Although Susan and Duane Hoff are Napa Valley residents, the owners of Fantesca Estate and Winery have been attending Mardi Gras every year since 2001. This year in honor of their 29th wedding anniversary, they were named King and Queen of the Krewe of Mid-City, a parade group that was founded in 1933 and is known for being one of the best day parades of the season. Each king and queen have a specially designed outfit with scepters and crowns made just for the occasion. Here, in her own words, Susan describes the unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience of Mardi Gras parade day.
5:00 a.m. Parade day as the Queen of the Krewe of Mid-City means an early start. Which is not always an easy thing in New Orleans! As a body builder, a big event calls for a quick “pump” to get my heart racing, keep my muscles full and improve flexibility. The natural endorphin rush matches my outlook for such an exciting day! After my workout, a healthy breakfast is in order before a full day of festivities begins.
7:00 a.m. After several months of formal events to celebrate Duane and my reign, I’ve found my absolute favorite hair stylist and makeup artist in the city. Lucky for me they are willing to meet me and my daughter, Chelsea, at the crack of dawn so we can be parade-ready!
9:00 a.m. Once Duane and I are in full costume, we set off to greet the rest of the riders who started their day with a big group breakfast. With everyone in full regalia, spirits are high and we are excited to get in the limousines with our police escorts and head off to the floats! But before we take off, Duane and I take a moment to toast everyone in the Krewe and all the riders to thank them for being with us on such a special day.
11:00 a.m. It’s time for a parade! For safety reasons, I have to be strapped to a stand on the float, but my arms are free to wave, blow kisses, and use my scepter. The rush of seeing all the smiling faces in the crowd is intoxicating. This is my first time riding on my own float in a Mardi Gras parade as a Queen and everything my husband told me is true—we get to bring joy to everyone along the route! My two favorite moments were toasting the Mayor of New Orleans and presenting my father with a custom scepter to thank him for all his love and support.
3:00 p.m. The thrill of the parade keeps my energy up, even though this is the final day of a full week of royal events. I am so honored to have shared this once-in-a-lifetime fairy tale moment with my husband and my children, and I’m very eager to return to the quiet of my suite. Duane and I are going to relax with a bottle of one of our favorite wines from Fantesca Estate & Winery, our business in Napa Valley. New Orleans is a cocktail city, but a glass of wine makes it feel like home away from home. Especially when Duane and I are toasting to our 29th wedding anniversary as King and Queen!
7:00 p.m. In the evening after the parade, we joined our local friends at my favorite NOLA haunt, Restaurant August—Executive Chef John Besh’s flagship restaurant with a fantastic wine list to celebrate their daughter’s 25 birthday (she was also one of my Maids). It’s a difficult reservation to get and having friends with connections like Terry, of Terry Cambise Events, as well as owning a wine brand in Napa Valley, helps secure us a large table in their wine room over a triple-booked Mardi Gras weekend.
10:00 p.m. We have been going non-stop since we landed in New Orleans two weeks ago. Tonight is all about a quiet evening in and a good night of sleep!
Photos courtesy of Oscar Rajo.