from Susan Edwards / Eyewitness News,

METAIRIE, La. – Call it the thrill of the ride or a chance of a lifetime, but joining your favorite krewe and riding along during carnival season may no longer be as difficult or as exclusive as you may think.
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Mardi Gras expert Errol Laborde said the times are changing.

“I think the image to a lot of people is it’s a big, exclusive deal, but that’s hardly the case,” Laborde said.

While some parading organizations are invitation only, there are several who are scrambling to attract anyone interested in membership and an unforgettable experience.

“With some of the krewes, you’re seeing more of an effort to find riders and it may or may not be totally related to the economy,” Laborde said.

Because of financial hardships, some krewes have feared 2010 could be a tough year to keep old members and attract new ones. Laborde said it’s simply too soon to tell if that’s the case; however, there are some unusual advertising techniques seeking the attention of interested riders.

Krewe of Argus in Jefferson Parish has been rolling on Fat Tuesday for more than three decades. Co-Captain Lawrence Chehardy said membership is at 400 right now, which is average for this time of year. They’re hoping that mass mailers will only boost interest and membership for the upcoming carnival season.

“Argus is a business, it’s a Mardi Gras krewe, but it’s a business. We have to watch how we spend money and certainly in these economic times it impacts everybody, but that said, we’re always looking for new members and new blood,” Chehardy said.

Chehardy said that over the years their website has contributed to successful parades, but the flyers were sent to residents along the Veterans Memorial Boulevard corridor as an added way to generate interest.

“We’ve gotten riders from outside Jefferson Parish, from out of country who have gone to the internet, did a search and found the Krewe of Argus and we’ve had them ride with us,” Chehardy said.