Keeping the tradition his mama started years ago, Buddy Walker threw the meat on the barbecue, had his buddy Joshua Zenon crank up the Zydeco music and waited with friends and family for Lafayette’s three Mardi Gras parades.
“We get here at 2 o’clock in the morning every Mardi Gras,” Walker said. The family spot is at the enviable corner at East Convent and Johnston streets, where mother Hilda later joined her sons.
The Walkers and other paradegoers in Lafayette were treated to a beautiful but chilly day for the end of the 2015 season Tuesday.
Paradegoers who lined the downtown-to-Cajundome route generally behaved themselves, and Lafayette police reported no major incidents, Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
Tuesday’s route was lined with a bigger crowd than Monday night, when the Queen’s Parade trudged through heavy rain and dropping temperatures. And it had many more people than Mardi Gras 2014, when rain, ice and freezing temperatures kept most home — and more than in 2013, when mist and rain dampened things.
On Tuesday, the temperature ranged from the low 30s to the mid-40s, frigid temperatures made colder by a brisk wind. But it was sunny and beautiful.
About 10 a.m., the King Gabriel Parade started rolling in downtown Lafayette, with King Gabriel LXXVI — P.J. Voorhies III — sitting atop a throne. Gabriel was followed by the Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Parade. The KADN/KLAF Independent Parade came last, with its free-for-all attitude, loud DJs and generous bead-throwers. Its last float rolled past Buddy Walker’s perch about 3 p.m.
Back at the barbecue, Walker’s brother, James Walker, said he now lives in Houston but tries to make it to Lafayette each year. The closest thing Houston has to Mardi Gras is in Galveston, James Walker said, “but it ain’t nothing like here.”
Walker cooked all day, giving food away to all who asked. He also drank all day, offering, “I got a designated driver,” when someone asked.
Lucille Kelly and Lee Pete pushed carts with cotton candy, candy apples, flags and hats to sell. “You name it, we got it. We’re here every year,” Pete said.
Asked if business was good, Kelly answered with a grunt that signaled business could be better. Kelly said she travels to Louisiana to work concessions at Mardi Gras events each year. From Rhode Island, where she said the wind chill hovered about 5 degrees below zero, Kelly said she found the Louisiana chill refreshing.
“Up there you can’t do nothing,” she said, “so I come down here.”
After talking for a minute, Pete and Kelly split up in different directions.
At the intersection of Stewart and Johnston streets, one block over from Buddy Walker, Michael Angelle and Alida Sion also were barbecuing at a spot they’ve come to claim as their own.
“This is our corner,” said Angelle, who wore motorcycle leathers for the ride to the parade.
In front of Angelle and Sion, the Lafayette Mardi Gras Parade rolled by on Johnston Street, with its multiple floats and rap music-playing DJs.
Atop one float was Tehmi Chassion, a member of the Lafayette Parish School Board, who was tossing small footballs to the crowds.
“Throw me a ball, Tehmi,” hollered Mitchell Breaux, and Chassion responded by throwing chocolate bars.
“I don’t want candy, Tehmi,” Breaux said. “I ain’t gonna vote for you next time.”