Jay H. Banks was elected Sunday (May 31) to reign as the 2016 king of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade, held on Mardi Gras morning. Outdoor campaigning took place despite continuous afternoon showers on Sunday as the members of the Carnival organization gathered near their North Broad Street headquarters to crown next year's organization officials.
Election day blended partying with club politics, though precipitation forced most attendees under the white tents that lined the North Broad Street neutral ground. Nonetheless, spirits seemed high as campaigners, carrying signs and wearing printed T-shirts, solicited votes from the assembled crowd and passing motorists.
Picnic-style food was abundant at a dozen do-it-yourself buffets under the row of tents. Barbeque grills issued fragrant smoke, rain dripped from black and gold Zulu golf umbrellas, and music thundered from speakers. At the corner of one tent, a bottle of Champagne rested in a bucket of ice awaiting reason to be popped.
At roughly 6:30 p.m., the rain had ceased, the clouds thinned and sunlight shone on 730 Broad St. as Zulu officials stepped onto the balcony to share election results. Above their heads, a sign noted that the club had been founded in 1909. The waiting crowd had poured into the street in anticipation of the vote results, blocking eastward traffic.
Several club officials near the entrance to the headquarters lit cigars as they awaited the results. In the end, Banks more than doubled the votes received by his only rival, Kevin "Coach" Comeaux.
Champagne glasses rose above the crowd as well-wishers smothered Banks, who is director of the School of Commerce at the Dryades YMCA, in an avalanche of congratulations.
"It feels wonderful," Banks said after the announcement, doing his best to be heard over cheers and celebratory parade whistles. "This is an honor that I am very humbled by, and I'm very, very, very happy to be standing here as the king of Zulu today. Thank you to Zulu. Thank you to New Orleans. And I promise you all are in for a wonderful show. We're going to put on a really good show this year. Hail Zulu."
In addition to electing a new king, the membership selected the 2016 roster of "characters," as Zulu parade dignitaries are known. Keith Thomas was elected Big Shot 2016, Keith Celestine ran unopposed in his bid for next year's Witch Doctor, Herbert Dunbar became Ambassador 2016, Dorian R. Rawles Sr. ran unopposed for the position of Mayor, Anthony "Tony" Laurent Jr. ran unopposed for Province Prince, Christopher White ran unopposed for Governor, and Todd Duvernay beat out two competitors for Mr. Big Stuff.
An hour after the announcement, a small parade formed on Orleans Avenue and turned the corner onto North Broad Street in front of the Zulu headquarters. The parade was led by the James Singleton Charter School marching band, in striking purple, red and white uniforms. The charter School is located at the Dryades YMCA. Following the marching band, a small float filled with Banks supporters, and a brass band, the new king rolled into sight riding in a convertible car.
He had changed out of the rain and congratulatory Champagne-soaked clothes he'd worn during the afternoon's activities, appearing in a white suite and fedora, holding a Zulu parade spear aloft.
Banks succeeds Andrew "Pete" Sanchez Jr., the 2015 king.