With the holiday season in the rear view mirror, Mardi Gras preparations are in full swing. From planning lavish Mardi Gras Balls to constructing elaborate parade floats, the good time are ready to roll for Carnival Time All Across Cenla.
The 2015 Mardi Gras season boasts more Carnival festivities than ever before in the Alexandria/Pineville area. This year, the festivities will take place over two weekends, instead of just one! Beginning two weekends before Fat Tuesday, Pineville will kick off the newest event with their “Light the Night” evening parade. This lighted parade will roll beginning at 5:30pm on Friday, February 6th, at the intersection of College Boulevard and Donahue Ferry, continuing down Main Street toward the Red River.
The night parade will mark a historical moment for both Pineville and Alexandria. As the parade rolls down Main Street in Pineville, it will cross the Jackson Street Bridge into Alexandria. This will be the first known parade since 1906 to cross the Red River spanning both cities, and this will be the first time ever for one to cross the Jackson Street bridge. The last parade in 1906 crossed the old Murray Street bridge. The Light the Night Parade will continue on Jackson Street to Sixth Street in Alexandria.
Parade revelers can make their way to the Taste of Mardi Gras, hosted by the Central Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, at the Alexandria Riverfront Center. The Taste of Mardi Gras is an annual event featuring food and drink from area restaurants and vendors and live music from the Baton Rouge band Stormy. Tickets are now on sale at the Alexandria/Pineville Area CVB office, both locations of Critic’s Choice and Atwood’s Bakery for $20.00 advance adult tickets and $10.00 advance children tickets. Tickets will increase by $5.00 the day of the Taste. VIP tables are available for purchase also at the APACVB office with VIP admission starting at 6:30pm on February 6th, and general admission at 7:30pm.
“The addition of a new parade and the growth of the existing parades have helped the continued exposure of Alexandria and Pineville as a family-friendly destination for the Mardi Gras season for not just one day, but for an entire weekend stay,” says Sherry Ellington, Executive Director of the Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This means more overnight stays to boost not only the hotels’ income, but also that of restaurants, gas stations, big box and local stores, and area attractions. Mardi Gras is big business for the entire state, and the Alexandria-Pineville area definitely sees a piece of that pie.”
Mardi Gras parades continue Saturday, February 7th, in Woodworth and Wednesday, February 11th, at LSU of Alexandria.
Alexandria will once again honor our Military with three days of family-friendly Mardi Gras events. The National WWII Museum’s charming vocal trio, the Victory Belles, will start things off with a Salute to our Military and their families. The Victory Belles will appear throughout the weekend at selected events, including the King Cake Party at the Alexandria Zoo on Saturday, February 12th at 2:00pm and . The 8th annual Classic Cars & College Cheerleaders Parade, sponsored by Hixson Autoplex, begins at 4:30pm on Friday, February 13th, following the same route as Saturday’s Children’s Parade in downtown Alexandria, which rolls Saturday, February 14th at 10:00am and features an international French theme this year. The CCCC showcases classic cars paired with college cheerleaders and spirit squads from colleges and universities.
Hixson’s Classic Cars & College Cheerleaders Parade has been sponsored by Hixson Autoplex, a military friendly dealership, since 2012. The parade has increasingly taken on a military theme in order to recognize Louisiana’s unique military contributions to our nation and the world. Last year, Hixson’s CCCC parade included two floats with Ft. Polk soldiers, two floats with National Guard troops and one float with representatives from the VA Hospital. For the past 3 years, Hixson’s Classic Cars & College Cheerleaders Parade has progressed with distinguished generals as grand marshals: from a one star, Gen KK Chinn; to a two star, Gen Glenn Curtis; to a three star, Gen Russel Honore, (Ret) in 2014. The 2015 has a very special surprise as Grand Marshal.
Classic Car entries are interspersed between floats and bands. The cars are rated by a select panel of judges with respect to their “Classic Car-ness”. Past winners include cars owned and driven by Dave Duplissey and Greg Jones.
Past spirit squads and participants have included LSU and Mike the Tiger, NSU Cheerleaders and several out-of-state squads, including Southern Arkansas. In fact, NSU has appeared every year under the able leadership of Amy Dodson. This year, LSU of Alexandria and Louisiana College will join the family-friendly parade.
Each year, a special health-related theme is showcased, and a representative is selected to serve as a representative. Past causes have include heart disease and autism. This year’s theme is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a cause near to the hearts of people world-wide. This year’s St. Jude Representative is Alexandria native Caroline Beard.
