie.
“Mardi Gras has been so important to me,” Kerry explains, “It’s a thing that’s grown with me and my friends.” Kerry and her comrades have made an annual tradition of selecting a group costume theme for parading on Fat Tuesday. They start creating their festive ensembles as soon as each new year begins. “After New Year’s, it’s just glitter and glue until Mardi Gras,” she says with a smile, “The excitement of it just builds. And having the most glitter means winning.” Past themes have included aliens, sea creatures, a marching band and Vikings – complete with a shopping cart decorated as a ship.”
When Mardi Gras day finally arrives, the friends are awake before dawn. They paint their bodies, transform into character, and make their way to the Bywater neighborhood to march with The Society of Saint Anne, a walking club of merry revelers dressed in the most elaborate and over-the-top costumes imaginable. “We spend all day dancing in the streets, hugging and laughing. It’s the most glorious day ever,” Kerry gushes, “I can’t believe I lived for 22 years without Mardi Gras.”
When Kerry, a wedding photographer with a background in journalism, moved to New Orleans, she never thought about living in the French Quarter. “It didn’t seem like anyone lived here,” she explains. But something kept pulling her back to the neighborhood. When she spotted a rental sign in the window of a duplex with a porch – a rarity in the Quarter – she knew it was where she wanted to live.
Six years later, Kerry is still happy with her choice. “There’s always something going on here. Everyday someone walks by playing an instrument. Every week there’s a parade within earshot.” Even though she lives in an area heavily-trafficked by tourists, Kerry still feels a sense of community in her neighborhood. Her next door neighbor Jim has lived in the other half of her duplex for over 20 years and Catherine, who is in her 90s, has lived in the Creole Cottage across the street since the 1960s. “We look out for each other,” Kerry says.
Photos and text by Jacqueline Marque
Click here to see the full tour of Kerry's space on Apartment Therapy.
You can check out Kerrys' beautiful photography here.