As the executive director of Carnival Memphis, Ed Galfsky has one of the most unusual jobs in the city. Although the organization, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is known for some of Memphis' grandest celebrations, behind the pageantry, says Galfsky, there's a greater purpose. Seventy-five years ago, that purpose was to promote the cotton industry. Today, that mission has evolved into promoting commerce of all types in the city, as well as raising money for various children's charities. We caught up with Ed to get the lowdown on all things Carnival, including those bright green troublemakers, the Secret Order of Boll Weevils, Carnival's masked men of mischief, who celebrate their 40th anniversary this year.
Q: Can anyone join Carnival?
A: Absolutely! Membership dues are $75 this year, in honor of the anniversary. That gets you a logo pin, car decal, and discounted tickets to all Carnival events. Carnival week kicks off in June, but there are year-round events as well.
Q: Tell me about the Royal Court. How is it chosen?
A: Every year we have a Royal Court, made up of about 70 or so college girls. The Queen is a former member of the court. The King is a leader in whatever our honored industry that year is, and they are chosen by secret committee.
Well that explains the May-December Queen and King, then.
Hey! (Laughing) The King is around my age. That's not old!
Q: What else are you doing for the big anniversary?
A: We're publishing a book chronicling the history of Carnival, Carnival Memphis: The Party with a Purpose for 75 Years , written by Perre Magness. We're also having an event for the first time called Family Fest on May 13th at the Children's Museum. In addition to food, games, and music, we'll pay for any child in the city to go to the museum that day. We're really excited about that.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about Carnival?
A: That we're just a bunch of wealthy people having parties. It's not like that at all. Our members are from every part of this community, as are the Grand Krewes that function as support groups for us. In the last six years we've raised close to $600,000.
Q: What's the best part of this job?
A: Hands down it's the kids. When people see us each summer driving all over town on the bright green buses with the Boll Weevils waving and going crazy and the police escorts, they might think the whole thing is just silly. But we're on our way to visit kids and just try to bring some fun into their lives when they need it most. The kids really love the Boll Weevils, too. They just go crazy for them. I'll never forget, we were at Le Bonheur and this lady came up to me with a five-dollar bill. She told me it was all she had but she wanted to make a donation to thank us for making her child forget for a while he was in the hospital. I told her to keep her money, because what she said was worth a million dollars.
Q: Which would cause more damage, a cotton field full of boll weevils or a party with the Secret Order of Boll Weevils in full force?
A: (Laughing) It's close! The Boll Weevils have definitely caused some trouble. They stole some old pictures of me from my parent's house that haunt me to this day!
For more information, visit carnivalmemphis.com