Paradegoers accustomed to watching Endymion get underway Saturday afternoon from the neutral ground between Delgado Community College and City Park must find a different vantage point this year.
Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, the entire neutral ground between City Park Avenue and Interstate 610 will be closed to the public.
Signs announcing the new policy were erected this week along the neutral ground. Endymion, the largest parade of the Carnival season, lines up along Orleans Avenue and Marconi Drive.
The area, which is not part of the parade’s official route, has grown increasingly congested in recent years, as spectators tried to coax throws from riders before the parade starts.
Police have become concerned about the safety of bystanders in an area where dozens of floats, marching bands and other elements of the parade are being moved around, said Endymion Vice President Darryl d’Aquin. Police requested that the neutral ground in the staging area be closed to the general public, he said.
“We’re complying with their request,” d’Aquin said. “We don’t want anyone to get hurt. We want everyone to have a good time.”
Spectators will still be allowed to watch the parade from behind barricades on the Orleans Avenue sidewalk alongside the Delgado campus. Delgado’s parking lots are typically packed with RVs and tailgaters awaiting Endymion.
And the Orleans Avenue neutral ground between City Park Avenue and North Carrollton Avenue once again will be crowded with thousands of spectators. The Bucktown Allstars and other bands will perform as part of Endymion’s free Samedi Gras festival on the grassy median, large swaths of which already have been “reserved” with spray-painted boundaries.
Endymion’s 50th anniversary parade rolls at 4:15 p.m. Saturday with a theme of “Endymion Through the Years.” Floats will revisit themes from past Endymion parades, from the inaugural 1967 parade’s “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” through 2015’s “Fantastic Voyages.”
Endymion is still led by its founder and captain, Ed Muniz. This year’s grand marshal is longtime Mercedes-Benz Superdome executive Doug Thornton.