North Baton Rouge has had its share of fairs and festivals, but it’s never had a Mardi Gras parade, said Byron Washington, chairman of NBRNow.

That changes Saturday.

The inaugural Krewe of Oshun parade will roll through Scotlandville starting at noon, followed by a festival from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Champion Medical Center parking lot, 7855 Howell Blvd. The parade theme is “Wakanda Now: Celebration, Prosperity and Expansion.” Wakanda is a fictional African country created by Marvel Comics.

Oshun continues a growth in Baton Rouge Mardi Gras parades in recent years, most of which have been downtown. Washington hopes that instead of this neighborhood making the trek to the usual parade venues, Baton Rougeans will reverse the trend.

“We get to have people come to north Baton Rouge, come to Scotlandville,” he said. “You hear the … term north Baton Rouge all the time, but it’s surprising so many people actually never have been into north Baton Rouge to visit Scotlandville, to see how beautiful and how wonderful the people are here, just bridging that gap.”

The parade, which starts at Harding Boulevard at Pembroke Street, travels west on Harding to Scenic Highway, south to 72nd Avenue then east to its terminus at Howell Boulevard, will feature the Southern University marching band, the “Human Jukebox,” along with five high school bands, some middle school bands, floats and dance teams. Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome will be honored, as will several community leaders, Washington said.

The festival will include carnival games, live music, and food and drink vendors.

Not only will this be the first Mardi Gras parade in this part of the city, but it may be the first organized by an African-American organization in almost 80 years. The first Zulu parade in Baton Rouge was held in 1933 in downtown Baton Rouge, according to an article published by the LSU Libraries Special Collections. There were no white Mardi Gras parades at the time.

The Purple Circle Social Club and black employees at the Standard Oil refinery took over the parade in 1941, and an article in the Standard Oil house newspaper estimated 20,000 people attended. Parades were not held during World War II, according to the article.

Washington is excited to create some new history.

“It’s Carnival season. It’s festive,” he said. “We want it to be something that continues on for the whole Baton Rouge community.”

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