Here’s Why the City of Shreveport Should Leave Mardi Gras Alone
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!