Krewe of Centaur Response to City of Shreveport Regarding Mardi Gras Parades
Unless you've been out of town, you've probably heard about the tension between the City of Shreveport and our area Mardi Gras krewes. Here's what the Krewe of Centaur had to say about Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux's new mandates.
What's the latest with regard to the City of Shreveport and the 2024 Mardi Gras parades?
Yesterday, Thursday, August 9, 2023, Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux issued a press release detailing the expectations of the City of Shreveport with regard to parades moving forward, including the upcoming 2024 Mardi Gras parades. In short, the mayor didn't leave much room for flexibility when it comes to negotiating the city's terms. Here's the release:
Mardi Gras Parade Changes
The City of Shreveport has adopted changes for two of its largest Mardi Gras Krewes.
Mayor Arceneaux met with the Shreveport Police Department, Shreveport Fire Department, SPAR, and Public
Works after the 2023 Mardi Gras season to determine how the city could best handle the public safety issues
associated with the growth of the two of its largest Mardi Gras parades. “We cannot control what someone might
do in a crowd,” said Mayor Tom Arceneaux. “We want to give those who might be disruptive less opportunity and
to give SPD a better chance to patrol areas where problems might arise.”
As a result of those meetings, the administration developed a new policy for the parades and discussed the
changes with Krewe representatives from Centaur and Gemini last week.
The policy goals for the parades, and the major policy changes, are:
• Have a shorter parade route, which would allow SPD to be able to staff the route adequately.
o Although originally proposed to begin at Stoner Avenue the city will permit the parades to begin
at the railroad bridge near Veterans Park, instead of downtown.
• Have parades end by approximately dusk, instead of well after dark.
o The parades will begin at 2:30 p.m. instead of the current 3:00 p.m.
• Have better-managed parades with fewer delays.
o The contracts with Krewes will have tighter restrictions on how far apart floats could be, better
communication ability between the floats and the City’s EOC, more wreckers available to handle
the inevitable mechanical issues with floats, more stringent requirements to start and end on
time, and penalties for Krewes which do not comply with these contract provisions.
• Have only one parade in a day.
o This year the African American History Parade and the Krewe of Centaur Parade are scheduled
for the same date – February 3, 2024.
The African American History Parade in Downtown Shreveport has occurred on the first Saturday of February for
more than 30 years, as a kick-off to Black History Month. The Administration believes that it would be
inappropriate to ask the parade’s organizer to move the parade two or three weeks later in 2024 to keep the
Krewe of Centaur Mardi Gras parade from having to change its date.
Unfortunately, for 2024, that requires that Krewe of Centaur roll on a different date than is traditional for it. The
city suggested two possible dates – Sunday, February 4, or the prior Saturday, January 27. We believe that
Centaur’s parade will work out fine on either date.
Depending on when Mardi Gras falls in other years, there will be times when one of the Krewes will have to shift
its date. In some years, no changes will be needed.
“We want the parades in Shreveport. But we also want them to be as safe as possible, because if they are not, the
families and individuals who have enjoyed those parades for years may be afraid to attend them,” said Mayor
Arceneaux. “That is a far worse consequence than a change of time or date.”
That's a lot to absorb, right? Aren't these decisions coming a little late in the game? According to the Krewe of Centaur, they've been trying to set a meeting with the city to negotiate a new contract since April 2023. Now, here we are five months later, just five months away from the parade, and not only is there a lot of money at stake, emotions are running high. We reached out to Krewe of Centaur Captain Ricky Bridges for comment but he was unavailable to come on air with us this morning. However, the past captain, parade chair, current float lieutenant and board member of the Krewe of Centaur, as well as local law enforcement officer, Corky Bridges was available for comment. As you can tell, he's qualified to speak to the situation. You can listen to the interview below and as you might have guessed, Centaur isn't pleased. Obviously, these new mandates affect all of our local parading krewes. However, with a date change hanging in the balance, the Krewe of Centaur has more to lose than anyone.
What does the future hold for Mardi Gras in Shreveport-Bossier City, LA?
