Pineville will kick off the Cenla Mardi Gras fun on Friday, February 22nd with the fifth annual Pineville Light the Night Parade. This evening parade begins on College Boulevard at 7:00pm, travels down Main Street, crosses the Jackson Street Bridge into Alexandria, turns onto Third Street, and ends at Johnston Street. The parade features lighted floats and area junior high and high school bands. The nighttime parade is a true Mardi Gras spectacle. The beauty of the lighted floats crossing the bridge from Pineville to Alexandria is only outshone by the mayors of both cities toasting on the front steps of Alexandria City Hall in a symbol of unity and comradery.
The next day, Saturday, February 23rd, the town of Ball will host its inaugural Mardi Gras Parade beginning at 10:00am The parade will roll north along Highway 165 from Paradise Elementary School to Ball Town Hall.
The town of Woodworth will also host its annual Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday, beginning at noon. The parade will begin at Maison Rue and Castor Plunge Road, travel down Dan Triplett Road to Brookwood Drive, turn onto Highway 165 South, and then return to Castor Plunge Road.
Mardi Gras kicks off in Avoyelles with the Krewe of Cronus Parade, set to roll at 2:00pm in downtown Bunkie on Saturday, February 23rd, followed by a Family Fais Do Do with JC Melancon and the Bayou Rock Band performing live on the Corn Fest band stand at Haas Auditorium. Admission to the celebration is free. For event information, call the Bunkie Chamber of Commerce at (318) 346-7525.
Knights of Columbus Council #9294 in Echo will host its annual Children’s Mardi Gras & Chicken Run Parade on Saturday, February 23rd (with an alternate rain date of March 2nd) starting at 1:30pm. The parade will begin from St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church grounds and should return around 4:00pm. A $1.00 donation/entry fee will be collected from all parade participants. When the parade returns to the church area, gumbo will be served beginning at 4:00pm for $6.00 per bowl (all you can eat while dining in). King Cake will also be available. For more information, call (318) 729-0683.
The festivities continue in Marksville on Sunday, February 24th, when the Krewe of Cyllenius Parade rolls at 2:00pm! Twenty-one debutantes, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Avoyelles, will be on a float ready for the revelers to shout “Throw Me Something Mister” and get beads in return. For parade entry and other event information, contact Crystal Adams, Parade Chair, at (318) 359-3534.
The annual LSUA Mardi Gras Parade will roll on Wednesday, February 27th at 12:00pm, beginning on Tom Bowman Road. The parade will continue onto Grady Britt Drive, turn onto Garry Tisdale to Middleton Drive and rolls onto Acorn to The Oaks.
Alexandria kicks off their Mardi Gras weekend Friday, March 1st with the Hixson Autoplex Classic Cars & College Cheerleaders (CCCC) Parade. The Hixson Autoplex CCCC Parade will roll at 4:30pm. The parade route will wind through downtown Alexandria, from Murray Street to St. James Street, and will consist of classic cars paired with cheerleaders from colleges and universities in Louisiana and Mississippi. The 2019 Hixon Autoplex CCCC Grand Marshal is Brigadier General Sherian Grace Cadoria, United States Army (Retired). Cadoria attended both Marksville Colored High School, and later the newly constructed Mary McLeod High. She then graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, where she joined the WAC College Junior Training Program, which ensured the rank of corporal after the training. In August 1961, her commission started for her military career.
Cadoria was sent to France, where she became the assistant adjutant, and would later serve as a school officer at the military-base school for two years. She was later selected to attend the Adjutant General Career Course in Indiana. During her assignments as a protocol officer in Vietnam, Cadoria was awarded three Bronze Stars and also an Air Medal for meritorious service at Cam Ranh Bay. In 1970, Cadoria became the first black female to attend the Command and General Staff College in Kansas. She became the Commander of the Military Police Training Battalion at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Later she became Commander of the First Region Criminal Investigation Command.
In 1985, Cadoria was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. After a distinguished 29-year military career, Cadoria retired in 1990. She was the highest-ranking black female general in the U.S. Armed Forces upon her retirement. In November 2002, General Cadoria became the first woman and the first African American inducted into the Louisiana Military Veterans Hall of Honor.
