Krewe of Tucumcari

The Krewe of Tucumcari was founded in 1947 when Frank Marks, L. A. Champange, and their wives took a trip on Route 66 out west to New Mexico. While there they heard an Apache legend of ill-fated love.  The story goes that Chief Wautonomah had a beautiful daughter named Kari for whom he wished to find a suitable husband.  Two suitors stepped forward; one named Tonopah and the other named Tocom.  To determine who was to marry Kari, the two warriors were to fight to the death.  Unbeknownst to Chief Wautonomah, Kari and Tocom were in love.  As the battle ensued, Kari watched hidden.  The two young men fought fiercely and in the end Tonopah plunged a knife into Tocom’s heart, killing him instantly.  In her grief, Kari ran onto the battle field, grabbed the knife and killed herself with it.  Shocked at the turn of events, Chief Wautonomah, in his grief picked up the knife and also killed himself.  As he died he cried “Tocom-Kari”.

This all-male krewe is the oldest continuously operating krewe in Baton Rouge.  They do not parade, but host an annual ball featuring an elaborate tableau.  Each ball has a theme that changes every year and the tableau is based on this theme.

On display on the second floor of the Main Library at Goodwood, just outside of the Special Collections department is a set of three costumes from the Krewe of Tucumcari:

The large orange costume was worn by Ball Captain Chester Welch in 2007. This was the Krewe’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding.  The costume represents Chief Wautonomah, the head of the Apache tribe that gave the krewe it’s name.  Featuring bright red, orange and yellow tunic, trousers and breech cloth decorated with bead work, the costume was designed by Susan Denoux and crafted by the krewe’s long time seamstress, Madge Gomez who passed away in 2011. The ensemble is topped with an impressive head dress measuring nearly 3 feet high.

The center costume on display is from 2009.  The theme of the ball this year was “Dance Dance Dance”.  Chester Welch served as “The King of Swing”.  This costume was also crafted by Madge Gomez.  The ensemble consists of a long sleeve tunic embellished with a treble clef on the front.  Topped with a gold lame sleeveless tunic and a large collar, both pieces are adorned with musical notes and fleur-de-lis.  When it was worn the ensemble was paired with tall gold boots and a custom-made gold scepter and crown, both featuring a fleur-de-lis design.

The third costume on display is from 2012.  The theme that year was “Tribute to Broadway”.  Emma Dozier was Queen Tucumcari LXV and took her bow as Anna Leonowens from the King and I. The cotton candy colored ball gown, designed by Masquerade Costumes of New Orleans, was based on a dress worn by Deborah Kerr in the 1956 film adaptation of the play.  The peau-de-soie antebellum ball gown which was slightly modified to have a less full skirt for easier motion and featured a matching train embellished with the “K of T” initials. The ensemble was finished with a Medici collar of gold lace and a scepter and crown with a classic filigree pattern of silver and Swarovski crystals (not pictured).

This display will be available through the end of February 2020.

post by Melissa Eastin

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