Future of 50-year Des Allemands parade in jeopardy after low support

Despite low participation and negative comments, Des Allemands has become the town that refuses to give up its more than 50-year-old Mardi Gras parade.

The glow hadn’t yet worn off Des Allemands’ most recent Mardi Gras celebration when krewe member Mitzi Tregle learned about negative comments posted on a Facebook page about this year’s parade. With a year of hard planning and meetings invested, Tregle said the words stung that the event was not worth attending because it lasted 30 minutes. She particularly became infuriated when she saw the word “pathetic.”

That was it for a frustrated Tregle who decided it was time to put the hard question on the table: “Do we regroup or give up? We hope it’s regroup.”

On the krewe’s Facebook page, she posted an announcement under the heading, “Precarious Position of the Des Allemands Parade” with an invitation to area residents to meet Feb. 19 at the Des Allemands Volunteer Fire Station to discuss the parade’s future. It states, “Due to lack of support and participation, this meeting is being held to decide the future of the parade. The committee works very hard year round to hold a Mardi Gras parade and we want nothing more [than] to continue its over 50-year tradition. The dwindling participation is of great concern at this time.”Tregle’s alert got attention.

Last Thursday’s meeting drew some 14 people, much to the relief of the eight-member parade committee, who offered ideas and help to salvage the parade, which has been rolling since 1959.

The possibility of changing the parade time and date was discussed, as well as brainstorming new events to boost participation and parade attendance, and fundraisers to boost krewe funds. The committee especially welcomed bringing back some of the American Legion and Lions Club (organizations that originally held the parade) queens to ride in the parade, as well as adding cartoon characters to the lineup. They welcomed any effort to show the history and tradition behind the parade.

Although some crowd members suggested combining the Des Allemands and Luling parades, which has been done in the past because of inclement weather, the group agreed to keep them separate to ensure the Des Allemands parade stays in the area.

The group agreed to bring more ideas and ways they can help to the committee’s next meeting at 7 p.m. March 17 at the Des Allemands Volunteer Fire Station.

Committee members conceded the parade had dwindled from about 15 floats last year to barely 10 this year when it rolled 1 p.m. Feb. 15, but they maintained the problem was there weren’t enough riders to fill more of them and lack of funds to attract more features like bands.

“It is the more the merrier thing, but we’re lacking on the ‘more,’” Tregle said.

With renewed interest in the parade, she expects they could actually grow next year’s parade to 15 or more floats.Although it appears likely the parade will roll next year, mostly due to parade lovers’ determination to maintain the tradition and commitment to help save the parade, committee members aired the Krewe of Des Allemands’ frustrating efforts to make a better parade.

They singled out lack of participation as the No. 1 issue, citing worries that people won’t make time, lack the funds or just aren’t into Mardi Gras. Past costly efforts where they hired higher priced entertainers didn’t improve crowds at the royalty dance, which hurt parade funds because ticket sales support the parade. Hiring a disc jockey to draw younger participants to the dance didn’t work either. Even this year’s parade attendance dropped when the city of Houma advanced its parades to avoid inclement weather.

Talks also focused on the emerging business and competitiveness of staging Mardi Gras parades.

Committee members say today’s Mardi Gras celebrations mean coming up with funds to pay parade participants such as bigger or more popular high school bands, cartoon characters and floats that have all requested a fee in the past to join their parade, which had become increasingly difficult with an ever tighter budget. The Hahnville High School band marched in this year’s parade at no charge.

This is not the first time Des Allemands has acted to save the parade.

Committee members singled out Becky Dufrene in the crowd as one of the people who helped resurrect the parade in 1995 when the Lions Club gave it up, also for lack of participation. Dufrene, who helped form the committee in place today to keep it running, again offered her assistance. She said her generation enjoyed making the parade, but agreed they need to find ways to get today’s youths involved.

Any help to support the parade came as good news to Tregle, who said Des Allemands doesn’t have the glamour of Mardi Gras in New Orleans but it is a tradition she and fellow committee members hope the town is willing to save.

“Everybody loves a parade,” Tregle said. “Everyone in Des Allemands has grown up with the parade and we’d like the future generations to have it. It’s a great time to get together.”

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