Though this year’s Mardi Gras Parade in Clarendon will be replete with the usual array of outlandish floats, beads and costumes, the event will also honor the residents of Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina.
The Clarendon Alliance, an association of neighborhood businesses that organizes the annual event, will be collecting money for disaster relief organizations in the Gulf Coast.
Between 100 and 200 members of the Armed Forces from Louisiana will march in the parade, which begins at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and will traverse Wilson Boulevard from Barton Street to the Clarendon Metro.
The troops will participate earlier in the evening in a special Mardi Gras celebration in Washington organized by the Department of Defense.
Members of the Virginia National Guard, along with military Humvees, may take part in the Clarendon parade, and toss beads to the 8,000 residents that are expected to attend.
The troops were invited to Clarendon by the D.C. chapter of the Louisiana State University alumni organization, which helps the Clarendon Alliance run the event, now in its 8th year.
“It’s an honor to have them march with us,” said Brian Holoubek, the president of the DC chapter of the LSU alumni. “We’re able to show our appreciation to them, and also present Mardi Gras to them, which otherwise they would miss.”
For the third straight year the members of the LSU alumni organization are partnering with alumni of other Louisiana colleges to form a Mardi Gras “Krewe.” More than 100 members of the krewe are expected to ride on four floats, Holoubek said.
The krewe invited troops from Louisiana to participate in the event since it will be the first time some of them have not been in the state for Mardi Gras.
“These troops will find a little piece of home in our parade in Clarendon,” said Geoff Oline, who was the king of the krewe last year, an honorary title that bestowed upon him the responsibility of throwing beads from a convertible.
THE CLARENDON MARDI GRAS parade is the brainchild of Rebecca Tax, owner of Lazy Sundae and Clare and Don’s Beach Shack, and her brother.
“It’s such a fun time,” Tax said. “It’s an opportunity to drum up business and fun during the middle of the week in winter.”
Last year, 18 floats participated in the parade, including ones sponsored by Clarendon businesses Whitlow’s on Wilson, Iota Club & Café and Mexicali Blues. In the past, Whitlow’s has hired a band to play on its float.
Tax said she is working on this year’s design, and in the past her employees have dressed up as dancing milkshakes and ice cream sundaes.
The Krewe of Louisiana’s floats will honor the city of New Orleans and its rich cultural heritage, Holoubek said.
The parade is an opportunity to show off the diverse group of locally-owned restaurants and shops that inhabit Clarendon, said Ronni Freeman, director of the Clarendon Alliance.
The event is family-friendly and parents are encouraged to bring their children, Freeman added.