How St. Patrick’s Day krewes take floats from plywood frames to parties-on-wheels

Even after Mardi Gras is over, its floats are still rolling in Baton Rouge. This time, they’re coated in Kelly green paint and ordained with a lucky amount of four-leaf clovers.

Riders in the Wearin’ of the Green Parade can join as part of either a family-and-friends krewe or a business/corporation, according to the parade’s business manager, Mabyn Shingleton. This means the resulting floats range in size, scale and level of design.

“Most (parade participants) are people who want to put (the floats) together themselves,” Shingleton says.

Companies like the Gulf South Research Corporation own a prefabricated float and rewrap it every year, adjusting the theme as necessary, Shingleton adds.

But others are more ornate, designed by float artists and sculptors.

When Raising Cane’s CEO Todd Graves rode as grand marshal alongside Nelly in 2022, the company turned to Comogo Floats LLC. They asked the Plaquemine float manufacturer to build two floats for the parade.

A sculpture of the chicken finger chain’s dog mascot towered over a hand-painted, fringe-trimmed float. The elaborate design wouldn’t look out of place riding down St. Charles Avenue on Fat Tuesday.

Earl Comeaux, co-owner of Comogo, first entered the float business about nine years ago when he decided to start making floats for Plaquemine’s Krewe of Comogo parade. He visited Dan Kelly, the president of the Krewe of Endymion, and toured the krewe’s floats. Comeaux, who has owned a general contracting firm for 40 years, had no experience building floats at the time.

Now, he has a fleet of more than 40 floats, 20 of which will roll in this year’s Wearin’ of the Green Parade.

Comogo has been outfitting floats for the parade for around eight years and also supplies floats to several other Mardi Gras parades around the region. Suffice to say, it has gotten the art of the float down to a science.

“On the St. Pat’s floats, you know they’re all going to be the Irish theme, so you try to mix that up as much as possible to give each one a little different look,” Comeaux explains.

For an event like St. Patrick’s Day, a company will typically give Comogo a few guidelines of what must be included in their float’s artwork.

Comogo will then design a complete paint job for the float and create a mockup for approval. By the end of the process, it’s as much a product of Comogo’s team as it is of the krewe that will be riding in it.

“The uniqueness of float building is that we have no plans, just a vision and everything is done off thoughts as you go,” Comeaux says. “(We) just get more and more creative wanting to do different things.”

This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of 225 magazine.