Die-hard fans ignore cold; celebrate Mardi Gras

A few hardy souls braved freezing temperatures and a cold drizzle that never let up to watch Lafayette’s three Mardi Gras parades, a line of floats and marching bands shortened this year because of miserable weather.

All school marching bands scheduled to participate in two of the three parades — King Gabriel’s Parade and the Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Parade — pulled out except two from Texas: The Central Senior High School band, of Beaumont, Texas, and the Westbury High School band, of Houston, were the lone bands to march Tuesday. The final parade, the KADN/KLAF Independent Parade, never features bands.

Spectators too were in short supply. Where last year parade-goers numbered two, three and sometimes four or more deep in places, secluded spots along the route were easy to find Tuesday.

There was a bright spot to fewer people: It became a bead-catcher’s paradise.

“We were in just one spot,” Charlie Curtis, 10, said.

Charlie, who attended last year, said he didn’t have to fight off others for beads that came his way. And there were many beads that came his way.

“The trick is to get a basket,” he said, showing off his pile of Mardi Gras booty. He also showed off the welts above and below his right eye, the result of a few beads thrown hard that whistled past his basket.

Some older parade attendees got primed early, sitting in nearby bar rooms before the parades started, rather than stand around in freezing rain.

Kristian Hernandez, Shelly Daigle and Maximillian Bacque, all of Lafayette, sat in the Sidebar off General Mouton, close to the Johnston Street route for all three parades.

“If I was from out of town, I would be grumpy,” Hernandez said, referring to many who traveled to Lafayette to participate in its parades.

“I was in cut-off shorts and a T-shirt on Saturday,” he said. “Now look at it.”

Outside was cold and miserable, conditions that prompted the National Weather Service to extend its winter weather advisory from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The advisories are issued when winter weather causes hazardous driving conditions.

Lafayette Police Cpl. Paul Mouton said some parade participants who were to ride atop floats bowed out. Mouton said he didn’t have the numbers.

The weather forced cancellations Tuesday of the Carnival D’Acadie in Crowley and also parades in New Iberia, Franklin, Loreauville and Coteau.

Lafayette officials also closed the La Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette at Cajun Field because the rides were icing up, and the bands scheduled to play there were canceled.

State and local officials temporarily closed roads, bridges and elevated highways across central and south Louisiana because of the mix of freezing temperatures and rain.

Included in the closures were Interstate 10 between Lafayette and Baton Rouge and the Camellia Street Bridge in Lafayette. Both were reopened Tuesday afternoon.

Fewer people this year set up spots early Tuesday along the parade route.

Two diehards, Joshua Zenon and Dennis Mouton, worked to get their tent and stereo system just right.

“The party don’t stop,” Zenon said while wiring up his music maker.

Mouton said some in their group arrived late Monday and stayed all night to secure the spot at East Convent and Johnston streets. As the last float of the last parade rolled by, their troupe of revelers was still at it.

The last parade of the day, and of Lafayette’s 2014 Mardi Gras season, was the KADN/KLAF Independent Parade. The number of floats was fewer this year, but those who stayed and rode looked like they were having a good time.

Appearing to have such a good time were those on the Krewe of Daiquiris Supreme, who looked especially happy and vigorous, bouncing around and throwing beads to the few along the route to catch them.

Zach Lazard said he appreciated those who chose to ride their float instead of bailing out. Lazard, 26, of Lafayette, camped in a tent near Jefferson Street on Monday night.

“It’s a tradition for us,” he said. “Rain, sleet or snow, we’ll be out here.”

Advocate intern reporter Mike Francingues contributed to this story.