Steeped in generations of history, tradition and communal fellowship, the New Roads Mardi Gras has been for nearly a century the favored Shrove Tuesday destination for fun lovers from near and far owing to its family-friendly orientation, charitable purpose and its “open to all” parade policy versus the exclusive “krewe” parades of New Orleans and other cities.
Throughout the next few days, float builders, marching bands, military units, dance troupes, parade organizers, costumers, caterers, civic officials and law enforcement agencies in and beyond Pointe Coupee Parish will feverishly put the final touches on their respective contributions toward this year’s version of Louisiana’s oldest Mardi Gras celebration outside New Orleans.
Following the extended three mile-long route successfully implemented last year, the 91st anniversary Community Center Carnival parade – Louisiana’s oldest after Rex, Proteus and Zulu - is set to roll the historic thoroughfares of downtown New Roads at 11 a.m., while the 70th annual New Roads Lions Carnival parade – the first known Carnival parade organized as a charitable fundraiser – will commence its perennial march at 2 p.m.
This year’s Mardi Gras attendees are promised a spectacle unprecedented in regional history, as the Community Center parade will stretch with approximately 70 units, including an all-time record of 50 or more floats, according to organization president and 1980 King Wilmer D. Moore. These, plus the 25 or more floats to roll in the Lions Carnival parade, will account for a total of 75 floats whose riders are set to shower the spectatorial public with tons of glittering metallic beads and other trinkets galore.
• COMMUNITY CENTER PARADE: 11 A.M.
The Community Center Carnival parade, beloved to untold thousands as “the morning parade,” rolls this year with the entertaining theme “Unforgettable Movies & Sitcoms.” The lineup at mid-week consisted of 50 colorful floats, three marching bands, nine military and dance units, plus other entries. Grand Marshal of the record-breaking, history-making parade will be local educator and operations technician Mr. Cleotha Johnigan, Jr.
The Community Center parade will assemble in the northern part of the city, along St. Augustine St. from Ferry Rd. (La. Hwy. 10 Business Route) to New Roads St. and down New Roads St. as far south as 11th St. Incoming motorists from the north along Ferry Rd. are requested by parade and law enforcement officials not to attempt to drive into and park in the area in which the parade is formed.
The morning parade will begin at 11 a.m., moving south on New Roads St. to the Community Center reviewing stand at the intersection of Parent St. for the unmasking of the King, recognition of the Queen and Ladies of the Court and presentation of the Keys to the City by Mayor Robert Myer. Hon. Myer, an avowed supporter of New Roads’ Mardi Gras traditions, is a great-grandson of the revered James Mortimer “Jimmy” Boudreaux (1887-1949) who founded the morning parade in 1922, rolling on New Roads’ then-graveled streets with a single mule-drawn float and a brass band.
Candidates for 2013 Community Center Carnival Queen are Ms. Robin Gaines, Treshawn Lea, Dalana Martin, Te’Keyah Morris, Brittany Parker and Anelcia Rayford . One will be named Queen at the organization’s ball Saturday evening, and the others will attend her as Ladies of the Court.
After pausing for the reviewing stand ceremonies at New Roads and Parent Sts., the Community Center parade will continue south on New Roads St. as far as W. Main St., then west along W. Main to Olinde St., north on Olinde to Napoleon St., east on Napoleon to stately Poydras St., north on Poydras to Parent St., east on Parent to New Roads St., and north on New Roads St. beyond 11th St. for disbanding.
Parade-goers in the southern part of the city are advised that the morning parade does not reach W. Main St. until 30-45 minutes after its 11 a.m. rolling time, owing to the pause for the reviewing stand ceremonies and the amount of time it takes the parade units to progress through the New Roads St. throngs.
• LIONS PARADE: 2 P.M.
The New Roads Lions Carnival parade, rolling as it has for many years as a fundraiser for those schools which have competitive floats in the parade, will illustrate the theme “Musical Memories.” At mid-week, the lineup included 25 whimsical floats, four marching bands, 10 military and dance units, plus numerous school and organization Queens, comic vehicles, and other entries. Lions President Tommy Guidry and Floats Committee Chairman Stephen P. Jewell stated that they expect several more entries to commit their participation over the weekend.
The Lions parade forms along Community and Mill Sts. and Park Ave. in the Community Park section of the city. The parade will depart at 2 p.m. from the intersection of Community and E. Main Sts., traveling west on E. Main to the club’s reviewing stand at E. Main and Court Sts. in front of the Courthouse, arriving there at approximately 2:15 p.m. After recognition of the Dukes and Duchesses, Lions President Tommy Guidry will unmask the King and Queen, the King will offer an address and champagne toast, and the royal couple will receive the Keys to the City from Mayor Myer.
This year’s Lions Carnival Dukes are George LaCour III and David Smith, while the Duchesses are Caroline Allen, Erin Jewell and Bethany LeBlanc, all high school seniors and children of Lions members.
The reviewing stand ceremonies completed, the Lions parade will resume its circuit of the downtown area, moving along E. Main and W. Main Streets as far west as Olinde St., north on Olinde to Napoleon St., east on Napoleon to Poydras St., north on Poydras to Parent St., east on Parent to New Roads St., south on New Roads St. to E. Main St., and east along E. Main St. to disbanding on Community St.
• BANDS ENTER AT PENNSYLVANIA AVE.
Spectators are reminded that the marching bands in the Lions parade do not enter the parade until the floats reach the intersection of E. Main St. and Pennsylvania Ave. In order to see the parade in its full formation, therefore, E. Main St. spectators need to be some point west of that corner.
Incoming motorists are advised that the length of Pennsylvania Ave. between E. Main and LaCour Streets is reserved for band bus parking and band formation and should not attempt to enter into or otherwise impede that area.
• RADIO NARRATION
All of Tuesday’s festivities, including parade progress and narration, will be broadcast live on radio station KCLF 1500 AM, “The Voice of Pointe Coupee,” by station owner, longtime Community Center Carnival member and 1975 King Roosevelt Gremillion.
Residents and visitors alike may tune in to the station throughout the day to learn of the progress of the parades as well as hear interviews by Mr. Gremillion of key Carnival personalities.
• PARKING PROHIBITIONS AND SECURITY
Mardi Gras motorists are reminded by New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald that parking is prohibited on the following streets all day on Tuesday: Main St. from St. Mary St. to Alamo St.; Olinde St. from W. Main St. to Napoleon St.; Napoleon St. from Olinde St. to Poydras St.; and on New Roads St. a 100-foot stretch at the intersection of Parent St. in front of the Community Center Carnival reviewing stand.
Chief McDonald added that the law enforcement officers on duty would allow incoming motorists as much time as possible to park along the remainder of the city’s streets and in all available off-street parking areas, until a few minutes before the parade route is “locked down” for the Community Center parade.
From that point on, the route will be restricted to parade units and staff vehicles until the Lions parade disbands in the afternoon and the streets are reopened to allow motorists to exit the city.
The police chief expects more than 200 law enforcement officers from agencies across the state to once again be on the streets of New Roads for this year’s Mardi Gras festivities assisting with traffic flow, parking and the smooth progress of the parades as well as safety for all.
By comparison, the City of Houma, with a 4.5 mile-long Mardi Gras route and attendance comparable with that of New Roads’, recently announced that 175 officers would work Houma’s Tuesday celebration.