Many roads, and the new Audubon Bridge over the Mississippi River, will lead to the city of New Roads on Tuesday as tens of thousands of merrymakers once again manifest their allegiance to the state’s second oldest and third largest Mardi Gras celebration. The city’s two parades, orchestrated by the Community Center of Pointe Coupee and the New Roads Lions Club,are designed to appeal to spectators of all ages and derive much of their charm from the fact that they are built and manned by schools, churches, organizations, businesses and families from Pointe Coupee and several other South Louisiana parishes. Unlike the exclusivity of “krewe” parades in New Orleans and other cities, New Roads’ parades are open to participation by all and are truly parades “of, by and for the people.”
The 90th anniversary Community Center Carnival parade – the state’s oldest after Rex, Proteus and Zulu - will roll at 11 a.m. with the reminiscent theme “Celebrating 90 Years of Mardi Gras Madness.” The 69th annual Lions Carnival parade, resuming the old 2 p.m. start time it employed during 1941-1996, will honor the bicentennial of Louisiana’s admittance to the Union through its theme of “Celebrating 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood.” A week before Shrove Tuesday, spokespersons for both parades revealed their greatest number of floats ever.
As has been the hallowed tradition for generations, Mardi Gras in New Roads will offer a sensory feast of scores of fanciful floats and dozens of spirited marching bands and dance troupes wending their capricious journeys along the historic thoroughfares of the Pointe Coupee Parish capital; the clopping of horse hoofs upon the pavements as mounted posse men marshal the parades; rows of breathless humanity from near and far lining the streets and vying for the glittering beads, doubloons, cups, stuffed animals, toy spears and candy cast by costumed float riders; the aromas of barbecues and crawfish boils wafting from family lawn parties; and the antics of bizarrely disguised individuals, all set in a surreal atmosphere thick with the history and finest rituals of Carnival.
In response to the growing number of floats in recent years, both the Community Center and Lions parades will follow extended routes this year. The “dog leg” of St. Mary and First Streets linking West Main and Poydras Streets will not be followed Tuesday. Instead, the parades will round the “big block” by continuing on West Main past St. Mary to Olinde Street, out Olinde to Napoleon Street, and up Napoleon to Poydras Street, turning north there and following the customary path of Poydras, Parent and New Roads Streets.
Residents and visitors coming from all parts of Louisiana and adjacent states have been praying that the weather conditions for the festivities are favorable this year, unlikeMardi Gras 2011 which was the record worst celebration weather-wise since the city’s first-known parade back in 1897. Last year, 2.88 inches of rainfall, lightning and strong winds sent fully one-half of the morning’s estimated crowd of 60,000 home and delayed the start of the afternoon’s Lions Carnival parade for an unprecedented hour and ten minutes.
Float-building, band and dance troupe rehearsals and costume-making are being rushed to completion in Pointe Coupee and surrounding parishes this weekend. Meanwhile,New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald, Mayor Robert Myer and Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Beauregard “Bud” Torres have devoted countless hours over the past months in coordinating traffic, logistical and safety measures for the big day. Chief McDonald, a veteran in law enforcement and logistics at Carnival parades in New Roads, LaPlace and elsewhere, expects more than 80,000 personsto be in New Roads on Tuesday, weather permitting.
At two major coordination meetings,McDonald, Myer and Torres voiced their confidence in the myriad law enforcement agencies who will be on hand to help assure the smooth passage of the New Roads parades as well as safety for all persons. McDonald, who stated that the extended routes will enhance ease of parking, accessibility and parade-viewing, added on Tuesday that the number of officers coming to New Roads will number approximately 150.
MICHAEL FOSTER PROJECT BAND TO PERFORM
In homage to New Roads’ 90th Mardi Gras anniversary, the City of New Roads has proudly announced that the celebrated Baton Rouge-based Michael Foster Project band will perform three times for the public on Tuesday. Based in Baton Rouge, this award-winning ensemble is multi-genre but specializes in jazz and old-time brass band music.
Carrying on the tradition of New Orleans’ jazz band and “second line” processions, the Michael Foster Project band will march and perform ahead of each of New Roads’ parades. In between rolling times, they will offer a concert in the City’s “town square” (old Morel Hotel block) on West Main Street between Richy and New Roads Streets.
