Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler… Through Downtown Monroe
by Michael DeVault
A Monroe tradition will return to its roots after more than a decade Feb. 7, when the 32nd Annual Krewe of Janus Mardi Gras Parade rolls through the Twin Cities. In only the second time since its inception, the parade will alter its route and, with the change, hopefully bring in a wider audience and more Mardi Gras memories, according to Krewe member Lacy McCarthy.
“We’ve partnered with Monroe Renaissance, and we wanted to work with them to help with their revitalization of downtown Monroe,” McCarthy said. She added that the Krewe of Janus was hopeful that new revelers would attend the parade, which draws more than 175,000 people annually.
The parade originates where it always has, along Natchitoches Street in West Monroe. After proceeding through downtown West Monroe, the parade turns and crosses the Louisville Bridge before making an immediate right turn onto Walnut Street. From there, it proceeds to Desiard, where it will turn left and travel two blocks before turning onto 4th Street. A couple of twists later, the parade returns to Louisiville Avenue at 2nd Street.
“We’re excited to see how it’s going to work, how it’ll bring some more people out and bring exposure to downtown Monroe,” said Joe Hakim, Krewe of Janus parade manager. Hakim has been working Mardi Gras parades since the second year of the Krewe, and over the years, much has changed. The 32nd Annual Mardi Gras Parade will feature as many as 22 floats, eight marching bands, and numerous other groups, who will walk miles in the cold to celebrate carnival season.
Each year, the parade brings tens of thousands of visitors from numerous countries and virtually every state in the union. What sets the Monroe Mardi Gras apart, according to Hakim, is the family-oriented nature of the parade. In fact, Hakim said families drive much of what happens at the Krewe of Janus parade.
“A lot of families from around the country plan their family reunions around the parade. That way, they can get together with family and watch the parade with family,” Hakim said.
Because the date of Mardi Gras is pegged to the day before Ash Wednesday, the date of the parade moves back and forth. Previous Mardi Gras have come as late as the first week of March and as early as the third week in January. The earlier the date, the more challenging it is to mount a parade. Yet, the Krewe pulls it off every year. “It’s early, but we make it work,” Hakim said.
In previous years, both local and national celebrities have led the parade as Grand Marshal. Usually, grand marshals are designated based on theme. This year’s theme is superheroes, so for the 32nd Annual Mardi Gras Parade, the Krewe decided to honor some heroes of our own.
“We’re using different members of the Armed Forces,” Hakim said. “The theme is superheroes, so we’re honoring some war heroes from different branches of the military as our grand marshals this year.”
Carnival season in Monroe kicks off Jan. 5 with the Krewe of Janus Twelfth Night party. On Jan. 24, King and Queen Janus will preside over the Grand Ball. Finally, the season culminates with the running of the 32nd Annual Mardi Gras Parade Feb. 7. For more information or to inquire about tickets, visit the Krewe of Janus Web site at www.kreweofjanusonline.com.