Krewe of Grela
Financial difficulties killed another old line parade in Metairie, making the total three who called it quits in 2014. Another historic krewe, Thor and a new parade Atlantis, won’t roll in 2014 either. That is one poor record. Two of the three parades have been around for decades. Both were major Metairie parades for decades. They anchored their own nights and made Mardi Gras in Metairie a better place by far.
I tend to think something isn’t right in Jefferson. It’s not a poor parish, it should support the krewes and not lose them three in a year. Financial difficulties, or not enough members, is the stated culprit.
The West Bank portion of Jefferson isn’t thriving either. Another historic parade, Grela, has decided not to parade for 2014.
It says something not very good about Mardi Gras in New Orleans when the major parish bordering New Orleans, an economic force in its own right, loses three parades in a year. That’s a bit alarming and shocking. Parades cost more every year, and that will continue for the foreseeable future. When a parade cancels after the season starts, after Twelfth Night, it means they were either very close to coming off this year and just failed, or they just couldn’t accept the fact that their parade wasn’t destined to roll in 2014 and kept it a secret too long.
Another factor in the decline of parading in Jefferson is the lure of St. Charles Avenue as the premier parade route in the New Orleans area. Virtually all parades in Orleans Parish roll down St Charles (except Endymion, Krewe du Vieux, and Chewbaccus).
Slidell has all parades intact this year, and Orleans seems to be in similar shape.
Jefferson Parish’s Carnival is downsizing and changing for the worse in the last couple of years- one of the oldest krewes in Jefferson, the venerable Krewe of Thor, won’t parade in 2014, their 40th anniversary. Earlier this year, another old line Jefferson parade, Grela, called it quits. Jefferson Parish parades on both sides of the Mississippi River have been struggling even before these parades cancelled. It seems Jefferson parades are on a suicide march.
A new parade, the Guardians of Atlantis, won’t roll either. Membership concerns was the reason given.
Last year, some Carnival krewes in Metairie were fined for violating parade ordinances enforced for the first time.
“I was shocked. I felt like it was a slap in the face,” Krewe of Thor captain McKinley Cantrell said.
Cantrell, a 38-year captain and president of the Krewe of Thor, which was founded in 1974, said his krewe has been fined $400 for violating an ordinance prohibiting unmasked riders. The citation states that 60 of the krewe’s 500 riders did not follow the rules.
“I don’t have any control. I don’t have any control over that,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell said at least three Carnival krewes in Jefferson Parish were cited for violating parade ordinances. The Krewe of Atlas was fined $600 for two violations, member Daniel Murray said.
Smoking a joint on the float. The second violation is somebody on the float threw beads soaked in vomit, Murray said. That is really disgusting, they should have locked up the rider who threw vomit soaked beads.
There’s probably a link between last year’s fines and Thor throwing in the towel.
I cannot agree with Cantrell’s statement that he cannot control his members masking or not. If the Captain tells his membership to mask or else, they will mask. Orleans krewe members mask because there are well known penalties for disobeying. The truck floats on Mardi Gras Day have laxer rules than regular Orleans parades.
For decades, the Cantrell family was a major Mardi Gras float building company, building parades in the metro area for 60 years. Cantrell Sr. was Captain of the Krewe of Mardi Gras, and Jr. was Captain of Thor. Each was a pretty substantial parade back in their heyday. The Krewe of Mardi Gras ceased parading years ago. Now that Thor has stopped, it’s the end of an era in Jefferson.
I’ve written about the problems Carnival on the West Bank is having recently, when the Krewe of Choctaw left the West Bank after more than 75 years. After a test year parading down the historic St. Charles Avenue route, they are making the switch permanent.
Now, the mighty Krewe of Alla, after 80 years, is making the change also, leaving only three parades- Grela, NOMTOC, and Adonis. Alla claims financial concerns are forcing the change. It’s true Alla has lost a lot of members over the last few years, as they only have 175 right now. The Captain said a few months ago they would move the parade if they couldn’t attract 200 new members. In my estimation, they didn’t allow enough time to gain those members. Two or three months isn’t realistic. We are in the Mardi Gras ‘off season’, and even though behind the scenes many Mardi Gras businesses and krewes are in high gear planning for Mardi Gras 2014, the average carnival participant isn’t focusing on Mardi Gras this time of year. It’s unrealistic to ask for 200 new members on this basis. It seems to me that Alla planned to leave the West Bank all along.
Choctaw’s growth aspirations are much more realistic. They say they have 200 members, and hope to gain 50 new recruits. For this reason, I back Choctaw’s move far more than Alla’s. Obviously, the long, colorful and successful tradition of parades on the West Bank is in serious danger. When you only have three parades over the Carnival season, you don’t have a parade season, just a single parade every few days. This is a very sad development. The lure of the most famous parade route in the world, St. Charles Avenue, is very strong. In Orleans Parish, as police and sanitation costs rose substantially, neighborhood parades were told to abandon their historic routes in favor of St. Charles Avenue. Pontchartrain used to parade on Hayne Boulevard, by Lake Pontchartrain. Freret used to march down Freret St. Now, both go down St. Charles Avenue. As a matter of fact, all Orleans parades except for Endymion march down St. Charles.
There is one new positive development that might fix the West Bank parade situation, it’s the spanking new Huey P. Long Bridge! Seven long years in the making, the new bridge cost $1.2 billion, making it the one of the most expensive construction projects in the the state’s history. The infamously thin Depression-era bridge has always been a mental and physical barrier to connecting both sides of the Mississippi River. Politicians and West Bank supporters have felt for decades that a wider bridge would lead to an expansion of the western areas of the West Bank, as there are still big patches of undeveloped land across the bridge. We’ll have to see if Carnival on the West Bank grows as well.
This is a very good thing, after a wild year when the Gretna City Council backed the wrong horse (Gretna Fest) instead of their own historic parade. Now, all is forgiven, and the Krewe of Grela, after a year of sitting on the sidelines, will be returning to the streets of Gretna with 22 floats and 10 truck floats for a total of 700+ riders.
Jefferson Parish’s oldest Carnival organization, the krewe was founded in 1947 as a men’s club, but it changed its name to Grela, an acronym for Gretna, La.
Grela missed the 2012 season, the first time in decades that city didn’t have a single parade. Once the parade was gone, the city elders realized that losing the only parade on Fat Tuesday wasn’t in the best interests of Gretna.
It fact, it is a big quality of life issue, and the Gretna City Council passed a new ordinance that allows barbecuing, tents, etc. along the parade for the first time in years.
Mardi Gras backer and council member Belinda Constant allocated $40,000 from her discretionary fund to aid Grela, stating that the parade isn’t just a single event, but a quality parade enhances the stature of the city.
From my vantage point, it’s an economic development issue as well. When folks tailgate in earnest for Mardi Gras day events they purchase beer, grilling materials, meal fixings souvenirs from the parade vendors, etc. I’m very glad the Gretna council came to their senses over this issue. Gretna historically has had a nice Fat Tuesday parade, and I’m glad it’s back!