The rhythmic sounds of the Michael Foster Project band will, no doubt, call to mind among older parade-goers the music provided by New Roads’ early bands, such as the Paul Brothers, who provided the beat for the city’s Mardi Gras patriarch James Mortimer “Jimmy” Boudreaux, Isidore George, Joseph Bertho LeCoq, Charlie Fields and other local parade pioneers who danced in the 20th century parades.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Boudreaux and friends paraded twice each year: first on Lundi Gras night and again on Mardi Gras morning. In an interview with this author some years ago, the late Nettie Anna “Tuzzie” Landry Guerin fondly spoke of spending Lundi Gras night at her grandparents’ home at New Roads and West Second Streets and hearing the parade approach:
“It was dark [in reference to the city’s then limited street lighting] but we could clearly hear the music coming as they [the paraders] were crossing the railroad.”
More information on the Michael Foster Project may be found at their website: michaelfosterproject.net.
COMMUNITY CENTER PARADE
Commemorating its 90th anniversary, the Community Center Carnival parade is set to begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday from the intersection of New Roads and 11th Streets, moving south on New Roads Street to West Main Street, west on West Main to Olinde Street, north on Olinde to Napoleon Street, east on Napoleon to Poydras Street, north on Poydras to Parent Street, east on Parent to New Roads Street, and north on New Roads Street back to the beginning point for disbanding.
En route, the elaborate royal float will halt at the Community Center’s reviewing stand on New Roads Street near Parent for the unmasking of the as-yet secret King and Queen and presentation of their attendants. Mayor Myer will be on hand to honor the monarchs with the Keys to the City, and a panel of judges on the reviewing stand will evaluate the floats and bands for awards.
The ladies of the 2012 Community Center Carnival Court consist of Kenyata LaShae Brisco, Jennifer Marvel Christophe, Darriell Marketta Derosin, Jada Renee Gremillion, Paris Ja’Nae Lee, Megan Renee Manchester and Tiffany LaShawn Martin. As in past years, one of their number will be named Queen at the organization’s glamorous ball this Saturday evening.
With “Celebrating 90 Years of Mardi Gras Madness” as its theme, the Community Center parade - traditionally the region’s longest –was slated at midweek to stretch with 35 or more floats, six marching bands and approximately six dance troupes. This year’s Grand Marshal is James “Big Brown” Joseph, member of an early Island of False River family, and who is well-known as an UPS associate, philanthropic leader, vocalist and proponent of the Creole language renaissance.
Though New Roads float and costume designs remain largely secret until parade day, several sources contend that the entries in the 2012 morning parade will include endearing tributes to Carnival patriarch Jimmy Boudreaux who established the morning parade back in 1922.
Wilmer D. Moore, longtime Carnival supporter and King of the 1980 Community Center Carnival parade, serves as president of the organization this year and is assisted by Mrs. Valerie Dukes and other dedicated club members and volunteers.
Now in its 69th year, the New Roads Lions Carnival parade is set to roll from Community Street at 2 p.m. Tuesday, tracing a three mile-long circuit through the city as follows: South on Community Street to East Main Street, west on East Main and West Main Streets to Olinde Street, north on Olinde to Napoleon Street, east on Napoleon to Poydras Street, north on Poydras to Parent Street, east on Parent to New Roads Street, south on New Roads Street to East Main Street, thence east on East Main to Community Street and the point of beginning for disbanding.
Approximately 15 minutes into the parade, the Lions’ lavish royal float will pause at the club’s reviewing stand for the presentation of the Court, unmasking of the as yet-anonymous King and Queen, the King’s champagne toast and reception of the Keys to the City from Mayor Myer. The Lions’ guest float judges, seated on the reviewing stand, will determine and award prizes for the top four placing floats.
Accompanying this year’s Lions King and Queen will be their four-member Court, consisting of Duke Clayton David and Duchesses Kelly Caillet, Allie Falgout and Kyle Gannon, all high school seniors and children of New Roads Lions members.
