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Superheroes Among Us

By Melanie Moffett
In Featured Slider
Jan 27th, 2015
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King Micah Goins and Queen Tiese Ardito take center stage at the 32nd Annual Krewe of Janus Mardi Gras parade
article by Michael DeVault | photo by Brad Arender

He’s a hairdresser with more than 25 years experience who works at one of the area’s best salons. She’s a registered nurse helping people recover from debilitating illnesses and injuries. But like Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, those are just the public identities of Micah Goins and Tiese Ardito, cover stories for their real work as superheroes—or at least Monroe’s version of it.

Goins and Ardito are, at least for the next twelve months, King and Queen Janus XXXII, and they’ll take center stage Feb. 7, when the 32nd Annual Krewe of Janus Mardi Gras Parade rolls through the Twin Cities. If the superhero metaphor seems a bit misplaced, stay tuned, and it’ll make more sense.

Ardito is a life-long volunteer, and she frequently takes part in fundraisers for causes as diverse as the Desiard Street Shelter and the St. Vincent DePaul Pharmacy. “Volunteering is a huge part of my life, volunteering my time,” she says. “I like to help people, to do community service. It helps me to feel I’m helping those who are less fortunate than I am.”

Service is one of the aspects of Monroe’s own Krewe that first attracted Goins. “Every year, we pick charities and help raise money, volunteer for them, do whatever we can,” he says. In addition to the parade, the Krewe of Janus hosts regular poker night fundraisers. The proceeds of which go to help the charities supported by the Krewe. This year, Goins said they’ve not chosen a charity, though discussions are underway. Whoever they pick, Goins and Ardito will be there, probably in their full regalia, ready to lend a hand and raise awareness of the needs of the community’s less fortunate.

It’ll be a busy year for the king and queen, too. They’re just now getting started after the Twelfth Night Ball, which was held this year at the home of Daniel and Lacie McCarthy. It’s at the Twelfth Night Ball that King and Queen Janus are first presented in full regalia, the traditional costumes familiar to all parade-goers as the feathered and sequined collars that tower behind them.

Following the Twelfth Night Party, the king and queen embark on a series of luncheons for their courts. The entire carnival season is steeped in tradition, and the Krewe of Janus has a few of their own. “It’s tradition that the women crash the king’s party,” says Ardito. “We do it every year.”

They showed up to the king’s party at Restaurant Cotton, “surprised” the men of the royal court, and helped celebrate the installation of the dukes of the court. That’s where those secret identities come in. “The duchesses went dressed in their superhero costumes,” says Ardito.

Goins explains. This year’s theme, he said, is superheroes. Throughout the parade, revelers will see their favorite superheroes, including Batman, Superman and Mr. Incredible—and that’s just on the dukes’ float. When it came time to crash the King’s party, Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy and the Huntress showed up, taking the place of duchesses Denise Duplechin, Kelli Harvey and Lucy Holtzclaw.

There’s a good reason superheroes walk amongst the Krewe of Janus court this year. The theme of the parade—Superheroes—is meant in part to honor the Grand Marshalls. “We’re honoring the men and women who serve this country,” Goins says. The Grand Marshalls are six representatives from each of the nation’s armed forces branches. They range in age from their thirties to 92 and have served in wars and peacetime.

“They’ve given so much so that we can be safe and free, this is our way of saying ‘thank you,’ Goins said. The Krewe won’t be the only ones thanking their heroes. The best estimates put the crowd that gathers each year at more than 100,000 revelers—many of whom are out-of-towners. Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo places the economic impact of the parade somewhere north of seven figures.

“The Mardi Gras parade is a big event, and it really makes Monroe a destination,” said Mayo. “It’s been around for years, and people know the area because of it.” Over the years, Mayo has met people from as far away as Tennessee and Missouri at the Krewe of Janus parade, underscoring the draw the parade has. And when they get here, that means big business.

“They stay in hotels, eat in restaurants,” Mayo said. “They’re shopping, tailgating before the parade, and that has an impact.”

That impact isn’t simply limited to travelers, though, because locals are more than happy to laissez les bon temps rouler! Just ask Robert Riddle, owner of Riddle Builders. Every year, he hosts a block party in his Louisville Avenue warehouse for friends, family, and the occasional straggler lucky enough to wander by. “Everybody comes, brings a dish, maybe a bottle of wine, and they just have a great time,” said Riddle. “We always have tons of kids and people from all walks. All ages, too.”

The tradition started six or seven years ago, Riddle’s lost exact count, but he and his wife, Lisa, will throw open the warehouse doors, set the ice chests out, and offer revelers their hospitality. Just up the street a ways, at Lea’s of Lecompte, Toby and Emy Traylor’s preparations for the parade began a month out.

Toby and the staff at Lea’s begin with a list of people who they think might like ring-side seats to the parade. With 20 parking spots to offer, Lea’s has to be selective. There are the employees, then Toby and Emy’s family. After that, Toby and Emy offer the spaces to their regulars. “We offer them to the people who come in and eat with us every day, the familiar faces, our friends from the restaurant,” Toby said. The day before, he and his staff police the parking lot, cordon it off to prevent parade squatters, and then it’s all ready. Toby has enjoyed six Mardi Gras parties at the Louisville location. Over the years, he’s seen people camp out all night for a prime spot on the corner of Fourth and Louisville. Keeping the campers out of the lot takes planning and effort. “It can be a challenge,” said Toby. “But it’s worth it.”

Once the regulars are in place, Lea’s offers the remaining spots to the people who wander by for gumbo or jambalya, which Lea’s staff sells from a tent on the corner. But when the parade tops the bridge, that’s it for sales. “As far as business goes, once the parade starts, it’s done,” Toby said. Though, he noted, there is one exception.

“I think everybody gravitates to Enoch’s,” he said.

Doyle and Yvette Jeter have a long history with the Mardi Gras parade. Enoch’s had a float in the first few parades, and in recent years Louisiana’s own Irish Pub and Café has become Party Central for the big show. “Mardi Gras has always been one of our biggest nights of the year,” said Doyle. “We consider it, like so many people in Louisiana, our New Year’s celebration.”

Beginning hours before the parade and streaming steadily until they ring in last call at 2 a.m., Mardi Gras revelers will make their way into the pub by the hundreds, looking for a pint, a break or a spot of good home cooking. Every year, they offer special food deals for the party. It’s a big day and a big deal for Enoch’s to celebrate Mardi Gras when the Krewe does, (usually a week or so before Fat Tuesday), because for the Jeters, Mardi Gras is a holiday. “We always shut down for Mardi Gras proper,” Doyle said. “We’ve never been open on Mardi Gras.”

Like Mayor Mayo, the Traylors and the Riddles, understands the importance and the impact of the hard work that the Krewe of Janus does for the parade. It’s one of the two biggest nights of the year for the pub, and it’s second only to their annual St. Patrick’s Day blast. That kind of impact isn’t lost on the Jeters. “We always make a major point of thanking the Krewe of Janus for what they do every year,” Jeter said.

This year will be no different. When the floats go by, when the beads are flying, there on the sign will be a single message: Thank You, Krewe!

The Krewe of Janus Mardi Gras Parade will roll through the Twin Cities Feb. 7, beginning around dark. Remember, this year the route has changed slightly, and there will be new places to watch the parade in downtown Monroe. For more information, visit www.kreweofjanusonline.com and see page 138 for the new map.