This year's Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade turned Baton Rouge's devastating August floods into cause for laughter on Saturday, with flamingo-themed floats satirizing FEMA, politicians and the red tape for flood victims trying to rebuild.
Though the Spanish Town parade during the last two years has prompted backlash for jokes about police brutality and sexual assault, Saturday's affair struck a different tone. Most floats stuck to the theme, "come hell or high water, it's slippery when wet" and several also paid tribute to the Cajun Navy and law enforcement officers who were killed during the summer.
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Many riders said they were personally affected by the floods and enjoyed the chance to laugh after months of frustration with rebuilding. Cherie Bourgeois, who has been riding with the Krewe of Descentshun for 15 years, said only two couples on her float did not flood.
"Everybody was like, whatever we have to do to be as cheap as possible, we want to ride," she said.
So Bourgeois' krewe spoofed that idea, making their own "Great Values" parody of Wal-Mart's in-house brand of products. They plastered letters to "Mr. Flamingo" on their float about how they could only afford a generic brand flamingo this time around.
Some floats depicted FEMA as a devil-like character asking for forms while flamingos were submerged under water. Others showed politicians shouting at flamingos that they needed a permit as they were floating away. One made fun of the American Red Cross' flood response, calling them "American Double Cross" and handing out boxes of condiments and inedible food.
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A float themed "support our troops, vets and police" had tombstones painted on it for slain Baton Rouge Police Department Officer Matthew Gerald, Corporal Montrell Jackson and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Bradford Garafola. The three were killed in July, after a gunman came to Baton Rouge and opened fire on them in the wake of protests over the police shooting of Alton Sterling outside a convenience store earlier that month.
The Krewe of Bon Temps honored Sheriff's Deputy Nick Tullier, who was critically injured during the summer shooting of law enforcement. He spent months at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and is now in further recovery at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
Their float included letters and signatures encouraging Tullier to keep fighting. Mary Kling, who has been riding with the krewe for five years, said Tullier used to walk alongside their float as security.
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Kling remembered a year when a crowd member tried to steal a giant, stuffed tiger on the truck pulling their float and Tullier chased him down and brought back their furry friend.
There were references in some float themes to the backlash over last year's parade which drew strong criticism for some floats that were regarded as highly offensive and racially inflammatory.
One krewe, instead of writing out jokes, included lines like "slap at overly sensitive groups here," "funny stuff goes here," and "safe space" on their float that said "#silencespanishtown."
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Another was themed "Spanish Town, watered down" and some had warnings saying "this float contains content that some viewers could find offensive" or "snowflake safe space here."
Some participants said they were happy to put the past controversies behind them.
Darlene Williams and her husband pulled one float in their truck, as their Bichon Frise, Francois, poked out of the window with a Mardi Gras boa around his neck.
"We've been coming here since we were small and I've never had any problems," she said. A flood victim, Williams said she was happy to spend a day entertaining people with her dog instead of worrying about rebuilding her house.
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