There were two revealing news stories about Carnival coming out of Jefferson Parish last week. One came from a report in The Times-Picayune based on a public records request. The report gave results of the Mike Yenni administration’s review of the 2019 Carnival parades in the parish that found some fault with seven of 14 parades, but that penalized two. One, the West Bank-based Mystic Knights of Adonis, was fined $200 because 23 riders were unmasked, which is against Mardi Gras parade law. Also, a candidate for judge, Frank Brindisi, rode in a convertible that had a sign on the door advertising his candidacy and the election date. That too makes one subject to Carnival purgatory. Another candidate, Ricky Templet, also promoted his candidacy, this one for Councilman, but escaped the gallows because the sign did not have verbiage urging parade-goers to vote for him. (Nevertheless, the intended message was clear.)
Another krewe, Athena, was fined $100 for not sweeping up mule manure dropped during the parade. (Although we can understand the sweeper’s reluctance.) According to the report, released by Donna Russo the Yenni administration’s Citizens Affairs Director, and reported by the T-P’s Drew Broach, five other krewes had some unmasking but not enough to warrant a fine. Someone in authority needs to be watching, and please keep the political candidates away from the convertibles.
There are places in the world, such as Mosul, Iraq, where news that a group called ISIS was heading to town would have locals running for cover, but not in Kenner where the name is shared by a long time parade krewe that once marched there before moving to the Metairie-based Veterans Boulevard route. For this invasion citizen preparations might require nothing more than dusting off the step latter.
After nearly 40 years the all-female group is heading back to Jefferson’s largest city, which has not had any parades since 1992. We do not know what the rules are, but a press conference the krewe held promised adequate bands and floats. Here is a chance for Kenner to save the suburban Mardi Gras by raising the bar. Do like the parish does and monitor the parade; demand that all riders must be costumed and masked and please NO COMMERCIALISM, a visual land mine that cheapens a parade. Wouldn’t it be nice if the krewe could develop original floats set around a coherent theme? With only one parade to enforce, Kenner has a chance to present an exemplary parade.
Isis is set to roll the Saturday evening before Mardi Gras, which is the same time slot as Endymion in New Orleans. There is a strong Kenner influence in Endymion, which was founded and captained by former Kenner Mayor Ed Muniz. As one of Carnival’s most sensational parades the krewe draws many riders from Jefferson Parish. Endymion is really a national level Carnival parade; Isis can be a less hectic, but nevertheless pleasing neighborhood parade. There is nothing wrong with that. Just make it good.
There is more to the parade experience than just a passing krewe. The ambiance is also part of the experience like beads dangling from Uptown oak trees. Veterans Boulevard is no St. Charles Avenue, and Chateau Boulevard is no Canal Street yet all bring their own vitality. Communities are blessed by having their occasional quirky moments and Carnival creates opportunities as the stillness of a suburban night is suddenly enlivened by marching bands and visual spectacle. That can distinguish a neighborhood as being special.
When cared for, Carnival can enrich, rather than be a burden, to a community’s experience.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M.WYES-TV, CH. 12.