That's an excellent question. We truly don't know. However, the ball is in Centaur and the other local krewes' court now. Will they comply or find a different resolution? Could they potentially combine the African American History parade with the Krewe of Centaur's? It would certainly give them more exposure. Should Centaur move the parade to another municipality or is it possible to roll with the Krewe of Gemini and put on the biggest parade Shreveport-Bossier City has ever seen? Possibly, but then the Centaur floats normally used in the Highland parade would be unavailable for their parade. If they change the date to February 4, 2024, it would interfere with the Krewe of Barkus and Meoux pet parade. Moving the date to January 27, 2024, would interfere with the Krewe of Gemini bal, especially since many folks are members of both krewes. There's no easy fix, but we'd certainly love to hear your thoughts. Send us a message using the chat feature in our free app or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally Posted August 8, 2023:
Every few years, this issue comes up in Shreveport, LA. When and where should our local Mardi Gras parades take place? Can we just make a decision and stick with it?
What's going on between the City of Shreveport and our local Mardi Gras krewes?
Good question! There are five main items on the City of Shreveport's agenda.
1. The City of Shreveport wants the two biggest krewes in the Shreveport-Bossier City, LA area (Centaur and Gemini) to move up their parade start times to 2:30 pm, which is an earlier start than we've ever had before as far back as I can remember. This means that the parade goers at the end of the route won't get to experience the lights and sounds of the floats that were designed specifically to look good at night.
2. The City of Shreveport wants the two biggest parades to change their route, starting at the Stoner Street bridge, instead of Lake Street on Clyde Fant Parkway. This cuts approximately 1.5 miles from the parade route and basically eliminates the 'family area.' Beads have already been purchased and ordered with the longer route in mind and those 'throws' are purchased by the membership as a gift to the community with an emphasis on the kiddos.
3. The City of Shreveport is requesting that floats remain at least 50 feet apart during the parade with a wrecker after every third float in case of breakdowns. While I completely understand the city's reasoning on this, it also creates a large expense for the krewes.
4. The City of Shreveport is asking for a $50,000 performance bond, which apparently has always been a part of the krewes' contracts in the past, but has never been enforced. The bond lays out a list of rules, and if any are broken, the city will charge the krewes $300 for each rule violation. But that begs the question of who will monitor the parade and if there would be an appeals process.
5. Finally, the City of Shreveport is asking the Krewe of Centaur to change its parade date, which is set years in advance. Meaning that traditionally, the Krewe of Gemini rolls the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, the date of which is determined by the Easter holiday and the Krewe of Centaur rolls the Saturday prior. The change is being requested to accommodate the African American parade that is also planned for February 3, 2024. The African American parade has fallen on the same date as Centaur's 5 times in the past 20 years and there hasn't been an issue before. It also creates a financial hardship for members who have already requested those dates off from work and have made plans regarding travel and accommodations. Those reservations are made at least a year in advance for our out-of-town members and parade goers.
Here's why the City of Shreveport should leave Mardi Gras alone.
Keep in mind that this is my own humble opinion, but I believe I have some insight into the matter. While I don't cover each and every Mardi Gras event in our area like I used to do for our radio stations, I've seen firsthand how plugged in, vibrant, and diverse our Mardi Gras community is. The people involved, who are literally from every walk of life and socioeconomic background, are giving a gift to the community out of their own pocket. Those same people are involved in philanthropic efforts through their respective krewes and also individually. In fact, the latest economic impact study regarding Mardi Gras and northwest Louisiana shows a $20 million direct impact annually. That's not something to take lightly. That keeps our hotels, casinos, and restaurants FULL for the duration of the Mardi Gras season.
While I completely understand that the Shreveport Police Department is understaffed, this isn't a new problem. They've been understaffed for a long time now which points to an entirely different issue, which isn't the point of this op-ed. Sure, safety is a huge issue during Mardi Gras, but I personally don't understand why the Caddo Sheriff's Office can't step in to assist. Just an idea. But I do know this, there's a lot of money at play, as well as long-held traditions. Mardi Gras is literally a part of the lifeblood of Louisiana. I pray that calm, rational minds will prevail and that we can finally put these issues to rest. I think we all deserve an opportunity to let our hair down and come together as a community to celebrate. In short, let the good times roll, Shreveport!