It’s official — Pothier Jean Voorhies III (better known as PJ) and Ann-Riley Louise Lane will reign over Lafayette Mardi Gras 2015 as King Gabriel LXXVI (76th) and Queen Evangeline LXXVI.
Lafayette’s Mardi Gras celebration is Louisiana’s second largest, behind only New Orleans. It’s an intense five-day event that begins with a Friday night kick off parade and ends on Tuesday night with the Greater Southwest Mardi Gras Association ball at the Frem Boustany Convention Center. The Carnival season began Jan. 6 with the Feast of the Epiphany.
The royal duo for this year’s Mardi Gras met with reporters Friday at the Trailwood Lane home of the queen’s parents, Clif and Marianne Lane, to answer questions before gearing up for their duties over the long weekend ahead.
Voorhies is an oil and gas land man who has been involved with Mardi Gras since 1987. He was a 1969 graduate of Lafayette High School, attended USL and was formerly king of Attakapas.
Nineteen-year-old Lane is a freshman at LSU majoring in child and family studies. She is a member of Phi Mu Sorority and previously queen of Camelot and Brigands.
“It’s a pretty big challenge for her,” said her father, who is also president of the Southwest Mardi Gras Association.
Voorhies and Lane are the first in their families to serve as King Gabriel and Queen Evangeline.
“The most exciting time was when the ladies came,” said Lane’s mother, Marianne. “She never thought she’d be queen. We were told last May, and we had to hide it from her.”
Ann-Riley herself has been part of the pageantry since she was 12 months old and her mother was a Bonaparte maid. She said the royal pronouncement arrived via the Ladies Committee, who she thought had merely come to a graduation party.
“Every young girl involved with Mardi Gras dreams of it,” Ann-Riley said. “I never thought it was possible. I was speechless.”
Voorhies was invited to dinner at Café Vermilionville, where he was told he was under consideration to serve as King Gabriel. He was asked if he would agree to take on the role if he were selected.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “You don’t work for it, can’t lobby for it; it simply appears, and it’s a wonderful honor.”
Voorhies said his selection ended up not being a very well-kept secret because of the tell-tale beard he had to grow to portray King Gabriel. But he said he will carry a hidden message on Mardi Gras Day. “Without divulging, it has something to do with float No. 8 and my alma mater, USL,” he said with a smile.
His costume will remain in the tradition of those kings before him. “Our job is to maintain those traditions and honor them, as well as to pass them along to successors.”
Queen Evangeline will wear the collar that formerly belonged to Beth Robertson, Queen Evangeline LXXII.
While Lane looks forward most to walking out with her father and being presented, Voorhies looks forward to toasting her as queen of Carnival during his parade on Tuesday.
“What we would ask of our subjects is what we look for in ourselves,” Voorhies said. “Have fun, laugh, catch beads and be safe.”
What their majesties wish for themselves is fair weather.
“We’re using every method possible to pray for good weather,” said Queen Evangeline. “We’ve said novenas, rosaries — there’s always a chance for a miracle.”
But come rain or shine, the Fat Tuesday parade will roll. “We deliver,” said Voorhies. “We’ll be there.”