The weekend festivities culminate with the 22nd AMGA Krewes Parade, which will roll on Sunday February 15th at 2:00pm. The parade begins on Texas Avenue and ending on North Mall Boulevard.
For more information, visit the www.alexmardigras.com.
For more Carnival revelry, “Allons aux Avoyelles, ici on est fier de parlez Francaise” for Mardi Gras activities. February 7th and 8th is Mardi Gras weekend in Avoyelles. The Krewe of Cronus will roll on February 7th in Bunkie at 2:00pm, and will end at the Haas Auditorium with a dance and live band. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Contact the Bunkie Chamber of Commerce at (318) 346-2575 for additional information. Bunkie—named by Macci Haas, when she mispronounced her stuffed animal “Bunkie” instead of monkey—was settled in 1882 and incorporated in 1885. Bunkie’s slogan, “The best spot on topside of God’s green earth,” is one lived up to with their warmth and hospitality. While in town, visit the Bunkie Depot, est. 1911, located at 110 NW Main Street. Shop for unique gifts in the downtown area plan to stay for lunch or dinner before or after the parade.
The Krewe of Cyllenius Ball, a ticketed black-tie event sponsored by the Avoyelles Rotary Club, is planned for February 7th at Paragon Mari Center. Doors open at 6:00pm. The Krewe of Cyllenius Parade in Marksville will roll at 2:00pm on February 8th. For Ball ticket information, call (318) 264-9392 or (318) 253-6868.
Come for a weekend of Mardi Gras fun in Avoyelles! For hotel/motel accommodations visit www.travelavoyelles.com or call the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism at (800) 833-4195.
The festivities continue with Mardi Gras in Vernon Parish. Vernon gets into the spirit of the season with the annual Leesville Mardi Gras Parade. This celebration is always held the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, which also happens to be Valentine’s Day this year, so come celebrate two wonderful holidays rolled into one!
The annual Leesville Mardi Gras Parade is sponsored each year by the Greater Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce. The parade rolls down 3rd St., in the heart of the Leesville National Register District, at 2:00pm on February 14th. For more information, call the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce at (337) 238-0349, or check out the website at www.chambervernonparish.com. For information about many events, activities, and attractions in the Vernon Parish/Leesville area, call the Vernon Parish Tourism Commission at (337) 238-0783, or visit www.VentureVernon.com.
To the north, the City of Lights will let the ‘good times roll’ and celebrate carnival season in the little city with the big history! The destination of travelers since 1714, Natchitoches’ major Mardi Gras Magic festivities include local flavor and culture while focused on family fun. Celebrations are set to roll on Saturday, February 14th.
Calling all pet lovers! The Krewe of Wag-uns is fun for the entire family! Sponsored by the Natchitoches Humane Society, the children and pet parade has four award categories which includes a crowning of ‘King Rex Rufus’ and a ‘Queen Mutt A Gras’. Dress up your pet and let the good times roll! Children may use scooters, bicycles, wagons and golf carts. The parade begins at 2:30pm in downtown Natchitoches at Bank of Montgomery on Washington Street and travels down Front Street, turns onto the South end of the Riverbank, and ends at the stage. For more information, visit www.natchitocheshumane.com
‘Hollywood Legends’ is the theme for the Annual Krewe of Dionysos Mardi Gras Parade. The family friendly night parade rolls from 5:00pm to 8:00pm, and features a dozen or more Super Floats and at least 50 entries, including a grand marshal, marching bands and dance groups! Experience Mardi Gras Magic Natchitoches style as specialty beads, throws, plush toys and cups are thrown to the crowd. The parade begins on South Drive in East Natchitoches and rolls through the historic downtown Natchitoches. Parade Co-Captain, Rick Calvert says, “This years’ parade is bigger and better than ever!” For more information, visit http://kreweofdionysos.yolasite.com/.
Combine your Carnival celebration with your special someone for Valentine’s Day in Natchitoches, named a Most Romantic Main Street by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Stroll along Front Street overlooking Cane River Lake and enjoy great architecture, southern charm, one of a kind shops and rejuvenating spa experiences. Take a romantic carriage ride through the district that features sites in the film “Steel Magnolias” then have dinner at one of our Creole and southern style restaurants.
Explore the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum and Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site both in the Historic District. Travel the Cane River Heritage Area Trail, and explore Oakland and Magnolia Plantation units at Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Melrose Plantation, the home of famed primitive folk artist Clementine Hunter. Stay at one of our many B&B’s. Come and discover Natchitoches as you revel in the festivities!