PLAQUEMINE — When members of a fledgling Mardi Gras krewe approached the Comeaux brothers several years ago for permission to develop a nighttime parade in Plaquemine as a tribute to their sister Brenda, the brothers graciously blessed the Krewe of Comogo’s efforts.
And for the past two years, the krewe’s annual parade has rolled through the streets of the Iberville Parish city on Lundi Gras in honor of Brenda Comeaux, who died from cancer at the age of 54 in 2009.
“After two years of doing this, me and my brothers just noticed they needed help,” Edward “Earl” Comeaux said. “I felt like the parade would work better in her name if we got involved.”
The result of the brothers’ involvement is the construction of 13 two-decker, New Orleans-style Carnival floats that will make their first appearance in Comogo’s 2015 parade.
That name, Comogo, comes from the Comogo Room event center in Plaquemine, Earl Comeaux said. The name dates to the 1960s, when his parents built a party room at their home and combined the names Comeaux and Gauthreaux (his mother’s maiden name).
“My parents both passed away, and my sister Brenda lived in their house. The Comogo Room was a rental room for parties, weddings, etc.,” Earl Comeaux said. “So the krewe founders asked if they could use Comogo as the name, and me and my brothers decided it was OK.”
Over the last five months, two of the three Comeaux brothers, Earl and Ralph, and the Krewe of Comogo’s members spent more than $300,000 and much effort to take the parade to the next level in honor of Brenda Comeaux, who was known for designing elaborate Mardi Gras costumes and many of the stylish hats she wore.
“This is a lot of money to invest, but I wanted to do it right for my sister,” Earl Comeaux said. “She just loved decorating; she was good with her hands. She tried to form a Mardi Gras parade back in 1992 but found out it wasn’t financially feasible back then.”
Earl Comeaux, part owner of Comeaux Brothers Construction in Plaquemine, had never built floats before. And for the past two years, the Krewe of Comogo had to rent parade floats from a New Orleans owner.
Comeaux spent the first part of the year researching the ins and outs of building parade floats before the first set of steel frames were delivered in May to the float den he erected on leased property in downtown Plaquemine.
With the help of a New Orleans float designer, Comeaux said, his simple ideas were transformed into the elaborate showpieces he’s hoping will be the talk of the town in February.
Most of the Comeaux brothers’ creations pay homage to local culture and Louisiana trademarks, like fleurs-de-lis, New Orleans balconies, Pontchartrain Beach, jazz music, the Zephyr roller coaster and a paddle wheel riverboat.
Also among the inaugural fleet of floats are replicas of an alligator and a dragon as well as gigantic wood-framed tributes to the movies “The Mask” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Comeaux purchased “The Mask” float front from Mardi Gras decorators in Slidell.
A tribute to Brenda Comeaux — via a float featuring a giant sculpture of her head adorned with one of the stylish hats she loved to wear — will lead the caravan through downtown Plaquemine this Carnival season.
Most of the floats have the capacity to hold up to 44 people and include bathrooms. All will be adorned with flashing LED lights.
“I learned a few things, but we went all-out,” Earl Comeaux said. “We’re gonna change the themes on some of them every year. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoyed doing it.”
The Krewe of Comogo parade, which will roll at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16, travels the same 2½-mile route as the popular KC International Acadian Festival, ending at the Plaquemine Civic Center, where the krewe will hold its annual Mardi Gras Gala.
Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi, a regular at the parade, got an early peek at the floats and said he feels they will set up the parish to become a major contender in the region’s Mardi Gras celebrations.
Stassi’s deputies, along with the Plaquemine Police Department, have patrolled the parade both years, and he said the crowd swelled last year.
For the first two years after the krewe was founded in 2011, the group held only Mardi Gras galas. In 2013, then-President Chris Daigle organized the first nighttime parade.
“People have pride in it, and if we can have the right weather this year, I think this is going to be a major deal,” Stassi said. “And with these floats, I think it’s going to be over the top.”
Earl Comeaux said he’s hoping the floats eventually can become a profitable asset to the krewe. He has decided to rent them to other organizations and krewes that might want to use them in their parades.
But for now, his focus is on the Krewe of Comogo’s 2015 parade and making it something folks in the region will be proud of.
“We throw a lot of good throws, and it’s very safe,” he said. “Everything we did was based on how New Orleans does it. We want to compete with the big city.”
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