When Alexia Plaisance leaves a comment like, “I feel like I’m back home. 💜💚💛” on a Facebook post about Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando Resort, she’s not just using purple, green, and gold heart-emojis for the heck of it. As a Louisiana-native, she actually knows how meaningful those colors are to Mardi Gras, the significance of doubloons, and the best of the best bead-throwing techniques.
Alexia Plaisance is a big-time fan of the Big Easy event, whether it’s happening on Bourbon Street in New Orleans or Hollywood Boulevard at Universal Studios Florida.
Alexia grew up traveling to Universal since she was six months old (“My family wasted no time,” she says), and, because her school gave the entire week of their local Mardi Gras event off, Alexia’s family would visit Florida during it. She remembers from growing up that some of her friends thought it was funny that her family would travel to a place that puts on a Mardi Gras event when they had Mardi Gras right there out their front door.
“I’d just tell people,” Alexia starts. “‘Listen, if you love Mardi Gras but you don’t love the rowdiness that is Bourbon Street, go to Universal. They have the food, the floats, the beads for you to catch AND they have thrill rides, characters, and shows. It just all adds a little extra something something.’”
Plus, due to the sheer nature of Mardi Gras being a global event, it’s not like Alexia and her family didn’t still get to experience it in their hometown. A lot of the time, they would attend at home and then travel to Florida to the theme parks to bring their own special Mardi Gras flare.
“We would bring with us our beads that we had caught from the floats back home,” Alexia says. “I would make it a competition with my siblings — we would go into the parks with a neck loaded with beads and we would give them out to everyone and try our best to spread the Mardi Gras feel around.”
The Mardi Gras feel is sort of an inherited family heirloom in the Plaisance home. Both of Alexia’s parents have served as king and queen in their local Mardi Gras krewes (basically a social group that bands together to host Mardi Gras during the season). Alexia remembers the year the theme was moon and stars and her mother dressed in a gown representing a constellation. Or when her dad was king of his krewe and dressed the part.
“He had one of those kingly neck pieces,” Alexia says. “It was so gorgeous — a beautiful cluster of gems and gold wrapped around his head to make it known that he was king. He had a flowing train, and it was mine and my siblings’ job to follow close behind and straighten it out if he made a turn.”
Alexia ended up serving in a few different roles in the krewes back home — a page to the king and queen, a junior maid, and eventually an actual maid who rode the floats and threw the beads. Not only does serving in a krewe mean a role in the parade, but there are also grand events to attend.
“We start celebrating Mardi Gras around mid-January,” Alexia says. “That’s usually when all the balls happen — the announcement parties as we call them, when they announce our future king and queen of the year. They keep it very hush-hush until the announcement party. So it’s a big to-do, they come out dressed in all of their beautiful gowns and their costumes and the masks with the feathers that go all the way to the top of the roof! It’s just so extravagant.”
A tried-and-true advocate for the authenticity of Universal’s Mardi Gras event, Alexia told me she “can’t imagine not having an Annual Pass” because it allows her to come and go to Universal — and more specifically Mardi Gras — several times throughout the event. In years past, she’s loved the concerts at the event and even been introduced to some of her now-favorite bands at them. She’s a believer that the floats are “the one thing that you really have to get right” and that Universal does. She loves the atmosphere that the street performers and the music creates. But for Alexia, it’s the food at Universal’s Mardi Gras event that really seals the deal.
“Oh I love the food so much,” Alexia says. “There are a lot of quote unquote Cajun places in Florida and most of them just cannot get it right. They think all we want is spice and don’t get me wrong, we season our food. But we’re not overzealous! Or they don’t spice at all and it’s like, ‘Have you BEEN to New Orleans?’ We need some oomph in our food. That’s why I love Universal, because even just getting the jambalaya, I know I’ll get that little kick at the end and it’s fantastic.”
With food being the centerpiece of the Mardi Gras 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval event at Universal Orlando, Alexia is very excited to sample all of the new, international offerings and some of the staple food items she’s come to expect from the event. And, given the difficulties of 2020 and the ways that traveling and visiting loved ones were impacted, Alexia is looking forward to that taste of authentic Mardi Gras that’s near her Orlando residence.
“It reminds me of home,” Alexia says. “I truly believe that from the music to the foods to the drinks to the beads to just to the people and atmosphere in general — it’s just fantastic. If I’m ever homesick, I love that time of year when I can come out and just hang around the parks. It kind of makes me tear up just thinking about it honestly because I’m super excited for this year. It’s definitely sentimental for me.”
We can’t wait to see you at this year’s Mardi Gras International Flavors of Carnaval! Get excited and learn more about all of the delicious, international food offerings and exciting entertainment available here.