The return of the Krewe of Isis parade to Kenner next year will help bring back a suburban Carnival celebration like those of decades past, Kenner officials said Wednesday in officially announcing the longtime Metairie stalwart is moving west to their city.
"We think we can return an old-style family Mardi Gras from the '70s and '80s that you haven't had" in recent years, said Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn.
Zahn praised the krewe and parish officials at Wednesday's official announcement of the move, which came complete with king cake, green Isis beads and two costumed Kenner mascots, Capt. Klean and Capt. K-9.
In making the move, Isis is going back to its roots: It paraded through Kenner for the first seven years of its existence, before moving to Metairie for the last four decades.
The krewe is leaving a Metairie Mardi Gras that is in flux, with a new route along Veterans Memorial Boulevard and a growing focus on the first weekend of Carnival to coincide with the annual Family Gras concerts. Isis traditionally has rolled on Saturday of Carnival's second weekend, so it does not benefit from Family Gras attendees.
This year, Isis declined to roll on the new, westbound Veterans route being pushed by parish leaders, instead opting to stay on the traditional eastbound route.
In Kenner, the parade will originate at the Esplanade Mall and roll along West Esplanade to Loyola, then Vintage, Chateau and Joe Yenni Boulevard before disbanding at the Pontchartrain Center, where some sort of celebration is being planned, Zahn said.
It's a Carnival revival of sorts for Kenner, which hasn't had a regular parade since Silenus stopped parading there in 1992. But it's still far from the height of Kenner's Mardi Gras in 1973-4, when at least four parades rolled there. In fact, the city had at least three parades for most of the 1970s, according to Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardy.
The details of the deal between the krewe and the city, including for police, cleanup and other services, are still being worked out, Zahn said. He added that he expected the economic benefits to outweigh the costs to the city.
Isis Captain Sherrell Gorman said her krewe had not paid for any of those costs in Jefferson Parish and she didn't expect to do so in Kenner either. That would be difficult, she said, considering it already costs her krewe "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to put on its parade.
Gorman said her krewe would abide by parish requirements for the minimum number of bands and marching units to make sure Kenner gets a good parade. "Last year, we had 12 bands and nine dance teams," she said. "We will have more than that this year" to go with about 20 floats, she said.
Isis traditionally has paraded on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, and it will keep the same slot in Kenner. Metairie may not have a parade that night, said Parish Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken, who has been heavily involved with the changes to Metairie's Mardi Gras celebration.
"I envision that we will leave that Saturday night open," she said. The parish is working to consolidate parades on Family Gras weekend, she said, and she supports Isis' move to Kenner.
Jefferson parades have had a hard time competing with New Orleans superkrewes like Bacchus and Endymion on the final weekend of Carnival.
"Krewe of Isis, you are in good hands," Van Vrancken said. "I think this is a great move for Isis, one that will take you into the future."
Zahn expects the city to reap economic benefit from the parade. "We think it's going to be very beneficial," he said.
Isis is the second parade to have at least flirted with a move to Kenner this year. The krewe of Caesar, which announced earlier this year that it would no longer parade after 40 years in Metairie, reportedly had talks with Kenner officials as well. But Caesar Captain Bob Carnesi said this week that his krewe will definitely not parade in 2020.
Isis' move to Kenner is a gamble, Hardy said.
"They're still going against Endymion," he said. "It's a big change, and it's a big unknown."
But Gorman said the krewe was ready for change.
"The krewe is excited," she said. "We want to be bigger and better."