Mardi Gras season krewe considers parading in Kenner, after four decades in Metairie

Mardi Gras season magic is made in the Krewe of Caesar house in Metairie

Kenner hasn’t hosted a full-scale Mardi Gras season parade since 1992. But city officials are talking with Caesar, East Jefferson’s largest krewe, about moving its procession to Kenner in 2020 now that the 500-member Carnival group has announced it will “cease operations” in Metairie.

“Are my doors open to the Krewe of Caesar? Absolutely,” Mayor Ben Zahn said Tuesday (April 30). “If they want to come to us, we’re here. I’d love to have them.”

Caesar captain Bob Carnesi said Zahn has been courting the krewe, and that municipal and krewe officials recently scouted a possible four-mile route: From The Esplanade shopping mall west on West Esplanade Avenue, north on Loyola Drive, east on Vintage Drive, north on Chateau Boulevard then east on Joe Yenni Boulevard and north on Williams Boulevard. The parade would end at the Pontchartrain Center, with the floats rolling into the building and the krewe and guests hosting a “big blowout.” Carnesi said.

Zahn said Kenner did not “pursue” Caesar but welcomes the interest. He said the krewe first approached City Hall a while back about a place to store its floats, and most recently talked last week with Recreation Director Chad Pitfield about moving its parade.

Caesar stunned the Carnival cognoscenti with its decision to go on hiatus. It’s been an expansive, spectacular mainstay on the Metairie parade route, even as other krewes have come and gone.

But Carnesi, a former Krewe of Pegasus king who founded Caesar over beers with three friends in 1979, met with his lieutenants at supper at Deanie’s last week, and none expressed interest in taking over. Nor have any of his children or grandchildren stepped up.

Now 81 and moving more slowly than when he started Caesar, Carnesi paraded long enough to see his granddaughter, Julia Oubre, reign as queen this year. He might have stuck it out longer were it not for he considers some unwise decisions by Jefferson Parish officials in parade policy.

  • Listen to our interview with Carnesi:

First, he said, the government’s Carnival directors have been losing authority since the legendary Henry Trapani retired in 2003 after 26 years in the job. Influence shifted from the Carnival director and krewe captains, he said, to the Parish Council’s representative from the 5th District, which encompasses the Metairie parade route, and to the Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc., its member and contractors.

Carnesi, an avowed traditionalist, said the final indignity came this year.

Parish officials moved Family Gras from the Veterans Memorial Boulevard median to Clearview Mall parking lot and reversed the parade route so that some processions would end at the festival. It was optional in 2019 - Caesar chose to stay with the conventional route - but it might be required in future years.

Then when Caesar was preparing to roll on Feb. 23, parish officials held up the start, ostensibly until a storm could move out of the area. In reality, Carnesi suspects, it was to let a band finish a show on the Family Gras stage.

“That just kind of put the icing on the cake,” Carnesi said. “I’m not bitter; I’m just disappointed at the way things are structured.”

Carnesi says Caesar is not necessarily finished after 40 years, but it is pausing to consider options. One of the lieutenants or one of Carnesi’s children or grandchildren might rise to captain and decide to keep the parade in Metairie.

Or it might move to Kenner.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described part of the possible Kenner parade route for Caesar. On Joe Yenni Boulevard, the route goes east - not west.

Drew Broach covers Jefferson Parish politics and education plus other odds and ends. Email: dbroach@nola.com. Facebook: Drew Broach TP. Twitter: drewbroach1.