Each year, Mardi Gras parade revelers in Lafayette leave signs of the party behind — about 34 tons of trash.
After the floats roll with riders tossing strings of beads and other sought-after baubles and the crowds disperse with their loot, drink and food containers and the broken strings of beads that become uncaught casualties litter the pavement.
On Saturday, the public is invited to help keep the parade route clean through a first-time partnership of the city-parish’s Project Front Yard and the Krewe of Carnival en Rio, which presents the inaugural evening parade for Lafayette’s Mardi Gras parade season.
A group of 25 volunteers will walk behind the final Rio float Saturday collecting trash and unwanted throws as part of the effort.
Street sweepers roll after the parades to clear the streets, but litter remains streetside, said Katherine McCormick, coordinator of Project Front Yard and assistant to City-Parish President Joey Durel.
“The street department does such a good job getting the litter picked up. The problem they have is the stuff stuck on the side of the street,” McCormick said. “We asked how we could help with that effort.”
Project Front Yard promotes the beautification of Lafayette through improved streetscapes, litter pickups and prevention, public art, river cleanups and a revitalization of the city’s gateways.
“We hope that this establishes a new tradition,” said Kevin Blanchard, public works director of the Mardi Gras cleanup effort. “The parade is over, gather up your drink cans and your baggies that beads came in and we’ll take it from you. We already have a well-deserved reputation of having one of the most fun family-friendly Mardi Gras (celebrations) in the country. It would be nice if we also had the reputation of having the cleanest Mardi Gras in the country.”
McCormick said city officials met with all parade krewes this season to ask them to be more mindful of what they leave behind as they roll through the city streets. It’s not uncommon to find empty boxes or plastic bags that held beads or other parade throws on the street, discarded by krewe members from their parade float perches.
Saturday’s initiative, as well as another cleanup planned on Sunday, are timed with PlanLafayette Week, a series of events that began Feb. 4 and continue through Wednesday to raise awareness about the city-parish comprehensive plan.
“The comprehensive plan is a living and breathing document, and Project Front Yard is central to the comprehensive plan,” McCormick said.
On Sunday, Project Front Yard will promote its Embrace a Space program, similar to the Adopt a Road concept to encourage the community to help maintain the beauty of their corner of Lafayette. The Embrace a Space program kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday at the corner of South College Road Extension and Rue Iberville.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.