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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler



(Schedule courtesy Lagniappe Prime.)
2/10/23: Krewe of Centaur Float Loading Party
2/10/23: Krewe of Oceanus Grand Bal
2/17/23: Krewe of Gemini Float Loading Party
2/17/23: Krewe of Highland Grand Bal
2/18/23: Krewe of Harambee Grand Bal


2/18/23: Krewe of Gemini Parade
2/19/23: Krewe of Highland Parade
2/21/23: Fat Tuesday Children’s Parade
2/25/23: East Bank Mardi Gras Golf Cart Parade

Shreveport’s lengthy history with Mardi Gras

Remember when my first article appeared concerning our Mardi Gras in 2012? To refresh the memory of those not too involved in its merriment, here is a short definition.

“Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday,” the last day of the pre-Lenten season. Lent is the 40 days before Easter when people ask God “to forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledge our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness.” So says my Episcopal Prayer Book. The next day is Ash Wednesday and introduces Lent of the 40 days followed by Easter on April 20.

I found a copy of the Shreveport Daily Standard newspaper article of March 1, 1876. The article, which follows, is quite educational.

“The Celebration of Mardi Gras is of European origin and is observed with great rejoicing and abandon in Catholic countries; all restraint is thrown off and fun, mirth and jollity freely indulged in. It is eminently fitting that one day in the year should be set apart for amusement and indulgence in good-natured tomfoolery, so that a relaxation of severe mental strain – considered necessary in these days of telegraph and lightning railroad speed, to ensure fortune and prosperity – can be indulged in, and, for once, ‘all care be given to the winds.’

“The prominent cities of Southern France have always been conspicuous for the observance of the day, but of late years, our well-beloved capital, New Orleans, has presented pageants and tableaux which, for excellence of taste and magnificence of costumes, far surpass anything of the kind witnessed in the older cities.

“The first celebration of Mardi Gras in Shreveport took place in 1874, and the favor with which it was received encouraged our citizens to observe the day in proper form again this year.

“A large number of visitors from Texas and adjoining parishes arrived here on Monday and Tuesday, believing the experience and success of last year would be so utilized as to exhibit a better and more complete spectacle upon this occasion.

“At daylight on Tuesday the goodly city of Shreveport was handed over to the care of the merry masquers and representatives of Momus, who held undisputed sway until the shades of evening enveloped the burg, when His Majesty, Rex, assumed total and complete control.

“Shortly after nine o’clock in the morning, masquers and mummers were seen hastening towards the parade ground, Texas Street.

“The inevitable monkey was on hand, full of merry tricks, while the Girl of the Period sank her prejudices for the occasion and promenaded arm-in-arm with a civil rights infant, whose makeup would forcibly remind one of the fellows composing the radical so-called Legislature.

“Grangers, soldiers, politicians, animals, he-women and she-men and, in fact, every conceivable idea of caricature was given and strutted a brief hour upon folly’s stage. At eleven o’clock, a procession headed by a fine band of music, belonging to the Mulligan Guards, at the head of which marched the General and staff down Texas Street to the levee and transversed the principal streets of the city. Among the main features of the day we noticed a well gotten-up and comically dressed burlesque band of musical performers, the member of which would once in a while give vent to ear-piercing sounds extracted from tin horns and trumpets. The trades were on hand – Messers Bogel and Duringer being represented by a wagon containing the necessaries and essentials pertaining to a first-class drug store, M. Levy and Co., the clothiers on Milam Street, Bowers Bakery, Sam Weil the Butcher and L.R. Simmons included parades, receptions and balls by four krewes. King Cophion’s ball was the culmination of the events, and his queen Ama Ford was described as “a debutante and beauty … a queen of queens … one of the choicest flowers in the garden of society.”

This newspaper article also noted that the 1910 Mardi Gras theme was “Theodore Roosevelt in Africa,” and the eight floats of the parade represented his adventures.

Mardi Gras was suspended throughout Louisiana during World War I.

The 1926 Mardi Gras celebration was the first held since the ceasing of festivities during World War I in 1917 and 1918. There were 10 decorated floats and a ball at Washington Hotel in downtown Shreveport. There was a masked ball at City Hall, “promiscuous making in the afternoon and a Charleston dancing contest on the courthouse square, where thousands of people were attracted to witness it.” Thousands of people from north Louisiana, east Texas and south Arkansas were expected to attend the celebration.

John D. Ewing, editor and publisher of The Shreveport Times and King of Carnival in 1926, fearing that there would be no Mardi Gras in 1927, put up his own money to finance the event. The theme was “Ancient Mythology.”

Mardi Gras celebrations citywide were discontinued after 1927, perhaps partially due to the economic collapse of the country striating in 1929 and also due to the city having “no ethnic or cultural ties to the holiday; it was just something to do,” according to late historian Eric Brock. He also blamed the “fizzling” of Mardi Gras in north Louisiana to its use as a “marketing device” by local businesses rather than being based on culture or religion.

Mardi Gras resurfaced in Shreveport in 1984, when the Krewe of Apollo was established here with its roots in the New Orleans Apollo chapter.

Today, Mardi Gras is definitely here to stay in our city. Congratulations to all the krewes for their hard work.


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