The weather Saturday was as perfect as one could ask for as the fourth annual Bayou Mardi Gras Association parade rolled through downtown New Iberia.
“Push back! Watch out for the flags!” one chaperone for the Franny’s Dance School troupe bellowed as they moved past Julia Street into the more congested downtown area. “They’re twirling the flags, so look out.”
This year’s parade featured some return guests, like the Fat City Drum Corps and the parade’s military veteran co-marshals. It also expanded its lineup of floats, featuring nearly 50 groups, including a collection of Mardi Gras Indians from New Orleans’ Third Ward.
As in previous years, the crowd was thick and cordial, with a generally family friendly atmosphere extending the length of the route. Through the downtown area balconies were filled as revelers alternately reached out and called for beads and trinkets from the passing floats or danced and sang along as local bands passed underneath.
On the street level, children stood with upstretched arms, waving and yelling to get the attention of the krewe members tossing throws to the crowd. Occasionally a rider would spot someone they knew and load up bags of beads and stuffed animals to toss across the crowd.
Unlike some larger parades, the competition for trinkets was not the driving force for the evening. Taller kids handed off beads and other throws to smaller children along the route. The vibe was more of a mutual sharing of the festive atmosphere rather than a race to get the biggest hoard of stuff.
Not that there was any lack of booty to be had. Some floats pelted the crowd with so much lucre that it took a few minutes before all of the offerings were scooped up.
Even after the parade had passed out of the downtown area and made its turn to cross the Bayou Teche, the sound of parties still tinkled across the street, echoing off the walls of storefronts along Main Street.
At Preservation, the tables were packed inside with parade goers who decided to stay on for dinner and drinks. Outside the restaurant, the al fresco dining tables were covered in drink glasses, beer bottles and menus from the previous occupants who had either moved inside or moved on.
“It was a good night,” said one New Iberia Police officer stationed along the route after the parade passed. “Now I just want them to clean the street so we can get back to normal.”