The 25th annual Taste of Mardi Gras will commence Friday, March 1st at the Alexandria Riverfront Center in downtown Alexandria. The Taste of Mardi Gras was created in 1997 as a fundraiser for the Cenla Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA). The first year it was held in conjunction with the grand opening of the Alexandria Riverfront Center and was named “Taste on the Riverfront.” There were 14 food booths and approximately 350 people attended the first “Taste.” Today, Taste of Mardi Gras has grown to 40 food booths and more than 2,500 attendees annually. Tickets are now available at the Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau office, 707 Second Street in Alexandria, or by calling (318) 442-9546 or (318) 299-6738.
The 23rd Annual Children’s Parade will roll at 10:00am on Saturday, March 2nd. The parade route will wind through downtown Alexandria, from Murray Street to St. James Street to the delight of an estimated 25,000 along the route. The 2019 Children’s Parade Grand Marshal is Catherine Grace “Gracie” Reichman, Miss Louisiana’s Outstanding Teen 2018. Reichman, a Cenla native, attends Holy Savior Menard Central High School. In addition to reigning as Miss Louisiana’s Outstanding teen, Gracie is a Girls State Representative, Beta Club member, softball player, avid hunter and conservationist, and the reigning Louisiana Watermelon Festival’s Seed Spitting Champion.
Following the parade, children are then invited sink their teeth into a delicious slice of Atwood’s Bakery king cake, mambo to live music, and visit with costume characters at the Alexandria Zoo for the annual Mardi Gras Party at 2:00pm! Regular Zoo admission. FOTAZ members are free with card and photo ID. Sponsored by Friends of the Alexandria Zoo, Atwood’s Bakery, and City of Alexandria. For more information, call the Zoo at (318) 441-6810.
The Krewe of Paragon will host an RV Resort Mardi Gras Celebration & Mini Parade on Saturday, March 2nd from 11:00am to 5:30pm at Paragon RV Resort in Marksville. The golf cart parade with marching bands and throws, live music with Johnny Chauvin and The Jukebox Trio, and great food and refreshing beverage booths begins at 3:00pm. Parade Participation is free and open to both the RV Resort Guests and the Public. For more information, call (318) 253-2089.
In Natchitoches, the Krewe of Dionysos will hold a family-friendly evening parade to celebrate the carnival season on Saturday, March 2nd. The parade rolls at 6:00pm at the River South Common shopping center parking lot turning right onto South Drive to Keyser Avenue turning left at the Keyser Avenue, crossing the bridge and turning right on Jefferson Street to Front Street to Washington Street, turning left onto Texas Street, and turning left onto Second Street to Church Street to end the parade route. King & Queen XXI, Kirk Soileau and Carmen Aviles, will reign over the parade led by Captain Dionysos XXI, Jerry McElwee.
The 26th Annual Alexandria Mardi Gras Association Krewes Parade will roll Sunday, March 3rd, at 2:00pm, beginning on Texas Avenue and ending on North Mall Boulevard. The parade that began with 10 floats and four Krewes now boasts 24 Krewes, with attendance estimated at 120,000 revelers annually! The Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee will once again host a reserved Military Viewing area. The area will feature a viewing stand with snacks and refreshments for the duration of the Krewes parade. The Military Viewing area will be located in the Sears parking lot for anyone with a Military I.D. and their families.
Each year, the Alexandria Mardi Gras Association chooses persons of distinction, who have had positive impacts on the quality of life in Louisiana, to serve as parade Grand Marshals. This year’s Krewes Parade Grand Marshal is Versha Sharma. Sharma is a native of Alexandria and graduate of Bolton High School and Centenary College. She is the Managing Editor and Senior Correspondent at NowThis, where she’s been working since 2014. In particular, Sharma’s work has focused on politics, both domestic and international. Originally hired as a senior editorial producer in the early days of social media and video, she was integral in shaping the editorial voice for NowThis. She was subsequently promoted to managing editor, where she set strategy and oversaw the 2016 Election coverage, running a team of nine produces over two years.
