Hercules paraders feel like rock stars during Carnival

Hercules paraders feel like rock stars during Carnival

Credit: Chris Heller/Staff

NFL star Brandon Jacobs points to the crowd Friday while riding in the Krewe of Hercules parade in Houma.

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Posted on February 2, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 2 at 12:36 PM

Xerxes Wilson / HoumaToday.com

HOUMA, LA.-  Rounding the corner onto Houma's parade route, the thumping music fades, the bands seem miles away and paraders are met with a chorus of "Hey! Hey! Throw it! Hey! Hey!"

"They are screaming, and they are all talking directly to you. Everybody that rounds that corner is a rock star for the day," Krewe of Hercules veteran parader Darin Qualkenbush said.

The Krewe of Hercules rolled through Houma Friday night to clear skies and heavy crowds. The procession made its way though excited revelers down to Park Avenue and ended near the Town Hall on Barrow Street.

"It doesn't matter if you are doctor, lawyer, bricklayer or whatever. When you are on that float, there is no feeling like it," Qualkenbush said. "We love it, and we want to put on a show for everyone out here."

For the paraders, the crowds transform the simple wood and fiberglass float into a grand chariot in a noble procession.

"When you make eye contact with that kid and pull back, man you feel like Drew Brees when you throw it to them," said Duke Mark Bascle, another veteran parader.

Some people resorted to clever signs to get their throws. One read "Hit the X for the 2nd amendment." Another featured the face of Rodger Goodell, NFL commissioner and New Orleans Saints fans' arch villain, as a target.

The 700-member crew paraded in 32 double-decker floats alongside bands, hot rods, motorcycles, horses, dancers, Shriners and more.

Edwin Edwards, former governor turned convict turned reality television star, was the parade's grand marshal.

"That's who I came to see, him and the Clydesdale horses, but not particularly in that order," said veteran parader Helen Dufrene of Houma. "He is such a character."

Edwards served a little less than a decade in jail on racketeering charges but still commands love in the state he governed more years than anyone else.

"He's a crook, but he's an honest crook," said Shirley Bergeron of Houma. "He admitted what he did, and he served his time. He also helped a lot of people in Louisiana."

Last year's parade was dogged by sporadic rain. That was not the case this year as good weather with 60-degree temperatures brought out the regulars and also a few newbies.

"This will be my first parade," said Sharon Engdahl, of St. Paul, Minn. "We came looking for warm weather, and we don't have parties like this in Minnesota."

It was also 3-year-old Avery's first Mardi Gras. The young Dallas resident was fixated on the same thing as others as she waited for the parade.

"I'm excited about beads and candy," she said. "But are they going to hit me right in the forehead?"

Avery's grandmother, Judy Wilkerson of Houma, said the parades are a great chance to get the children excited and have a good time together.

Paraders said pleasing the children makes all the krewe dues and fees well worth it.

"It's the kids' faces, that light in their eyes. That's what drives you," Qualkenbush said.

There are two more parades Saturday night.

The Krewe of Aquarius will roll at 6:30 p.m. Saturday along the traditional west-Houma parade route.

The 17-float parade is themed "Las Vegas Shows" and will feature marching bands from Houma Junior High, Grand Caillou Middle and Terrebonne High schools.

The Krewe of Ambrosia will also roll Saturday night. The Thibodaux parade is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. along the traditional Thibodaux city route.

It is the second night parade in decades for Thibodaux. City officials said this is a second trial run before deciding to permanently allow night parades.

Ambrosia is set to have 25 floats in addition to marching bands from St. Mary's Academy, Ellender Memorial and Lake Providence high schools, and Miller McCoy Academy and Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans. The 400-member krewe's theme is "Ambrosia Celebrates Fairs and Festivals."

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