Midweek event still inspires creativity on Saints theme
JARREAU — A midweek Fourth of July was blamed for the smaller number of boats in the 30th annual False River Boat Parade than previous years, but those who did participate had as good a time as ever.
This year’s theme was “Bounty Gate: Save Our Saints.” Just less than 100 party barges and speedboats were festooned with New Orleans Saints memorabilia, “Geaux Saints” posters and banners decrying the scandal of Saints players allegedly injuring opposing players, especially quarterbacks, for illegal cash “bounty” bonuses.
“We picked that theme because of everything going on in the NFL,” parade organizer Branden Barker said. “We always pick something going on in the news.”
More often than not, the players were portrayed as victims and the villain was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Some boats featured his portrait made into a wanted poster or the bulls-eye of a target was drawn over his face.
“We’ll hit him for free,” one politically incorrect poster declared while another put a $10,000 bounty on his head.
Boat parade founder Lionel Kleinpeter said he never dreamed the event he and a few friends started 30 years ago, while visiting each others’ piers and party barges on the 22-mile oxbow lake, would turn into an annual event that this year drew at least 100 boats, probably half the number from last year.
“The day of the week and the themes dictate a lot of the participation, I think,” Kleinpeter said. “When we had themes like presidential elections, or the Bill Clinton scandal — people really ran with that — or the history of rock ’n’ roll, there were some very creative ideas.”
Many of this year’s boaters wore Saints jerseys and some even wore helmets, including the four-person crew of the “Miss Mary Ann,” a small green vessel that looked like an inflatable river-raft with PVC pipe goalposts mounted at either end. The boat was actually handmade of large, fiberglass tubes by James Carrier, 80, decades ago.
He and his crew of three grown daughters, Connie Carrier, Annette Wright and Laura Keller, won two trophies, the Small Craft Trophy and Kleinpeter’s coveted Founder’s Trophy.
“Woo-hoo!” Connie Carrier declared as they pulled into “Admiral” Marc Barker’s dock and two-story judging-stand to show off their trophies. “This is the first year we’ve done this, and we won two trophies! This is awesome to be out here celebrating our freedom.”
And much celebrating was going on as boaters and hundreds of swimmers, bobbing on floats and inner tubes near lakefront docks, relished adult beverages under the hot sun.
Andy Langlois, manager of LA. Express Food Store on Island Road in Jarreau, said the business sold about 500 cases of beer this week so far. The tiny store was crowded with shoppers picking up last minute sunscreen or snacks, and the two gas pumps out front were always busy.
“Overall this year business has been slow, but we’re pretty busy now,” Langlois said. “Fourth of July is always our best business of the summer.”
Across the highway from the store, a steady stream of pickup trucks and SUVs backed their trailered boats down a ramp into the choppy lake.
Chris Olinde, 24, of Jarreau, and his friends, Lexi Gaudet, 23; Jackie David, 23; Ali Bayham, 23; and Ryan Bayham, 23, were hanging posters on their party barge, declaring “Free Payton” and targets of Goodell.
“I’ve lived on the river all my life, but this is my second boat parade,” Olinde said.
“We kinda winged it,” he said when asked about their decorations.
Over on “The Magnet,” a party barge painted in LSU colors that’s owned by Dean Hotard who rode in the parade along with his wife, Stacie, daughter, Brooke, 18, her friends Joseph Delaune, 18, and Stephen Loupe, 22, were stocking the craft with coolers filled with water balloons. A False River Boat Parade tradition includes boaters attacking the judge’s pier and each other from all sides with water balloons.
“We filled balloons for about three hours last night,” Delaune said. “I don’t know how many — hundreds.”
“We’re prepared,” added Stacie Hotard. “We iced them down so they will be really cold!”
As long as water balloon fights were all that happened, Pointe Coupee Sheriff Bud Torres and his crew on the Joint Task Force 7 patrol boat were happy, he said.
They and a Wildlife and Fisheries vessel patrolled the lake all day, checking for drinking and driving and excessive speed, a serious offense on the crowded lake.
“The more some people party, the more they lose their inhibitions, and we watch for that,” Torres said, adding they rarely have to do more than give verbal warnings. “We just don’t want anybody creating a disturbance.”
Up and down the lake, many of the homes’ yards were crowded with families barbecuing and children playing or swimming in the cool, choppy water.