The inaugural “Magical Krewe of Madhatters” parade made its mark on Mardi Gras history in Jefferson Parish Saturday night when the riders threw loads of illuminated beads, mini-white footballs with the Madhatters logo, lighted scepters and hats that ranged from the signature purple top hate from the Madhatter in “Alice In Wonderland” to ones that made it look like you had a chicken, a tropical fish or an octopus on your head. The parade lived up to it name!
WWL radio host Bobby Hebert was the Madhatter, and Amanda Shaw was Alice. I rode with Amanda as the Black Knight with make-up that mirrored the Black Knight in the story of “Alice in Wonderland.” Other celebrities wearing extravagantly crafted costumes in the theme of Wonderland included: WWL host Mike Detillier, Karen Swenson and Doug Mouton from WWL-TV, David Bernard and Juan Kincaid from Fox 8 and Gina Swanson and Sula Kim from WDSU-TV. And I can tell you that many of the celebrity riders started having fun during the dressing and make-up session before the parade even started!
“The Magical Krewe of Madhatters” did not look – or act – like an inaugural parade. From a rider’s standpoint it was well-organized and first class from beginning to end. Credit for taking this new parade from concept to completion goes to Dr. Joey Lacoste – Louisiana Dental Center and his wife Gwen, along with Ken Berthelot. Their infectious Mardi Gras attitude spread throughout the parade. Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng and Parish Council Member from the 5th District Jennifer Van Vranken both deserve credit for making sure that bureaucracy did not stand in the way of an exciting new venture.
For me, personally, it was a special night. Saturday night marked one year since I was hit by a speeding motorcycle on Canal Street. I couldn’t help but think that my injuries could have been so much worse and parading on that anniversary reminded me of how fortunate I am and how much progress I have made over the past year.
To all of you along the parade route – thank you! Thank you for listening to my radio talk show on WWL, and thank you for the comments along the way. And special thanks to the person that made a sign reading “Radical Moderate – Scoot” and to the women with the sign that read “Marry Me – Scoot!” Out of respect for the woman with the marriage proposal – I’m doing you a favor by saying “Thank you – but I wouldn’t want to ruin your life!”
As much fun as the parade was - there was one thing that concerned me about Mardi Gras parades in general - and after the ride Saturday night I think it’s important to address this issue.
There were sections along the westbound Jefferson Parish route where the crowds were behind barricades, but there were many stretches of the route where crowds could get up next to the floats. I did love it when listeners came up to the float and said something to me or shake my hand, and it was also fun to personally hand the signature Madhatters hat or something special to adults and kids.
I was worried, however, that when I went to throw something, it fell on the street between the tractor pulling the float and the float. Countless times kids would instinctively go right in front of the float to grab whatever I had thrown. Often parents were there to immediately pull their kids back and the parade rolled without any problems or incidents, but there have been times over the years when someone gets hit or rolled over by a float and a few times the outcome has been tragic.
This is not a comment focused on the parade I was in Saturday night, but it is a safety reminder for Mardi Gras parading.
Adults can be as guilty as children when it comes to ignoring danger on their quest to secure a throw from a float, but let’s remember that children are more likely to respond to instinct over safety. That’s why it was so great to see so many parents protecting their children along the route Saturday night.
The parades this weekend rolled without major incidents of crowds being hit by floats – but having noticed the tendency – especially with kids – to go for the throw in the street – I wanted to remind us all that the excitement of the parade should never supersede safety.
The idea of putting up barricades along entire parade routes is probably unrealistic and it is fun when the crowds approach the floats – but as coveted as some of the throws are to the crowd nothing coming off any float is worth risking life or injury.
Happy Mardi Gras!!!