The Krewe of Grela might have promised Gretna officials to wait until 2013 to return to that city's streets, but that hasn't stopped members from seeking alternative options to a parading blackout this Mardi Gras, and now the group is petitioning Westwego officials for the chance to march on that city's streets. Krewe officials petitioned the Westwego City Council on Monday for a permit to parade on Mardi Gras 2012 and mark the group's 65th anniversary as Jefferson Parish's oldest Carnival krewe.
For the past three decades, Grela has paraded in the city of Gretna on Mardi Gras, but those plans were scrapped this year after the city required the group to come up with a substantial sum of money to defray some of Gretna’s costs.
Phil Fricano, speaking for the group, told the council that Grela really wants to celebrate its anniversary and would put on a “mini-parade” in Westwego that would feature smaller floats and a scaled-down size. The group presented city officials with a potential route and time frame for the event, but it said that is all up for negotiation based on Westwego’s preferences.
The main goal is to get a commitment that can be presented to members as they continue fundraising efforts, he said.
“The Krewe of Grela has been on a roller-coaster ride the last few weeks,” Fricano said. “They have just been thrown to the wolves.”
Fricano promised that even with a smaller parade, Grela would still provide an authentic event.
Mayor John Shaddinger said Grela has been a major part of the Mardi Gras experience for West Bank residents for years, even though it’s been held in Gretna, and he would support the krewe coming to Westwego. However, he said Westwego would require Grela to offset the cost for police protection along the route, and city cleanup, the same sort of deal offered by Gretna.
Shaddinger directed Police Chief Dwayne Munch to review the proposed route and present the council with an estimate on the cost for police protection. Even with a cursory glance at the route, Munch said it could be fairly expensive because of the number of street closures needed.
“We want to try to do everything we can to assist you,” Shaddinger said.
Councilman Larry Warino added that the parade sounded like a great event for Westwego, but he said that without more details, the council couldn’t make a decision. He suggested Grela meet with city employees to confirm the price tag and set up the route and time before the council votes. He noted that given Westwego’s own budget issues, the city has to be careful about new expenses.
The issue was tabled by the council at his request.
“I’ll keep an open mind to it, but we would need details,” Warino said.
Grela has been deliberating with Gretna officials for months about its parade plans, and the city and krewe have gone back and forth about whether a parade will happen. The main problem is that Gretna told the organization it cost the city $87,000 in salaries and equipment to have a Mardi Gras parade, and with tightening budgets and the need to provide financing to the Gretna Heritage Festival, the city was requiring Grela to offset the cost.
Grela officials were originally told they’d be responsible for all of the costs, but then city officials agreed to pay about half, while the rest could come from a private sponsor. However, that deal fell through in October, and Grela and the city agreed to postpone the parade until 2013 so the group could have more time to raise money and plan. On Monday, Grela members were concerned that if word leaked to Gretna that they were considering a move to Westwego, the city might withdraw its promised support.
Allen Powell II can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3793.