It has been called “the most famous drag-queen contest in America” and it has been going on for more than four decades. What started out as a one-time novelty to help promote a French Quarter hamburger joint evolved into one of the major events of each Mardi Gras.
In the mid-1960s, Arthur Jacobs, former owner of the Clover Grill at the corner of Bourbon and Dumaine streets, conceived of the idea of a Mardi Gras costume contest to help lure people – especially tourists – to his restaurant. He only envisioned holding the contest for one year, but the idea caught on and has mushroomed in popularity over the years. Held in a variety of French Quarter locations, the contest is now staged at the corner of Dumaine and St. Ann streets, in the heart of the city’s gay and lesbian district.
Dozens of men in colorful, elaborate – often flamboyant – costumes compete for top honors each year for what are now known as the Bourbon Street Awards. Participants and spectators alike come to the contest from all over the world and are rewarded with a flashy spectacle that often defies the imagination. Participants compete in the following categories: Best Drag, Best Leather, Best Group and Best of Show. First, Second and Third place prizes will be awarded in each category. Celebrity hostesses (in drag, of course) serve as emcees for the contest and awards ceremonies. The contest is held every year on Mardi Gras Day, rain or shine. For a list of Mardi Gras dates through 2020, click here.