A krewe (pronounced in the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season.
The word is thought to have been coined in the early 19th century by an organization calling themselves Ye Mistick Krewe of Comus, as an archaic affectation; with time it became the most common term for a New Orleans Carnival organization. The Mistick Krewe of Comus itself was inspired by a Mobile mystic society, with annual parades in Mobile, Alabama, called the Cowbellion de Rakin Society that dated from 1830. Rex is the oldest parading krewe since 1872 is responsible for the official Mardi Gras flag and purple, green and gold colors.
Super-Krewes such as Endymion, Bacchus, and Orpheus are considered the biggest and normally have celebrity riders. Endymion is celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. They have over 30 floats with at least 3000 members and features the largest float in history that holds over 250 riders. Endymion ends its route inside the New Orleans Superdome with a huge Extravaganza with over 20,000 people waiting inside.
Krewe members are assessed fees in order to pay for the parade or ball. Criteria for krewe membership varies similarly, ranging from exclusive organizations largely limited to relatives of previous members to other organizations open to anyone able to pay the membership fee. Krewes with low membership fees may also require members to work to help build and decorate the parade floats and make their own costumes; higher priced krewes hire professionals to do this work.