Mardi Gras parade in Gretna gains steam to return after one-year hiatus

Allen Powell II, The Times Picayune By Allen Powell II, The Times Picayune
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on April 13, 2012 at 8:30 PM, updated April 13, 2012 at 11:26 PM

The old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder is playing out in Gretna. The Krewe of Grela’s one-year absence from Mardi Gras has sparked an explosion in membership and a promise to return better than ever in 2013.

Dozens of Grela representatives, many of them newcomers, attended Wednesday’s Gretna City Council meeting to request a permit to parade on Mardi Gras 2013. Several members also belong to the Krewe of Alla and said that when they saw Grela struggling, they wanted to lend a helping hand to Jefferson Parish’s oldest Carnival organization. Al Kaiser promised Grela is different and ready to put on an amazing parade for the city if it gets permission.

“I know that you’ve all been down this road before,” Kaiser said. “We didn’t want to sit on the sideline. We wanted to take a more active role.”

Grela and city officials engaged in a drawn-out saga last year after the council cut spending on Mardi Gras to provide more money for the Gretna Heritage Festival. City officials explained the decision as a choice between which event provides Gretna with the biggest “bang for its buck.”

The Grela krewe was told that to parade, it needed to pay the city $69,000 to $81,000 for police protection and public works on Fat Tuesday. The same cost estimates were provided to the other West Bank Carnival krewes that ended their parades in Gretna, but those parades returned to their old routes ending in Terrytown. Grela’s entire route was inside of the city of Gretna.

Council members set aside $60,000 from their discretionary account, which was to be combined with a private sponsorship to pay for city services. But when that deal fell through last year, the money was set aside for 2013.

Mayor Ronnie Harris said his main concern is that Gretna receive a quality parade for the money it is spending, noting that in previous years, some Grela riders didn’t wear costumes.

“From my perspective, what I’m asking is let us have a Mardi Gras parade like it’s supposed to be,” he said.

Grela members pledged to do so, predicting the krewe would have about 300 members by Carnival and saying several businesses have stepped up as sponsors. Russell Lloyd, a Gretna police detective, has taken over as the krewe’s captain.

Paulette Rogers, the Grela president, said it seemed that once Grela failed to parade, people remembered why it was important. The parade is important for families and is part of the West Bank’s Carnival tradition, considering it’s been around for 65 years, she said. She said it’s good Gretna officials now understand that.

“The people on the West Bank and the city of Gretna want the parade,” Rogers said. “Everybody is so excited to see Mardi Gras back.”

Allen Powell II can be reached at or 504.826.3793.