Muddy neutral grounds, smaller-than-usual crowds and a late-arriving thunderstorm marked Endymion's 2018 parade Saturday night, but it didn't stop the krewe's loyal fans, who screamed with enthusiasm even as the skies opened up and sent rain pouring down as they reached for beads and trinkets.
The rain came down even harder as Endymion continued rolling into the evening, drenching parade goers as lightning flashed through the sky. A storm blew into New Orleans around 7:40 p.m., bringing heavy rain and lightning. An Endymion official said the first of the parade’s three-dozen floats didn’t reach Superdome until 8 p.m.
“We are very happy to have been able to parade through the streets of New Orleans today. It is unfortunate that the rain hit as we arrived at the Dome,” Krewe of Endymion President Dan Kelly told The New Orleans Advocate on Saturday night.
Last week was a time of indecision for the krewe. When predictions showed that thunderstorms were likely for Saturday, Endymion leaders raised the idea of a shifted date, time, or even location. Jefferson Parish leaders announced that they’d be glad to accommodate any New Orleans parades that had to change their plans because of weather.
After discussions, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison announced that, despite the threatening weather, all parades in New Orleans would roll on their assigned days. “Having explored all options, it was determined that there is no viable way — in fairness to every parade krewe — to alter the parade schedule," Harrison said in a statement.
In an attempt to catch a rain-free window on Saturday, both the Iris and Tucks parades left an hour earlier than planned, at 10 and 11 a.m., rolling along the St. Charles Avenue route. On the West Bank, NOMTOC parade stuck to its usual 10:45 timeslot on the West Bank. Those parades were hit with very little rain during a morning that turned out to be more misty than rainy, despite earlier predictions.
Because the rain had held off, spirits were high for Endymion on Saturday morning. The parade’s 4:15 p.m. start time was pushed forward 15 minutes, but otherwise the krewe seemed ready. “Everything’s going. Everything’s good. Four o’clock,” said Endymion president Dan Kelly, as he handled last-minute details that morning. In Jefferson Parish, Isis also was set to roll on time at 6:30 p.m.
The news was a relief to Philip and Candice Ward, whose son Titus, 4, is a huge fan of marching bands and can even imitate key drum cadences on his own snare drum. They didn’t even mention the world “parade” at home until they knew for sure that Endymion was rolling, Candice Ward said.
Across Mid-City, people felt like they had been saved. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Mid-City was left a relative ghost town on Endymion Saturday.
After Hurricane Katrina, with Mid-City hard-hit by floodwater, Endymion spent two years, 2006 and 2007, parading down the city’s traditional St. Charles route.
Not all loyalists followed the parade as it moved, said Irde Gonzales, 44, and Paul Leto, 75, who gather on Canal near North Carrollton every year without fail. Their family skipped the post-Katrina years of Endymion. They also didn’t head Uptown in 2011, when Endymion – faced with almost-certain rain and possible tornados – chose to parade down St. Charles, following Bacchus on the Sunday before Mardi Gras.
“We love Endymion and its fantastic floats,” Leto said. “But we like it here, always here.”
On Saturday, paradegoers arrived in Mid-City prepared, clad in rain boots and ponchos, slung over purple, green, and gold shirts and tutus.
They also brought tents, in a profusion not seen before. By noon, so many tents had sprung up that along Canal Street near North Carrollton Avenue that it looked like a festival grounds instead of a parade route. People dressed in Carnival colors milled outside the offices and homes that line the street. Music blared out windows; long tables set up under tents heaved with loaves of Bunny Bread and aluminum containers of meat from grills.
As toy vendor Jerry Stevens pushed his tower of tchotchkes down Canal, he theorized that the tents put a pinch on his sales. “It’s like they built cabins for themselves; they sit there under the tents and they don’t move,” he said.
Tracy Ransier, owned of the Red Door bar on North Carrollton, said the overall crowd was simply smaller for his biggest revenue day of the year. On a scale of 1 to 10, his daiquiri sales fell at about a five for the day, he estimated.
A few blocks from the parade route, at R & S Auto Service on Bayou St. John, Gloria St. Pierre served up chili to her family and checked weather.com from the shop’s computer screen.
New Orleans Saints standouts Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore are apparently enjoying their first ride in Endymion -- a lot.
“It’s only at 40 percent chance of rain now,” St. Pierre said. “That’s much better than the 70 or 80 percent we saw all week.”
On a porch at the corner of Genois and Canal, Alex Onstott and Katie Mullins watched the tents go up and the music amplify as they sat on blankets and played a dozen rounds of the card game Kings Corners.
Onstott’s dad has long had an office here on Canal Street, so Endymion is a family tradition for him, to the point where he’s planning to paint his portable grill in Carnival colors just to fit in with the Endymion pageantry. But he’s learned that because of Endymion’s drawing power, it’s best to just let close friends drop in, instead of actively promoting the gathering, which once ballooned to 150 people, a Saturday crowd that resulted in too much Sunday cleaning.
On Canal Street near Jefferson Davis Parkway, young Lucy Hernandez, who turns 10 tomorrow, colored a tagboard sign on two sides. One side announced her birthday and the back side read, “Uncle Chris” in rainbow colors. She and her younger siblings – Miles, 8, and Sophia 6 – hoped to rake in the loot, especially stuffed animals, when Chris Donaldson passed by on float No. 34, the alligator float.
Not far away, a trio of friends headed to a nearby house party walked past the shop carrying a 12-pack. They weren’t at all worried about rain, said Colleen Cameron, 27. “Because we have a house to run to, with fried chicken in it.”