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MARDI GRAS NEWS
Posted: April 15, 2011
* Today’s court ruling in favor of Barry Kern in the KERN FAMILY dispute will hopefully provide closure on this ugly chapter in the business of Carnival. Krewes that employ Blaine Kern Artists can now move on with their plans for 2012 and healing might begin within the “first family of Mardi Gras.” We sure hope so.
* THE CITY OF GRETNA’s surprise move Wednesday to end more than six decades of Mardi Gras in the city caught those most affected completely off-guard and very disappointed not to have been included in the discussion. For Adonis, Alla, Choctaw and Cleopatra, the ruling only alters the ending locations of their parades, but for the 64-year-old Krewe of Grela, it may be the end of the road in Gretna. Word is, however, that the club is seeking another West Bank venue for its 2012 Fat Tuesday parade.
* Will we see a new female krewe in 2012 in New Orleans? The MYSTIC KREWE OF NYX hopes to follow the Ancient Druids in uptown on the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday. Check out their plans - www.kreweofNyx.org
* The city’s premiere repository of Carnival memorabilia, TULANE UNIVERSITY, has just made access to its Mardi Gras artifacts easier. As of March 4, vintage float drawings were viewable online. Comus float designs range from 1901 to 1916; Proteus designs from 1882 to 1891, with more being added every day. http://larc.tulane.edu/exhibits/carnival
* New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s new MARDI GRAS ADVISORY COMMITTEE will have its first meeting on April 20. One topic that should be addressed is the 2013 SUPER BOWL in New Orleans, which falls on “Carrollton Sunday.” In 2002 when the big game was played in New Orleans, parades were pushed back one week closer to Christmas.
* With the BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME set for January 9, 2012, one wonders if the city plans any kind of parade staged for the benefit of the many college football fans that will flood the town.
* The CITY OF SLIDELL reports it saved $45,000 this Carnival season. According to the Times-Picayune, “the krewes of Claude, Slidellians, Selene, Perseus, Titans, Dionysus (and St. Patrick’s) costs $62,460, down from $100,000 in 2010. Of that total, the krewes have agreed to pay $7,100 for required portable toilets, trash bins and clean-up labor.”
* Willie Clark’s popular website MARDI GRAS DIGEST is off-line. We will miss the interesting information it provided the past several years.
* Mardi Gras lost one of its leaders last week with the death of Becky Ricks, co-captain of the Crescent City Truck parade. She will be missed.
Mardi Gras 2011 Review
Posted: March 21, 2011
How was your Mardi Gras? Mine was grand. But on Ash Wednesday, I got sick in New York after doing the Today Show, and sick I have stayed for a full 12 days. So my annual Carnival review is late in coming and rather disjointed, but here goes:
According to the press, by nearly every measure this was not only the most successful Mardi Gras since Katrina, but also one of the best ever. Crowds were big and friendly and the late Fat Tuesday only added to the anticipation for the parade season. Yet this year may be remembered most for the rain that fell on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday and how very well the city (NOPD) handled the rescheduled ENDYMION parade that resulted. None of this consoled the residents and businesses in Mid-City, however.
Most folks inside and outside of Mardi Gras had high praise for the jobs done by new MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU and new POLICE CHIEF RONAL SERPAS. Carnival activities at Gallier Hall were much better organized and more krewe-friendly. The privatization of the city’s reviewing stands was also a success.
All was not rosy, however. There were some serious kinks in the handling of parades that must be worked out before next year (see below).
Mardi Gras is about balance. Personally I prefer to keep government out of the celebration. But excesses always invite legislation and regulation. The problem seems to be not a shortage of rules, but a lack of consistent enforcement. The new Mardi Gras advisory committee set up by Mayor Landrieu is the proper venue to make meaningful recommendations that should be heard. It can begin with a total examination of the MARDI GRAS ORDINANCE—from parade permit fees to parade size, to the rainout schedule. We have almost an entire year to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Some hard decisions need to be made. Reasonable regulations announced early and fairly enforced, should be the goal.
I invited comments about this Mardi Gras from every captain of every parade in a four-parish area. Orleans krewes recorded the greatest number of responses. The majority of them sung the praises of the NOPD. Others were clearly unhappy. Their complaints can be summed up simply—Inconsistency in enforcement of rules and policies.
WHAT’S THE RUSH?
Some New Orleans parades seem to be setting speed records as they jet down the streets. For others, it was business as usual. It is to the advantage of the city’s coffers that parades move as swiftly as possible, so that overtime is minimized. High school bands would rather march in a two-hour parade than a three-hour parade, as long as they are not being made to run through the route. But what about the rider who may have paid $750 in dues and spent another $500 on throws? He/she waited a full-year for a full-ride, not a rushed-through trip that lasts less than two hours.
This year the captain of a 70+ year-old krewe was told by an officer that he better run to catch up with his float because the parade was starting (early) without him! The captain complained of a "disconnect" between NOPD leadership and the officers along the route. Long-standing traditional stops in the NOMTOC parade were eliminated without warning, causing a disruption in the parade and hard feelings along the way.