Depicting the theme “Celebrating 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood,” the Lions Carnival parade lineup at midweek included a record 31 floatsfor the fourth year in a row, plus six marching bands, seven drill units andseven queens of past Carnivals,festivals and high school homecoming courts. Kevin Gummow, who is serving his second year as Lions Carnival chairman, reported that this year’s parade favors or “throws” will be the most plentiful and diverse in the parade’s history.
Kevin Hotard is New Roads Lions president for the fraternal year 2011-2012.The organization has approximately 75 members, arranged in two dozen committees to carry out the Carnival responsibilities.
The City of New Roads has announced that parking of vehicles will be prohibited in the following areas on Tuesday:
- Main Street, between St. Mary and Alamo Streets.
- New Roads Street (east side), from Parent Street to St. Augustine Church Hall.
- Olinde Street, between West Main and Napoleon Streets.
- Napoleon Street, between Olinde and Poydras Streets.
Motorists visiting the traditional Carnival Fair midway rides and concession stands set to operate during the weekend and until Mardi Gras afternoon on the St. Augustine Church grounds are likewise advised to heed any parking prohibitions in effect in that area.
As a means of maintaining New Roads’ reputation as the safest and most family-friendly of the major Carnival celebrations in the Gulf region, the following precautions are offered for parade participants and viewers alike:
- No drinking and driving!
- No throwing of trinkets from vehicles pulling the floats.
- Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the unit in front of you but try not to create large gaps in the parade.
- If braces are provided for your protection on the floats, use them!
- Make sure your costume and mask do not hamper your visibility.
- Throw trinkets to the back of the crowd.
- No climbing on and off of floats, especially when they are in motion!
- Political advertisement of any kind (throws, signs, shirts and caps, slogans, etc.) is prohibited in the Lions parade.
- Use courtesy in directing the crowd well back from the path of moving vehicles and marching units.
- Do not hand trinkets from the floats to the crowd.
- Direct the maskers aboard the floats well away from the edge of the floats.
- If you are viewing the parades in a barricaded area, remain behind the barricades!
- Keep well out of the path of moving vehicles and marching units. The maskers aboard the floats and float escorts will not hand out trinkets to persons who crowd too closely to the floats.
- Do not cross the street while the parade is in motion.
- If a trinket you wish to retrieve has fallen to the ground, step on it first then pick it up. This will lessen the chance of having someone else step on your hand to claim the trinket.
- Parents holding children or having them seated atop ladders during the parades are advised to exercise extra caution as to the little ones’ safety.
- It is forbidden to throw any object at floats or any parade participant.
- Please obey the directions of the many law enforcement officials who come to New Roads from across the state to help enhance the smooth running of the parades and public safety.
- Heed the parking prohibitions as listed above.
- Please be patient with traffic delays both before and after the festivities and obey the direction of the law enforcement officers.
- Take advantage of the many off-street parking lots throughout the downtown area. Most of them are adjacent to the parade route and others are just a short walk away.
- Do not park your vehicle so that it blocks any street or driveway!
- Underage drinking, whether by spectators or parade participants will not be tolerated.
- Glass containers are banned from the city streets.
- Raucous behavior and obscene music will not be tolerated.
LIVONIA AND BATCHELOR EVENTS
As in 2011, Shrove Tuesday 2012 will be the third straight day of parades and related public festivities in Pointe Coupee Parish. On Sunday, the Livonia Carnival Association will present its 29th annual parade beginning at 1 p.m. at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 190 and La. Hwy. 78. It will follow Hwy. 78, pausing at the association’s reviewing stand for the unmasking of the King and Queen, and continue north on Hwy. 78 to Cooley Street, turning east on Cooley, then north on Glaser Street and proceeding to disbanding at the Livonia Community Center. The eagerly-awaited parade will feature floats built according to the theme of “Festivals,” other attractions and souvenir throws.
Monday’s chief public event will be the second annual Courir de Lundi Gras in the Batchelor area. This Southwest Louisiana-style equestrian event of disguised riders will begin at 11 a.m. and conclude at Old River Landing for a gumbo cook off and live music. Based on last year’s positive reception, Monday’s Courir is expected to be another one of amusement for all involved.