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Photograph: Opelousas Imperial Mardi Gras Association Parade rolled through downtown Opelousas as thousands gather along its route. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin)

Editor/Consulting Writer

The partygoers began arriving just before mid-morning and by late afternoon on Tuesday it was evident that the experience was one the overflow crowd revelers did not particularly want to end.

After all, downtown Opelousas, most agreed, had not witnessed a Mardi Gras celebration like this in many decades.

Expectant bead-catchers lined Landry Street three deep on some corners just before noon as they waved their hands frantically and begged for throws tossed from floats traveling in the annual Opelousas Imperial Mardi Gras Association parade.

Then later during the day after Keith Frank and his Zydeco band completed their final sound check, the parade excitement diminished and the scene in front of the Courthouse Square bandstand exploded into a massive street dance that lasted long after the live oaks began casting shade over blocked-off Court Street.

Enjoying the music of Keith Frank in downtown Opelousas on Mardi Gras Day. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Pulsating dancers in shorts and cutoffs and others who sat in lawn chairs soaking up the sound that moved through the empty streets. Some even shook hands with police officers. 

This was one city-wide Mardi Gras episode most admitted that they would definitely remember.

It was impossible to estimate overall crowd sizes for both events, but organizers estimated at least a thousand plus had ventured to visit the downtown area at some time during the day..

Many of those who watched the parade simply lingered afterward, wandering throughout the Courthouse area in anticipation of setting up their places early and encountering a Keith Frank moment orchestrated and paid for by parish officials.

Before that occurred those who were leaving Landry post-parade dangling their bead necklaces, said choosing Mardi Gras in Opelousas was a preference over larger crowds in other cities or rural areas west where the celebrants often exhibit less personal control.

“The parade was really nice. It seems to be getting bigger every year. I know I plan on coming back again,” said Opelousan Micko Bernard.

Brigette Rue, who stood in front of the former federal building on Court and Landry, said she and her family wanted to enjoy Mardi Gras without having to leave the parish.

Ronnie Trahan observed the parade sitting on his truck bed and after the last float left, he was encouraged about what he had just seen.

“I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was aimed at the family and everyone got along well. The weather was warm and perfect and that made it great for everyone,” said Trahan.

Jude Hargroder was all smiles when he discussed how he felt about the parade.

“I liked seeing all the people. They were having such a good time. Opelousas really needs something like this, because it brings all of us back together,” Hargroder said.