This year police vigorously, but in a friendly manner, enforced the rule that ladders must be placed as many feet back from the curb, as they are high. Less successful was the removal of private toilets from public property. Enforcement was announced much too late. Seems like we need more places "to pee on Mardi Gras Day," not fewer. We also need more places to put our garbage.
I have no solution for the challenges caused by the miles-long tent city that exist on St. Charles Avenue. It is wonderful to see so many families along the avenue enjoying the parades and each other. But what about the rights of other citizens and visitors who do not have the opportunity to reserve a space?
METAIRIE MARDI GRAS
New Orleans’s Mardi Gras problems are logistical in nature; Metairie’s seem almost systemic. While crowds were huge this year for some parades, the overall scene is not promising. The area’s oldest krewe, ZEUS, is being sued by the owner of its den for non-payment of rent. Once there were parades every day of the 12-day parade season; now five nights are dark. Seven clubs have folded since 1995. The quantity and quality of many of the remaining parades has declined. Some blame the competition with New Orleans with its double and triple-header parade schedule. Others point to decline in bingo revenues, which once supported many Metairie clubs. We now have fewer parades with fewer floats, fewer bands and fewer riders—many unmasked and barely costumed.
How many parades met Jefferson Parish’s minimum standards for the number of floats, riders and bands in 2011? What happens to those that didn’t? Are rules enforced or ignored? Clubs that follow them are often hurt by those that do not. Traditionally, krewes that could not survive would die a natural death. Should the Parish help all clubs, or just the poor ones (or any clubs at all?)? Would moving some parades to Metairie Road increase interest for riders and from the general public? Can the parish encourage public school bands from the area to participate in their own parades? One captain suggested that the money spent by the Parish on Family Gras be divided among the krewes to help them afford to present better parades.
With the rising costs to all governments that service Carnival parades, can jurisdictions such as St. Bernard and Gretna afford single-day parades that take less than 40 minutes to pass? Some insiders predict that Grela’s Fat Tuesday parade may be moved to the first Saturday behind Choctaw and Adonis, which parade partially in Gretna.
RANDOM POINTS, QUESTIONS
* Why do people bring dogs to parades? This is unsafe for them, for the assembled masses and for their pets. Bring them to BARKUS.
* We promote Mardi Gras parades as six-mile family-oriented picnics, yet frown upon folks setting up BBQ grills (which admittedly can be dangerous, but may not be illegal.)
* The illegal and unsafe custom of throwing beads at the floats or riders reached dangerous proportions this year in the BACCHUS and ENDYMION parades. This must be stopped. Perhaps we need to launch an educational campaign that this activity is illegal.
* I was standing next to a visitor from Ohio who was horrified at the sight of a tiny baton twirler (four years old—I know because I asked when the parade stopped)
“How long is this parade?” the tourist asked me.
“Nearly six miles, “ I replied.
“There ought to be a law against this. In any other place if you forced a child to march 6 miles it would be called child abuse.”
Actually, there is a law in New Orleans that parade participants must be at least 12 years old.
*The dust-up in the Marigny was ugly, but I reserve comment until the results of a police investigation are released.
* Every year we hear well-founded complaints that first-weekend parades do not get the publicity or appreciation they deserve. Ditto Westbank krewes.
* Congratulations to LE KREWE D’ETAT, whose parade was televised on a tape-delayed basis on WDSU-TV. The replay won its Saturday evening ratings time-slot.
* St. Tammany’s two new parades—LYRA in Mandeville and TITANS in Slidell—were warmly received.
* FAMILY GRAS returned to Jefferson Parish after a one-year absence and was deemed a financial success.
* LUNDI GRAS celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and continues to grow.
* The new trend to include adult marching units in parades is refreshing. Groups such as the 610 STOMPERS, the PUSSYFOOTERS and the MUFFALETTAS add much to the processions.
* Congratulations to the Rex organization for raising nearly $50,000 for its Pro Bono Publico Foundation through the sale of its new book, Rex–An Illustrated History of the School of Design by Stephen Hales.
* The debuts of the PRIMA DONNAS and the KREWE OF NOTOS walking club parades scored well with the crowds.
* It’s Not ME
Our good friends at Gambit publish a list of their favorite parades each year and I immediately receive complaints from those who disagree. For the record, I am not parade critic REX DUKE, and neither are New Orleans Magazine editor ERROL LABORDE or Carnival historian HENRI SCHINDLER.
February 21 is the date of Fat Tuesday in 2012.
Posted: March 05, 2011
9:45 AM NOMTOC rolls in Algiers
10:00 AM TUCKS rolls uptown
11:00 AM IRIS follows TUCKS
ENDYMION follows Bacchus Sunday night uptown. However, Endymion will take a left on Canal Street, take a left on Elk Place to Loyola and end at Poydras near the Superdome, while Bacchus will end in the Convention Center.
* ENDYMION EXTRAVAGANZA remains in Convention Center Saturday night
* ISIS moves from Saturday night to follow NAPOLEON Sunday in Metairie
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