What do kazoo-playing, pink umbrella-carrying women have in common with cave-dwellers, gypsies, cows, Hollywood stars, and toga-wearing females riding emus? They're all the same women—the Krewe of Kazoo. Since they first blew their kazoos in front of the Buckethead Judges 20 years ago, the Krewe of Kazoo has made their own brand of fun fit right in with the St. Paddy's Day Parade theme, and then some.
Mara Hartmann explained the kazoos thusly: "The only thing we could get together on was that we all could play 'When the Saints Go Marching In' on the kazoo." The ladies carried their signature umbrellas—decked out with beads, stickers, appliqués—and wore homemade costumes (mostly pink and green). They'll be blowing that same song on their kazoos again this year—the 23rd parade's theme just happens to be "When the Saints Go Marching In …"
Some of the Krewe will be wearing new uniforms, while others will sport ones from previous years, complete with a pageant banner announcing the year it was in the parade. You just might spot 1997's "Emu Brute" costume when they, tongue in cheek, committed a stabbing a la Brutus and Julius Caesar—"Emu Brute" and an effigy of Caesar sporting Malcolm White's face, to the tune of "Backstabbers." If you see that cave-dweller costume, you're looking at "2001 B. C.: A Cave Goddessey," their take "2001: A Space Oddity." The gypsy costume came along in 2002 when the parade theme, "A Palindrome," inspired the Krewe to become gypsies in love, "Amor a la Roma." They're proud of the fact that they won the "Marching Malfunction" award that year and $200, which they promptly donated to the Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital.
Way back in 1999, the Krewe dressed as black and white cows, celebrating "The End of T'era, Approaching the New Moo-linneum." They won $500 for "Zaniest and Most Creative," another donation made to the cause. They also collect $20 from each marcher, put it into the kitty, and use it to pay the float admission fee, even though they walk.
In 1996, Hartmann remembers the parade theme was something like "Irish I Was A Movie Star." The Krewe marched to their interpretation—"A Star is Born"—as pregnant movie stars, complete with long evening gowns from Goodwill, in all shades of pink, long white gloves, big platinum blonde wigs, sunglasses and protruding tummies. At the street dance afterward, Hartmann said one guy came up to them, telling them how great they looked, reaching to pat a nearby tummy. As fate would have it, he managed to pat the only genuinely pregnant one among them. "We scared him good!" Hartmann laughed.
The core group of the Krewe is from Jackson, but they'll be coming in from all over—Nashville, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Little Rock. One is even marching again after moving back from Portugal. "Our only real requirement," Hartmann told me, "is that you be a natural-born female." One year, only one Krewe member could march—Hartmann can't remember all the reasons why—so Gay Reynolds, by marching as the lone Kazoo, earned the title of Queen.
Another way the Krewe of Kazoo raises money for the hospital is their Thursday night Marching Malfunction Party. This event, held in Hal & Mal's Red Room, is free and open to the public. There will be a big jar for donations, though, so why not come on down to the party that honors the Krewe of Kazoo's marchers who're celebrating "20 Years of Doing It on Our Feet."