Kids’ krewe celebrates 30 years

Perfect weather conditions prevailed — the temperature was in the low 60s, there was bright sunshine and the sky was crystal clear. All this combined brought the crowds out to greet the Krewe of Little Rascals as its members celebrated the organization’s 30th anniversary Sunday afternoon in Metairie.

At 10 a.m. with light fog in the area, there were just a few people securing their spots along the traditional Veterans Memorial Boulevard parade route. But by the time the parade kicked off at noon, more and more people were gathering, mostly families who also were taking an opportunity to grill some food and toss a football around.

When the all-children’s Krewe of Little Rascals first rolled three decades ago, there were 50 members and three floats. On Sunday, there were 16 floats carrying more than 230 members.

“There were a lot of people in the early years who kept telling us that there was no way we could get this Carnival krewe going and keep it going,” said Maureen Spittler, who with her husband, Jack, are the founders and co-captains of the organization. “And here we are celebrating our 30th year. It is a special year for everyone involved.” “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” was the theme of this year’s parade and the Spittlers said they chose it as a salute to the founders, organizers, parents and alumni of the krewe.

“We specifically decided on that theme because of all the obstacles we faced in those early years,” Jack Spittler said. “Back then, we didn’t have many people working with us or helping us like we do today. But Maureen and I were determined to give children from any and all backgrounds an opportunity to participate as members of a traditional Carnival krewe. And that includes from riding in the parade to participating in a tableau ball.”

Members range in age from two to 18. And the Spittlers, along with sponsors and donors, work to make sure that children from all economic backgrounds as well as those facing serious illnesses have an opportunity to be a member of the krewe.

For example, the Krewe of Little Rascals works with officials from hospitals and youth organizations around the greater New Orleans area, including Children’s Hospital, Angels’ Place, the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. And those with special needs also participate as members of the krewe.

“I like to think of this organization as the great equalizer because of the diversity of the members,” Jack Spittler said. “Why shouldn’t a child who always wanted to participate in Mardi Gras but who may come from a family who does not have the financial means to pay for them to participate have a chance to do so? Instead of saying a child or his or her family are disadvantaged, I prefer to say they are on the down side of advantage.”

Metairie resident Dot Cooke serves as assistant captain and has been with the Little Rascals for 26 years.

“When I first got involved, there was so much to do, I often felt like I fell into a bottomless pit,” Cooke laughed. “But I love every minute of it. And what keeps me involved and keeps me going are the kids, the members of the Little Rascals.”

Grand marshal for the parade was recording artist and actor Greg Cipes.

Best known for his role as Beast Boy on the popular Cartoon Network series, “Teen Titans,” his other roles include Caleb in “W.I.T.C.H.,” and Kevin in “Ben 10 Alien Force.” Cipes is also a regular guest in “Rugrats: All Grown Up,” “Justice League,” and “Totally Spies.”

Cipes said he first rode as grand marshal with the Krewe of Little Rascals in 2006.

“When I get on that float and music is playing, my adrenalin starts pumping,” Cipes said. “There is so much positive energy all around. I just love being a part of this organization.

“Carnival is such a great celebration,” he said. “And this parade is a celebration of kids. So for me, this is my Mardi Gras.”