Xerxes Wilson / HoumaToday.com
THIBODAUX, La. - Mardi Gras in Thibodaux is taking a step back to the early 1900s with a permanent night parade.
After two years of test runs, the Thibodaux City Council last week approved the Krewe of Ambrosia changing its parade time from mid-afternoon to nighttime.
“It makes it more fun for the crowd with the lights,” said Linda Verzwyvelt, Krewe of Ambrosia president.
Decades went by without Thibodaux hosting a night parade until the krewe rolled at night the past two years.
But that wasn’t the first time the city has had a regular nighttime Mardi Gras display.
Enhanced by a feature of the modern world — the electric light — and shipped into the city via steamboat, King Sucrose reigned over the city’s first night parade from 1900 through 1906.
It was “the grandest display Thibodaux has ever seen,” according to the March 6, 1900, edition of the Lafourche Comet, an ancestor of the Daily Comet that was published weekly.
“While the procession was in progress, the immense throng of several thousand people that crowded the streets had the pleasure of beholding a magnificent spectacle composed of 10 floats,” reads a 1901 Comet report of the Thibodaux Carnival Club’s second year hosting the night parade. “The crowd, both at the reception of the king and at night, was large, appreciative and enthusiastic.”
Nobody knows why the city’s night parade ended or what happened to the club between 1906 and 1914 when King Sucrose made one final appearance on Mardi Gras night.
Verzwyvelt said having the procession become Thibodaux’s only night parade is an honor, especially considering the accommodations local government and law enforcement make for it.
“It is challenging, but we have gotten great response from the city, Sheriff’s Office and city police, and without their help we could not do it,” Verzwyvelt said.
Following this year’s parade, Thibodaux Police Chief Scott Silverii said lighting is one of the primary challenges when planning a night parade. Daylight is a deterrent to some crimes that might take place in a crowded setting, he added.
Verzwyvelt said the city has provided generators and lights in the trial runs to alleviate concerns about lighting.
Silverii also said people traditionally drink more before night parades, and traffic is more of an issue with the parade ending late.
Verzwyvelt said she thinks more people are going to make the parade a tradition since this year’s parade was better attended than the previous one when there were chilly temperatures.
“We did have a lot of people on the route, and next year our crew will do the lighted beads again,” she said.
The next night parade will roll at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22, 2014, she s