Krewe of Des Allemands Grand Marshals Venis Parks and Katherine Cortez Orgeron are not only lifelong members of the community they’ll be riding through as royalty this weekend, they’ve also long spent their days giving back to it.
Parks can remember growing up when Bayou Gauche Road was a simple mud road. His legacy in the community was established for good when he was one of the founders of the Paradis Fire Department, and today he is its only surviving founder.
“I’m very proud of that,” Parks said. “They gave me a plaque for it … I’m thankful for all the good it’s done for people over the years and any part I had in helping that happen.”
At 93-years-old, Parks is long retired, but will be recognized by countless revelers at the Des Allemands parade. He’ll be throwing cups and medallions commemorating the occasion and he says he’s looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces in the crowd.
“Hopefully everyone has a good time,” Parks said. “This is going to be an experience for me, for sure. I know I’ll be seeing a lot of people I know.”
He grew up as one of seven siblings. The youngest among them, his brother Gary, 79, will be driving Parks’ float.
“It’ll be great to have him along,” Parks said.
Orgeron, meanwhile, learned she was chosen as one of the Grand Marshal’s at an event that was already celebratory – her granddaughter’s baby shower.
“Oh my gosh,” she said of her reaction. “We’ve rode in the parade for years and years. It’s an honor to be chosen.”
Orgeron works with St. Charles Parish Public Schools as a bus monitor for special education students. Her day to day interactions with the children, she said, are deeply rewarding. She recounted one wheelchair-bound child who could not talk, whom she sat with and sang to.
There’s nothing like the feeling of having made their day, she said.
“I didn’t know how many children we had in our schools with special needs, but when I started my job, I saw it,” Orgeron said. “Some of them might not be able to talk, or walk around, but when you talk to them and get them to smile it’s truly wonderful.”
Orgeron has made costumes for floats in past years and fondly remembers how their group’s floats got “fancier and fancier” by the year.
The event is a fitting get-together for everyone in such a tight-knit community.
“Just seeing all of the people coming back here to see the little hometown parade we have,” Orgeron said. “I can’t wait to see the people and see their faces … it’s my favorite part of riding. Everyone’s like a family.”