Slidell Mardi Gras krewes will pay less than expected to parade

Fearing that they would have to cover 75 percent of the cost to put on parades in Slidell during the 2013 Carnival season, local krewes have been told that they are going to be afforded a break. Slidell’s city government now plans to charge Mardi Gras organizations a flat fee for parade permits, news that was so welcome to krewe delegates that one of them kissed a pair of municipal officials during a gathering this week.

dionysus-slidell-2013.jpgView full sizeThe 450 member Krewe of Dionysus rolls in its 27th year of parading on Pontchartrain Drive in Slidell, Sunday February 12, 2012. Dionysus was founded in 1985 by businessmen wanting to bring the first all-male Carnival krewe to Slidell. Dionysus' King for 2012 is Ray Judd and his queen is Lindsey Edwards.

The walking parades of Krewe De Paws and Mona Lisa & MoonPie in Olde Towne will each pay $500 for their permits; the day parades of Krewe of Slidellians, Krewe of Claude, Krewe of Perseus and Krewe of Dionysus will each pay $2,000; and the night parades of Mystic Krewe of Titans and Krewe of Selene will pay $4,000, according to a document Slidell Public Works Director Mike Noto provided to club representatives at a meeting in the city auditorium Wednesday. The $2,000 fee would apply to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Olde Towne after Carnival.

The permit fee system promises to cost Slidell’s Carnival clubs a total of $17,000 annually. Under a previous arrangement, it would have been much more expensive — if the 2013 season’s price tag would have been the same as the one of about $43,000 in 2012, they would had to cough up $32,250 in all.

Per an agreement reached to help Slidell reduce its annual spending and offset sagging sales tax revenue between 2007 and 2010, krewes in 2011 reimbursed the municipality 25 percent of the $60,000 it cost to put on Carnival. The groups agreed to cover half of the cheaper price tag in 2012. In 2013, the reimbursement rate for parade clubs was supposed to climb to 3/4 of the season’s cost.

However, the city realized that the show the Carnival krewes put on does have a positive economic impact on Slidell, though precisely how much of one has never been studied or quantified, Noto said. Slidell, therefore, opted to pursue the less taxing permit fees.

Noto remarked, “We like Mardi Gras, and we want it to continue.”

Betty Lostetter of the Krewe of Perseus was so pleased with what she heard Wednesday that she left her seat in the middle of the meeting and planted pecks on the cheeks of Noto and the person next to him, Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith.

Another Carnival cost-reduction measure implemented recently is to condense the parade season as much as possible. For 2013, it is tentatively scheduled to run from January 20 to February 8.

Krewe delegates were ecstatic, saying that a fixed parade permit fee facilitated their organizations’ budgeting items such as membership dues and fundraising goals.

“We were panicking because our krewe couldn’t do (the 75 percent reimbursement),” Lostetter said. “It’s like giving us Christmas.”

Rob Higgins, vice president of Titans, added, “I’m happy we have this finalized. … We can now move forward with making Mardi Gras better for the public in conjunction with the city.”

Permit fees would be due no earlier than 60 days before the parades’ individual roll dates and no later than two weeks prior, Noto explained. The City Council may introduce an ordinance codifying the fee amounts in August and vote on it in September. Council representatives Kim Harbison, Jay Newcomb and Lionel Hicks attended the meeting Wednesday.

Noto, though, pointed out that any figures in the upcoming ordinance could be decreased, increased or otherwise amended as necessary in the future. “We can use (the ordinance) as a working document and change it as we need to,” he said.

Ramon Antonio Vargas can be reached at or 985.645.2848.