Posts tagged Grela
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!
This is one sorry and sad feature.
For 2012, Gretna loses their most historic Mardi Gras Day parade, Grela, the West Bank’s only local celebration on Fat Tuesday.
Just last month, Grela announced their plan of cobbling together $60,000 from 3 Greta City Council members and a corporate sponsor but the corporation couldn’t pull off their commitment.
Gretna stopped funding Mardi Gras in April when officials had to choose between paying for Mardi Gras activities and giving money to the Gretna Heritage Festival.
Yes, Gretna Fest has grown into a really nice festival, but Grela is Jefferson Parish’s oldest Carnival krewe. Gretna Fest has a huge budget with the dozens of bands that play the several day festival. They have corporate funding, charge a cover charge to enter the Festival, and sell a lot of food, drinks, and beer. They certainly could have covered the $30,000 much much easier than Grela could, and this is an obvious fact the Council should have seen a mile off.
Therefore, a Carnival Jeer goes out to the Gretna City Council for backing the total wrong horse with this poor decision in April 2011. The krewe was founded in 1947 as a men’s club, but it changed its name to Grela, an acronym for Gretna, La.
Grela Vice President Carmen Kass said she feels “rotten” about the krewe’s missed year, questioning whether the council ever really wanted to save Grela. She said initially the krewe was told it would cost the city $67,000 to host a Mardi Gras parade, but that number grew to $85,000. Kass said that amount would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the krewe to raise in addition to the $150,000 to $165,000 price tag for the parade. More important, she said city officials told Grela that raising the money wouldn’t be a temporary fix until the city got back on its feet financially, but the new status quo.
After this slap in the face, Grela may end up returning in 2013 in Westwego. We’ll have to see.
Earlier this year Rhea, another Jefferson Parish krewe, called it quits. Rhea was formed in 1969, making this parade over 40 years old! It began as an all woman parade, but became coed in later years. Rhea was the first Jefferson parade to roll down Veterans Boulevard, and the one of the few Jefferson parades to hold their ball in the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans.