NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The magic and mystery of Carnival bewitched Henri Schindler at a young age. He was five years old in 1946, when Carnival returned to the streets of New Orleans after a hiatus during World War II. Just a few years later, a mix of curiosity, ingenuity and bravery got him behind the scenes and triggered what has turned into a lifelong commitment to the spellbinding world of Carnival.
Schindler was at his grandmother's house in Algiers when he saw the empty floats from the Krewe of Alla rumbling by on their way back to the den. He followed them until he found himself outside the den. Curious, he grabbed a ladder and climbed up to peek in a window. Then he climbed down and knocked on the door.
"So I took it upon myself to go knock on the door of the den. I mean, I knew this was all really top secret." Schindler said.
A young Blaine Kern opened the door and showed Schindler around. Soon he was whitewashing floats and even had a key.
Years later, Schindler met and befriended famed float designer Louis Fisher, who became his mentor. He says she took him under her wing and introduced him to the captains of different krewes.
Over the years, Schindler has designed floats for a range of krewes, including Comus, Rex, Endymion, Hermes, Babylon and Krewe D'etat.
"In the early 70s and mid-70s is really when I began my crusade to make the floats look beautiful." Schindler said.
His contributions as a historian and float designer earned him the respect of the New Orleans Arts Council, which honored him with a lifetime achievement award in 2013.