Hard work and creativity help Kern Studios deliver memorable experiences for Mardi Gras crowds and venues around the globe

Business SpotlightBy Amanda McElfresh, amcelfresh@theadvocate.com

This article is brought to you by Cox Business.

For Barry Kern, art and creativity have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was always helping his father Blaine and his staff prepare Mardi Gras floats for New Orleans’ annual celebrations. When the parades rolled, Barry was right there, helping connect floats to the tractors and vehicles that pulled them along.

“I didn’t think of doing anything else other than expanding this business that we had,” he said.

Soon after graduating college, Barry began his own sculpture and artistry company. At the time, his father was still operating his highly successful parade float business.

“I started off focusing on doing work for theme parks. We were the first company ever allowed to work on Disney characters other than Disney’s own people,” Kern said. “We still do a lot of work for brands. We’re still into theme parks. People always know us for our Mardi Gras floats, but we do tons of other work as well.”

Business SpotlightToday, Barry Kern is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Kern Studios and Mardi Gras World, making him the third generation of the Kern family in the float and entertainment production business. The family’s involvement in art began with Barry’s grandfather, Roy Kern, a New Orleans artist who worked his way through the Great Depression by painting signs for barges and freighters in the Port of New Orleans.

Barry’s father, Blaine Kern, took that artistic talent to new heights with the creation of a business that has become a New Orleans icon. But Barry noted that his father knew that talent alone would not be enough to be successful.

“One thing he always taught me is that you have to work really hard. You need to be willing to outwork pretty much anyone,” Kern said. “The second thing he told me is that you have to always be creative and be willing to change and do new things. I think that’s been key for us. We’re very much focused on always creating value for the customer and creating long-term relationships. We’re so proud to have worked with many customers for decades and generations.”

The family tradition is now continuing with Barry’s oldest son, Fitz Kern, working at the business to oversee company operations and strategic planning.

“It’s been great to have him here,” Barry said. “I’m so proud of the job he’s doing. He’s a very good manager. It’s a creative business, but it has to be treated like a business, and he really gets that.”

Business SpotlightThanks to Kern Studios’ reputation for creativity and service, the team has been able to work on entertainment productions all over the globe, including Las Vegas, Orlando, Japan, China and multiple European countries. Barry Kern said that work and those business relationships have paid dividends for everyone involved.

“It’s helped to expand our knowledge base and our abilities. That, in turn, helped us do a better job for Mardi Gras,” he said. “On the other hand, we’ve used what we have learned from Mardi Gras to do a better job at events and parades across the world. It all goes hand in hand.”

With most live entertainment shut down since March 2020, Kern admitted the past year has been “what I hope will be the biggest challenge in my lifetime.” But he has taken inspiration from the way Kern Studios has bounced back from other hard times, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the national economic downturn in 2008. The hope is that once parades and other entertainment can safely resume, Kern Studios will once again be a big part of bringing smiles back to people’s faces.

“It’s a business that people find exciting and it brings joy to people. It really does make people happy and that’s always rewarding,” Kern said. “I think people are really going to be looking for that even more once this virus is behind us.”

For more information on Kern Studios. visit www.kernstudios.com.

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