Speaking Out

On matters of Carnival parades, we’re strict Darwinists: No parade has an inherent right to survive; only the fittest should make it to the streets.

In that spirit, we applaud an ordinance implemented by the Jefferson Parish council, which, over a series of years, will enforce more demands on parading krewes. The ordinance, initiated by council member Cynthia Lee-Sheng, will require more marching bands, regulate recorded music and mandate that float riders be masked and costumed. Similar laws have already been in place in Orleans Parish. Jefferson has tried to deal with such deficiencies before, but the rules were generally loosened, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Parade quality is something that should be taken seriously. The marches use public streets and public services and strain area neighborhoods and businesses. We don’t buy the arguments that the parades are an economic development tool. In Jefferson, the parades draw mostly locals rather than attract tourists. We don’t think that economic impact should be the total justification for parades, nor do we believe that shabby parades should be allowed to have a negative impact. We would hope that no one’s first experience at seeing a Mardi Gras parade is to witness a bad one and think that that represents the whole.

At their best, Carnival parades are the products of groups that put a lot of thought, effort and money into their presentation. At their worst, some parade groups aren’t really krewes but entrepreneurial ventures of promoters who lease second-hand floats, hire a few bands and sell ridership. That isn’t what Carnival should be. Carnival, and Jefferson Parish, would be better off with a few high-quality parades rather than many mediocre ones.

Speaking of which, we urge that those who want to be in involved with Carnival should look beyond the traditional parade as an outlet. In Orleans Parish, for example, in recent years there has been an explosion of street-level marching clubs that have added a whole new level of humor and creativity to the season. In Jefferson, while we don’t like the term “Family Gras” (It translates to “Fat Family”) we do like the nature of the event, which brings live music and entertainment to the Veterans Boulevard median. There should be more of that. Music and dancing should always be as much a part of Carnival as float riding and bead catching.

Congratulations, Jefferson Parish, for taking a bold and needed step. Keep your Carnival strong. Like a benevolent monarch, you could set an example for the entire region.

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