Every year, the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade leaves behind a massive trail of trash that lines the streets of downtown Baton Rouge and the Spanish Town neighborhood through which the parade rolls.
The Spanish Town residents, though, don’t seem to mind the trash, at least too much.
Denizens of Spanish Town Road said Sunday morning while walking among mounds of beads, plastic bags, cups and bottles that the garbage is an unavoidable by-product of having a Mardi Gras parade.
The clutter is picked up quickly enough that it generally doesn’t become a big hassle, residents said.
Allen Kirkpatrick, 52, who has lived on Spanish Town Road near Bungalow Lane since 1994, said he just tries to clean up his own yard and wait for street sweepers to come, as they always do. He said he’s happy with the city-parish’s efforts to pick up after the parade.
“If the street sweepers weren’t coming, I’d be out here with bags and bagging it myself,” he said.
Some Spanish Town residents a year ago raised concerns about post-parade cleanup in the neighborhood, saying they wanted financial help from the Mystic Krewe Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe, the nonprofit organization that hosts the parade.
The Department of Public Works modified its cleanup plan for this year’s parade after last year’s controversy, said David Guillory, the department’s interim director.
Those changes include enlisting more manpower and using different devices, including rakes and grabbers to pick up beads, and to not just rely on street sweepers, Guillory said.
Kirkpatrick, however, said some people just “like to gripe.”
“They’ll sit there and complain, and you offer them a rake, and they say, ‘Well, I shouldn’t have to do that,’” he said. “They prefer to complain than doing something about it.”
The city-parish usually picks up about 100 to 200 cubic yards of trash, or about eight 30-cubic-yard dumpsters, after the Spanish Town parade, Guillory said.
“It’s a great parade, but it creates a lot of waste,” he said.
After the parade ends Saturday night, DPW workers assess the damage and estimate how many workers will be needed for the daylong job Sunday, Guillory said.
Guillory said much of the work is done by the department and the only major costs are labor related.
Public Works crews arrived downtown sometime before 7 a.m. and likely would keep working until about 6 p.m., Guillory said.
He said litter detail workers — people trying to fulfill their court-ordered community service hours — trudged along from about 8 a.m. to noon.
The residents in Spanish Town always do their part to help, Guillory said. They made it particularly easy this year by organizing a cleanup effort and enlisting the help of work release inmates, he said.
“If everybody kind of cleaned up in front of their house, or at least kind of made it easier for us to pick up, then the cleanup goes a lot faster,” he said.
Allan Williams, 65, was among the group of Spanish Town residents lending a helping hand Sunday.
Williams, a Spanish Town resident for 22 years, said he started organizing post-parade cleanup efforts in the neighborhood sometime around 2000.
The workload is heavy, but there are enough people helping to make it go by quickly, he said.
“At the end of the day, what’s true is that we came through and cleaned the stuff up, and it looks better, and it’s going to stay looking better for a longer time,” he said.
Debbie Daniel, 61, lives on Seventh Street just off Spanish Town Road. Her son Gerry Turner, 46, resides on Spanish Town Road near Capitol Grocery.
If anything, Daniel said she and her crew contribute trash by throwing a party every year that she says draws hundreds of people.
Daniel said the garbage doesn’t bother her at all because the parade is too much fun. That, and it’s usually gone within a day.
Some of the people she has heard complain about the trash are on the side of the road during the parade, demanding beads, she said.
“Get real. You can’t have it both ways,” she said. “We love it.”
Josie Panula, 64, lives next to Daniel at the corner of Seventh Street and Spanish Town Road. The large yard in front of her fenced-in home was clean Saturday morning aside from a tree in her yard that was adorned with beads and beer cans — which were put there intentionally.
Panula, like others, isn’t bothered by the mess.
“We just have a good time,” she said. “We don’t mind. The majority of this (trash in my yard) was cleaned last night.”
Gerald Woods, 62, and Anne Woods, 61, have lived at their Spanish Town Road home since 2008. Anne Woods said the home has been in her family since the 1930s.
Gerald Woods, who served as the parade’s grand marshal, pointed out that the parade is only once a year.
“I’m waiting for the city to come do what they normally do,” Gerald Woods said. “The city takes care of it. They bring a crew through here. They’re always real nice. They do it timely.”
Advocate staff writer Ryan Broussard contributed to this report.
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