NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - There has always been something special about carnival for Delores "Tootie" Kepner. In 1972, Kepner and her husband came up with an idea to begin an all-female carnival krewe on the Westbank of New Orleans and Cleopatra was born.
“Tootie”, as she’s called by her friends and family, said they came up with the idea, but needed help getting it off the ground. It turned out that Tootie’s late husband had a friend from his old school days, Blaine Kern Sr., who knew how to build floats. Kern helped build the krewe’s signature float, The Royal Barge, in Spain and had it shipped to New Orleans.
"Blaine helped us a great deal. He told us what we had to do and we did. We had to have permits and we had to have themes for the parade. It all starts from there", said Kepner.
In the first year of the parade, Cleopatra hit the streets of Algiers with 250 members.
Every year since then, the krewe has grown with the help of Kepner's friends and family.
The future of Tootie’s krewe, however, took a turn that she never expected eight years ago when the police asked her to move Cleopatra to the East Bank for one year due to the city hosting the Super Bowl.
“Once the girls got on St. Charles Avenue and made the turn they said that’s it, we don’t wanna go back," said Kepner.
Kepner, now in her late 80's, attributes the success of her krewe to teamwork and togetherness as the krewe has grown to 1500 members.
At some point, however, Kepner says she will retire, and she hopes that her family will continue to carry on the great traditions of the Krewe of Cleopatra.
"It's been a great honor for me to be head of this club, and I'm still there and I'm still the boss,” said Kepner.