The Mighty Mardi Gras Prince

By Cody Prentiss | Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Prince Josef (Joe Bradtke) poses for photos amid the Mayfest crowds as he makes his way to the main stage. Photo by Cody Prentiss.

Name: Prinz Josef

Where we saw him: Mingling with the crowd at Lincoln Square’s Mayfest.

What’s your title?
I’m the prince, and this is the princess Debbie from Mardi Gras Chicago, the Rheinischer Verein, which is part of the German community and one of the Mardi Gras clubs.

How long have you been involved with Mayfest?
About five years. I’m on the board and one of the committee members who helped organize Mayfest. They choose somebody every year to be prince, and I was chosen this year.

Are you happy about that?
It’s been fantastic. It’s an honor, a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. We brought something back to the German community that’s been missing for 10 years. Our slogan this year has been “Unity in the German community,” and I think we brought everybody together, which is a really good feeling.

And you’ve worn this at Mayfest since Thursday?
Since November. I was crowned prince November 11, and we went through the Mardi Gras season. They told me that it would slow down after that, but it hasn’t slowed down. We’ve got the Mayfest, we go to Milwaukee for the German Fest, and then we come back here for the Oktoberfest and Von Steuben parade. We’re busy for the entire year, but it’s been fantastic.

Do you get to keep the clothes?
We had [these] made. We bought the dress and the outfit. We can lend them out to other people, you know. If [they're] the same size, we’ll gladly lend them out.

How do you feel this year’s Mayfest is going?
With the economy being down and everything, the Mayfest hasn’t suffered. We had a rough night Friday night because of the Hawks game, but other than that, it’s still strong. If you look around, there are so many people here. Last night [Saturday] was phenomenal. Tonight should be just as well. And it all goes to benefit not-for-profit organizations in the German community: the DANK-Haus, which is right down the street; the Rheinischer Verein, which consists of St. Hubertus, the hunting club, the drum and bugle club, and the Amazonen dance troupe. All the proceeds go to the clubs.

Is there a tradition associated with the kind of feathers you are wearing?
Yes. The president wears five feathers, and the prince wears seven. It’s got to be an odd number. The Mardi Gras is always on the odd number, and the year 2011 is a real big year for the Mardi Gras. We’re going to Germany, to Mainz, and we’re going to be in a parade there. They greet you with open arms.

What’s in your scepter?
My scepter contains Kabanes, which is a liquor I import from Germany. I’m an importer of beer and liquor. BBK is my beer; Kabanes is a liquor. It’s just like a J?germeister, only, in my opinion, a little better.

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