It’s a thrill to ride in any Mardi Gras parade, but it must be amazing to ride in Rex led by the King of Carnival. Gretna District 4 Councilman Jackie John Berthelot has wonderful memories from his years of riding in Rex. This year is extra special since the Rex Organization will be commemorating its 150th anniversary, 1872-2022.
Berthelot started his ride with Rex in 1995 on Float 8. You can find him 28 years later, on Mardi Gras 2022 riding Float 29B, “The Court Jester,” neutral ground side.
A few tidbits, the Rex membership is never referred to as the Krewe of Rex, but just as Rex or the Rex Organization. One has to be invited to join Rex. One can, however get to ride as a substitute rider. Joey Cargol, our local adventurer and Jason DiMarco, Gretna’s deputy police chief have both enjoyed riding in Rex with an invite through their friend, Jackie.
“Since the founding of the Rex Organization in 1872 its traditions have helped define Mardi Gras. Rex’s Proclamation invites his subjects to the grand celebration of Carnival. His royal colors of purple, green, and gold are to this day the colors of Mardi Gras, and the song played in the first Rex parade, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” has become Carnival’s anthem. Rex and his Queen preside over the Rex Ball, Carnival’s glittering conclusion,” as published on the Rex website.
Berthelot is good friends with Christian T. “Christy” Brown, who was the Captain of Rex for 10 years, and the King in 2015. An interesting fact is that the Rex Captain’s identity is a secret to outsiders and he is known as Sir Bathurst.
“Mardi Gras has always been an important part of my life. My introduction to Mardi Gras was at St. Joseph Catholic School in Gretna where I spent my elementary school years. In 1959, Kevin Hotard and I were picked by lottery as pages in the St. Joseph Kindergarten Mardi Gras Court. The king was Tucker Frederick, but I can’t remember the queen’s name,” Berthelot said.
“At 14, I volunteered to work with Willie Hinkle, who was the Captain of Grela, to set up the ball. In return for that favor, those of us who worked would get a green Grela doubloon, a treasure, and two tickets to the King’s Room where they served libations. It was great because I could invite a girl and impress her with the champagne that was served.
“At 18, I joined Grela as a member and was assigned to the float where Jules Kissinger was float lieutenant. I always volunteered for any job they needed me to do, anything, sweeping, whatever and worked my way up to a board position and later, an officer. In the early 1980s, I was elected as Captain where I served for three years. I was very against moving the Grela parade to Mardi Gras.
“Not wanting to ride on Mardi Gras Day once Grela made that decision, I joined the Krewe of Alla. In 2010, I was invited to join Knights of Babylon and I still belong today as a riding lieutenant. My son Alex, 21 is also a member of Babylon and one year my other son, Colin, 32, rode with us as well.
“Loving Mardi Gras like I do, I still belong to Krewe of Nereus, founded in 1896, and Krewe of Athenians, 1909. These krewes are over a hundred years old and do not parade today, but have a vibrant membership and ball,” he said.
Berthelot was born to Joyce Brown Berthelot and Jackie Phillip Berthelot and has 3 siblings. His late mom, Joyce, who was a devoted longtime volunteer at St. Joseph Church in Gretna, was a true Rex fan who looked forward to the Ladies Ducal Pin that he gave her every year. In fact, he pinned one on her before her burial in 2018.
The councilman is a graduate of Archbishop Shaw High School ‘72 and of Nichols State University. He has served as councilman since 2013. His day job has spanned 40 years as a pharmaceutical rep. Now he is a private consultant to independent pharmacies.
“Mardi Gras ends with the Comus Ball. The Rex Captain blows his whistle and the Rex anthem, “If Ever I Cease to Love” is played. The Marine Band play a medley to recognize the U. S. Armed Forces. The Rex Organization has always been devoted to recognizing the Military. Then there is a Members Walk. The Captain of Comus makes his appearance and invites Rex to attend the Comus Ball. Together they toast to Mardi Gras and close Mardi Gras and the Carnival Season,” Berthelot said.
To close out the 2022 Carnival Season in Gretna, plan on being at “Grela Celebrates Lundi Gras 2022” onMon, Feb 28, 6:00 -10:00 p.m. at the Gretna Marketplace. Bring the family and come “Party on the Huey” at this free annual event. Food and drinks will be available for sale. Enjoy music by Chicken on the Bone!