NowThis boasts an audience of 23 million followers and 2.5 billion video views monthly. Versha hosts shows and series for the brand and frequently interviews politicians, activists and artists such as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, scientist Bill Nye and recording artist Alicia Keys. Prior to joining NowThis, Sharma worked as a reporter and editor for Vocativ, another digital news outlet. In 2012, she covered the 2012 presidential election as part of the MSNBC team. She got her start at Talking Points Memo, where she rose from unpaid intern to deputy publisher in just three years. It was her time at Talking Points where she honed her skills from writing and reporting to editing, publishing, and managing social media.
Get to the parade route early to enjoy Mardi Gras in The Zone–an alcohol- and tobacco-free area safe for families to celebrate before the parade. In 2009, the Alexandria Mardi Gras Association approached local non-profit health providers requesting assistance to start a family friendly alcohol- and tobacco-free parade viewing area during the Sunday Krewes Parade and the Free Zone was born, hosting the first event for the 2010 Krewes parade. Now in its 10th year, the Mardi Gras Free Zone 2019 opens at 11:00am on parade day and closes at 2:00pm so attendees can attend the Krewes Parade. DJ Rick Kise keeps the Mardi Gras mood alive while the Kids Zone offers face painting, chalking, balloon art, and other fun activities. This year, the event will feature a distracted driving simulator for older teens and adults, and the City of Alexandria Mobile Rec2u Program rounds out the fun with basketball goals, soccer balls and nets, yard games, and lots of jumpers! All kids will be given a throw bag at the door. This year, the health zone will have free screenings, resource information, and first aid assistance.
As top sponsor this year, Aetna Better Health of Louisiana has insured that food and refreshments will be available to the public at no charge! As a Healthy Communities Coalition, options will include burgers and chicken sandwiches, cheese sticks, veggie packs, fruit and bottled water, and popcorn for everyone.
Please feel free to bring your own lawn chair to set up at the parade viewing area. The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office Detail and the Alexandria Police Department will provide security at the gate, within the zone and on the parade route. This is an alcohol- and tobacco-free area and alcohol (including prior consumption of alcohol) is not allowed. Tobacco use and vaping are prohibited. No pets or ice chests are allowed in the ballpark. All youth 17 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
The Zone can be accessed from the parking lot across from Bringhurst Field at the corner of Masonic and Texas Avenues.
This year will be the second time the Finale Royale at the Rapides Parish Coliseum has joined the Mardi Gras line up. Following the Krewes Parade on Sunday, head over to the Rapides Parish Coliseum to dance the night away! Live entertainment will include Speedy Tee as Emcee and DJ with live music from CENLA Brass Band, 92twenty and Cypress City, and more! Tickets are now available at the RPC Box Office and online at rpclive.org/events/finale-royale-0.
For additional information, visit the www.alexmardigras.com or MardiGrasCenls.com or call (800) 551-9546.
Courir de Mardi Gras returns to Evangeline Parish with the traditional courir or “run” led by the capitaine of the Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday. Costumed and masked participants on horseback, foot, or trailer make their way through the neighborhood performing another ancient ritual: begging. Yes, begging! Revelers go from house to house singing and dancing for the owners in order to get different ingredients for a communal gumbo to be served later that evening. In Mamou, the capitaine raises a flag to let Mardi Gras runners know to dismount their trucks and approach the house, chanting a traditional “begging song” called “Le Chanson de Mardi Gras”. The last ingredient, and the highlight of the entire celebration, is the chicken. All attention is on that chicken, so it’s a thrill to watch costumed revelers give spirited chase! Mamou hosts this remarkable celebration, which draws upwards of 10,000 visitors to events that feature dancing and a separate women’s run on the Saturday preceding Fat Tuesday. In addition to the run, see colorful costumes, hear traditional Mardi Gras songs and taste authentic Cajun cooking.
For more information, call the Evangeline Parish Tourist Commission at (337) 363-1878.