Carnival in Jefferson Parish took a hit on the West Bank with the Krewe of Grela’s recent decision to cancel its parade, but 2016 will see the inaugural roll of the all-female Krewe of Pandora in Metairie.
The changes reflect two dominant Carnival trends of recent years: the waning popularity of suburban parade routes, especially on the West Bank, in favor of the St. Charles Avenue route in New Orleans, and the surge of interest in parading among women.
Grela, whose name denoted its birthplace (Gretna, Louisiana), staged the first Carnival parade held in Jefferson Parish in 1948. However, it said last month that thinning membership and lackluster crowds made it impractical to continue parading.
Grela’s decision leaves only the Krewe of NOMTOC in Algiers and the Mystic Knights of Adonis, which rolls on Behrman Highway, Carol Sue Avenue and Terry Parkway, parading on the West Bank.
It’s a far cry from the 14 parades that rolled there two decades ago, according to Mardi Gras expert Arthur Hardy.
“Everyone wants to be on St. Charles Avenue,” Hardy said.
John Beninati, captain of the Krewe of Alla, knows the phenomenon all too well.
After 82 years of parading on the West Bank, Alla (short for Algiers, Louisiana) pulled up stakes in 2013 and moved its parade to St. Charles Avenue, where it has rolled since 2014.
“It really came down to dollars and cents, to be honest with you,” Beninati said.
He called the decision “gut-wrenching” but unavoidable. Alla’s ranks had fallen from about 500 riders to fewer than 300, and conversations with riders who had jumped ship in favor of parades in Metairie and New Orleans made the reason clear.
“They could see the difference,” he said. “If I’m going to spend $2,000 to $3,000 in dues to ride, I want someone to throw to.”
Beninati said there were stretches along Behrman Highway and the service road in Gretna “where there was nobody there.”
So Alla ultimately followed the lead of the krewes of Choctaw and Cleopatra and moved across the river to the Uptown route.
“That’s where it’s at,” Beninati said. “That’s where it’s happening, and that’s where you get the most bang for the buck.”
East Jefferson’s Carnival schedule also has not been immune to setbacks, with the krewes of Thor, Atlas, Atlantis and Zeus among those shutting down in recent years.
But Metairie’s 2016 offerings got a boost this summer, when the leadership of the New Orleans-based female Mystic Krewe of Nyx organized the Krewe of Pandora and got permission from Jefferson Parish to parade on the Metairie route at 7 p.m. on Lundi Gras.
The krewe’s colors are Tiffany-blue and black, and its signature throw will be hand-glittered and -decorated boxes.
Hardy said Nyx’s decision to create a spinoff krewe in Metairie is a reflection of the popularity of all-female krewes like Nyx and Muses.
Metairie’s 2016 parade lineup will include Excalibur, Caesar, Centurions, Isis, Napoleon and Argus, which is followed on Fat Tuesday by the truck parades of Jefferson and Elks Jeffersonians. The Krewe of Little Rascals parades just before the start of the Carnival season.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.