Red Beans Parade begins with a memorial for Esplanade crash victim

The Krewe of Red Beans honors the life of Krewe of member Sharree Walls outside the Marigny Opera House before the Red Beans parade on Lundi Gras 2019. Walls was killed Saturday (March 2) when she was struck by a suspected drunk driver in New Orleans. (Photo by Frankie Prijatel, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Frankie Prijatel

The Krewe of Red Beans honors the life of Krewe of member Sharree Walls outside the Marigny Opera House before the Red Beans parade on Lundi Gras 2019. Walls was killed Saturday (March 2) when she was struck by a suspected drunk driver in New Orleans. (Photo by Frankie Prijatel, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

There was a conflict of emotions on St. Ferdinand Street in the Marigny on Monday afternoon (March 4), as the gaiety of the annual Red Beans Parade was mellowed with melancholy. Sharree Walls, a member of the Mardi Gras marching group that creates costumes decorated with mosaics of dried beans, had been killed just two days before when a suspected drunk driver crashed into bicyclists on Esplanade Avenue.

Devin DeWulf, the captain of the ten-year-old organization, sat atop an SUV as he addressed the hundreds of paraders and onlookers that had gathered outside of the Marigny Opera House.

“She was a very nice person,” DeWulf said of the 27-year old, “incredibly thoughtful, empathetic and very kind hearted. She loved to laugh, brought warmth into every space she came into. Her death is tragic and senseless.”

DeWulf explained that the parade would begin with a sad song played by the Treme Brass Band in Walls’ honor, after which “we’ll wipe away our tears and try our very, very best to parade, because today is Lundi Gras and I suspect that’s what Sharree would have wanted.”

With that, the band struck up the hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” as several krewe members held aloft black signs that read “We Love You Sharree.” As is custom in New Orleans, when the last notes of the dirge dissipated, the band broke into a jaunty parading tune and the procession began its joyful trek to the Treme.