Gretna comes alive on Lundi Gras with 'Grela Celebration'

The City of Gretna celebrates holidays with gusto, but in recent years Mardi Gras was a much quieter time than in the past. Lundi Gras hadn't happened in a long time and The Krewe of Grela didn't parade in 2016 or this year.

There were Carnival celebrations among the various organizations, but residents were missing some sort of official Mardi Gras revelry in Old Gretna and the mayor listened.

"After much demand for a Mardi Gras presence in the city, the council approved this year's Lundi Gras celebration. We're hopeful that this will continue to grow into a truly successful West Bank event," Mayor Belinda Constant said. 

The event was named "Grela Celebrates Lundi Gras" in honor of the Krewe of Grela that means Gretna, LA. It has a history.

Grela, the oldest Carnival organization in Jefferson Parish rolled on mule-drawn floats in February 1948. In 1984, it began parading on Mardi Gras.

For four hours on Monday night, the City of Gretna was back in the Carnival business.

The Marketplace, located on Huey P. Long Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets was draped and decorated with banners and lights. A large crowd of locals celebrated Lundi Gras, dancing to the music of da Rockits, a five-piece 1960s tribute band. The band dresses in 60s attire, which added flavor to the event.

Some folks brought chairs and enjoyed the music and the sights as many were costumed or wearing Carnival colors. It was a dog-friendly event where Councilman Wayne Rau and his wife, Nancy brought along their new Weimaraner puppy named Heidi.

The free to the public event didn't stop there, but ended with a second line around the Marketplace to the music of the Stooges Brass Band.

"We had so much fun tonight at the Marketplace. Good times in Gretna," Gretna resident Lulu Greene said. "So glad to see a Carnival celebration back in our little city with this Lundi Gras party. I can just imagine it getting bigger and bigger as seems to happen here in Gretna."

On Mardi Gras, locals gathered along Huey P. Long Avenue throughout the day, many returning from parades in the metro area to enjoy the restaurants and bars in the neighborhood. Costumes and purple, green and gold could be seen everywhere.

Many were drawn all day by the spicy smell of crawfish boiling in the parking lot of Gattuso's, a local hangout that had a DJ. 

Mardi Gras in Gretna wouldn't be complete without the Krewe d' Pete, a walking parade group of Old Gretna residents and fans that marched for the second year.

"Ever since Grela stopped parading in Gretna, we formed a wagon parade using Petey, the dog from 'Our Gang' as our mascot.  This year we met at Ray and Wanda Markase's Newton Street house at 10 a.m. for a pre-party and make-up session to add the white and black circle under one eye of each krewe member," Paul Coles said. "Our King and Queen 2017 were Ricky Livingston and Kathie Lyvers, who were also the royalty for the historical society."   

Coles added: "We had 16 krewe members this year and we hope to encourage other to form their own walking krewe for next year's Mardi Gras. We can all meet up under the marketplace like Rex meets Comus."  

During the Carnival season, besides activities at the Farmers Market and the

"Fasching" German Karneval at the German-American Cultural Center, there were other Mardi Gras events.

At the Gretna Historical Society's monthly meeting, members dressed in costumes or in Mardi Gras colors. In the festooned meeting room, there was a buffet potluck dinner.

All members were given a ticket upon entering and royalty were selected by lottery. President Garland Gaspard crowned King Ricky Livingston and First Vice president Judy LeBlanc crowned Queen Kathy Lyvers. To the delight of everyone, the royal couple second lined throughout the large crowd.

The Gretna Senior and Wellness Center, 476 Franklin Ave. hosted a combination Mardi Gras and February birthdays celebration for members and guests where seniors costumed, enjoyed food and the Mardi Gras decorated-tree. Participants danced and second lined. 

Jefferson Parish Councilman Ricky Templet dropped in to visit with the seniors and brought king cakes. Their other dessert was the birthday cake celebrating the February birthdays of seven of the attendees.    

Gretna Jubilee coming March 25                                         

The 11th Annual Gretna Jubilee benefitting four West Bank magnet schools will be held on March 25 from 7 to 10 p.m. The schools' biggest fundraiser features food from over 25 restaurants, "best bite of the night" award, live music from Uptown Phunk, open bar and silent auction.

The four academies for advanced studies are soliciting sponsors and items for the silent auction. 

Gretna No. 2 Academy, Marrero Academy, Ruppel Academy and Thomas Jefferson High School will share the benefits of the overall event, but the silent auction is respectively split according to collection of items.

For more information, contact Aislinn Hinyup at ahinyup@msn.com or 504.460.2850.

Westbank Italian Open golf tournament                                        

The 36th Annual Westbank Italian Open at Timberlane Country Club will be held on April 9. The Open, like good wine, gets better every year.

A kick-off reception dinner and roast will honor Judge Marion F. Edwards on April 7 at 7 p.m. at La Maison Creole, 1605 8th St. in Harvey for $50 per person. Call 504.362.3908 for reservations.

The Italian American Society uses the Open proceeds to benefit Cafe Hope, located on the Hope Haven campus which provides at risk youths a path to self-sufficiency through career training and job placement readiness.

Sponsorships at various levels are being solicited that include golf foursomes, as well as hole sponsors and prizes. Individual play is offered for $95 per golfer/$380 per team.

For details about the Open, call Wayne Nocito at 504.432.8502, Corey Arbourgh at 504.782.6754, Daryl Robert at 504.427.3476 or Mike Schiro at 504.228.3196.

                                            

Helen Williams is a Gretna resident who writes about people and events of community interest. She can be reached at 504.450.8481 or email her at gretnaglance@cox.net. Her posts and videos can be seen at: http://connect.nola.com/user/mhwilliams/index.html