The King of Hermes launches real pearl necklaces for Mardi Gras – making the New Orleans party even richer
Darlings, traveling with the king is the only solution. Just ask the Houston entourage who joined Franco Valobra from New Orleans, Houston, and Italy in the Mardi Gras festivities that found him as King LXXXII leading the Krewe of Hermes and friends through the streets of Crescent City.
It was two days and two nights of glorious fun punctuated by police escorts, marching bands and the perfect perch to view the Krewe of Hermes (pronounced her-meez) night parade. He also shed light on Valobra’s dedication to his adopted hometown. Because the only way to be elected king among the 1,000 members of Hermès is by a secret council with a vote based on personal achievements, generosity, charitable commitment, personality and reputation.
Those who know Valobra personally know that it ticks all the boxes.
Those attributes were in play when the 2022 King of Hermes decided to toss 100 pearl necklaces – yes, real pearls – into the crowd as his parade rolled along the famous St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street. As a fourth generation master jeweler with the lounges in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Houston and Lugano, Switzerland, Franco Valobra knows the coveted pearls well and he thought it was a fitting tribute to the resilience of New Orleans after not only the Hurricane Katrina but also the pandemic.
“The King wants to show all the revelers that Mardi Gras is rare and precious to all of us, to our tradition, to our economy, to everything else,” Valobra said in New Orleans. WWL Television. “These are going to be handed out to people along the route to let them know that Mardi Gras is here to stay no matter what. No hurricane, no pandemic, no crisis will stop Mardi Gras.
Although the pandemic canceled the 2021 festivities, there were no signs of holding back or curtailing 2022. The Krewe of Hermes festivities at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans began with the White Tie Presentation Night. In charming old-school tradition, white gloves were required for both men and women and for the presentation following a champagne reception, the ladies were seated and the men stood at the back of the ballroom. Rituals honored since the founding of the krewe in 1937.
The ball revealed a stunning array of glittering dresses, dramatic trains, ostrich plum headdresses on costumed and masked knights, sceptres, heralding trumpeters and choreographed presentations of the king, queen, ladies of the courtyard and young ladies waiting. All but the colored knights and the white-tie pages were dressed in white with silver ornaments. An orchestra provided the music for the presentation. Dinner and wild dancing followed in another ballroom.
The King’s Traveling Party
The next day, the king’s entourage arrived at at Antoine’s in the heart of the French Quarter via police escort on streets that were already teaming up with revelers. The Valobra family and guests dined at the famous Hermes Bar, where the bar was open and the meal a New Orleans feast. Meanwhile, the krewe members dined at the Men’s Float Luncheon around the corner at Latrobe is on Royal.
After lunch, several dozen Hermes gentlemen – wearing the required coats and Krewe of Hermes ties and carrying adult cigars and libations – began their walk down Royal Street, led by the Talladega Marching Band from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. Known as “The Marching Tornados”, it is considered one of the best known marching bands in the South. The route passed by Valobra Master Jewelers where a champagne and Bloody Mary infused viewing party was held for guests. The king, of course, rode in a horse-drawn carriage.
Some of the Houstonians never returned to the hotel before the parade viewing party. Others took a break and a siesta in preparation for the big night.
For the parade, the King’s guests were welcomed into comfortable reception rooms on the second floor of the Blake Hotel where the balcony stretched wide and long, enough for the dancing and reveling guests. A Creole-style buffet and open bar fueled the dizzying party scene that rocked as the parade passed. The king threw one of his coveted pearl necklaces onto the balcony and presented a bouquet of white roses to his bride Nancy Valobra.
Much of the Valobra family took part in all aspects of the celebration, including the couple’s children and the kings sister and brother, Cristina Valobra from Zurich and Giorgio Valobra.
While New Orleans is his family home, Franco Valobra spends enough time in Houston to plant bountiful roots. Much of the philanthropy he started in New Orleans he repeated here.
Valobra is the founder and past chairman of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation and past chairman of the Harris County Constable Precinct One Foundation. He is a senior member of the President’s Leadership Council at Houston Methodist Hospital. In 2007, he founded the annual Houston Ferrari Festival to benefit the Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. The event continues to attract thousands of visitors and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research.
Additionally, since opening its Houston store in 2006 after Katrina, Valobra has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry at auction to nonprofit fundraisers.
In 2015, Valobra was honored by the President and Prime Minister of the Italian Republic with the Knighthood of the Italian Republic for outstanding service to the benefit of the Italian people, Italian brands and the Italian way of life in the United States.
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