The Krewe of Athena has asked Jefferson Parish for permission to move its parade from Metairie on the east bank to Terrytown on the other side of the Mississippi River for the 2017 Carnival season.
Athena, an all-female krewe whose signature throw is a fedora hat, began rolling in 2014 along the traditional Metairie route of Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Severn Avenue and Bonnabel Boulevard.
“While the paradegoers have welcomed our addition to the Metairie route with open arms, we have reluctantly come to realize that there are logistical challenges that require us to seek another parade route,” co-founder Shonitra Vaughn wrote in a letter to parish officials.
Athena is supposed to roll at 7:30 p.m. — right after the Krewe of Excalibur — on the first Friday of the Carnival season, but Vaughn said in her letter that it often takes hours for all of Athena’s floats to depart the staging area.
By the time the parade reaches the end of the route, she said, “even the most dedicated onlookers become weary and we find sparse crowds ... particularly on the Bonnabel loop."
“This year, the riders on our last floats did not make it to the end of the route until 1 a.m.,” Vaughn wrote. “We realize that there is no room for us to grow or expand our parade on the current route, and as we approach our third season, we feel a sense of urgency to make a change.”
The new route, if approved, would begin on Belle Chasse Highway near Lapalco Boulevard and would continue to the Oakwood Mall. The date and time would remain unchanged.
The Parish Council would have to approve the move, and typically the council goes along with the wishes of the member whose district would include the parade route. In this case, that would be District 1 Councilman Ricky Templet.
Templet said Tuesday that he has yet to see the letter and hasn’t spoken with the krewe, but that he has an open mind and will weigh all options.
He said his main concern is what’s best for Jefferson’s Mardi Gras on both sides of the river, and that a key issue will be whether the Sheriff’s Office can provide security along two different routes on the same night.
“We've got to make sure law enforcement can handle the load,” he said.
Templet said it is certainly possible that Athena could complement the last remaining West Jefferson parade, the Krewe of Adonis, which rolls during the day on the first Saturday of the Carnival season, the day after Athena.
The Krewe of Grela announced a year ago that 2015 was its last time rolling in West Jefferson, leaving only Adonis on the West Bank of the parish. The Krewe of NOMTOC still rolls in Algiers.
It’s all a far cry from the 14 parades that rolled on the West Bank two decades ago.
Jefferson Parish's Mardi Gras celebration has struggled in recent years on both sides of the river, as krewes have found attendance waning due to the popularity of the parades that roll in New Orleans.
Athena was established in June 2014 to foster “a platform that promoted sisterhood, mentoring, community service and wholesome fun.”
Athena’s colors are lavender and lime, and the krewe was started with a mission of being “open to professional women from diverse backgrounds.”