Call it a training exercise of sorts for kids in the traditions of Mardi Gras.
The Lafayette Children’s Parade this year featured six Mardi Gras krewes of children in elaborate Carnival costumes and gowns tossing trinkets to excited, screaming paradegoers in downtown Lafayette.
This year’s children’s parade, the 90th annual such parade, featured 18 floats. But for many of the kids, being a part of the krewe is more than just throwing beads and stuffed animals during the parade.
“The children’s krewes have a point system in which they encourage community service and different things so they can learn how to be better citizens,” said Gene Lognion, Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association parade chairman. “And as they grow, and as they get older, they become more leaders in the group until they are king and queen of their groups.”
Jacqueline Cloutier, 14, said the kids who participate do a lot of community service work, such as in nursing homes and with the food bank.
“It’s a great cultural experience,” said Cloutier, who wore an elaborately beaded gold dress, a homage to her position as the gold princess of the Krewe of Oberon, a position second to the queen.
Cloutier has been a member of the Krewe of Oberon since 2009 and said being a part of the krewe and the parade every year has also helped her with public speaking.
“It’s a great opportunity to put yourself out there and get more comfortable with public speaking,” she said.
The parade, which also featured local high school bands from across Acadiana, ran a short route, from the Lafayette Public Library to Cajundome Boulevard.
“This is all about the kids,” said Ken Alexander, whose daughter, Anne-Marie, is this year’s Queen of the Krewe of Versailles. “(The parade) is my time with my daughter because I get to walk with her on the float and get to enjoy everybody yelling and screaming and throwing things at each other. This is kind of like our daddy-daughter time; this is our bonding moment.”
Paradegoer Brandi Parfait brought her young niece and son to catch goodies along the parade route.
“We just love it because it’s a family-oriented parade that we can bring the kids to, and it’s fun to catch stuff,” said Parfait.
Lognion said involvement in the children’s parade helps mold the next generation of adult parade krewe members,.
“This is what feeds the adult groups; it’s getting the children involved at an early age and have them with their costumes and their parties — it all precedes the parades,” Lognion said.
The Mardi Gras festivities will continue in Acadiana with parades in Duson, Henderson, Breaux Bridge and Morgan City on Sunday. Parades continue in Lafayette on Monday with Queen Evangeline’s Parade beginning at 6 p.m. and running the full parade route from Jefferson Street to the Fairgrounds at Cajun Field off of Bertrand Street.
On Tuesday, parades begin at 10 a.m. with King Gabriel’s Parade and continuing throughout the day with the Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Parade at 1 p.m. and the Independent Parade at 2 p.m.