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Some Shreveporters Want to Throw Back Carnival

In Shreveport, Le Bon Temps Rouler may be coming to an end, or perhaps be substantially modified, maybe only in the short term, by a combination of residents’ concerns and city infrastructure needs regarding its Carnival parades.

Fax-Net Update reports that Shreveport’s Broadmoor Neighborhood Association may be joined by the Captain Shreve Neighborhood Association in asking very nicely that the two krewes (Centaur and Gemini) that parade around their neighborhoods relocate themselves. Each parade departs from downtown Shreveport on a Saturday at 4:00 PM and (assuming no dilatory events occur) reach the ramparts of the northern end of the Captain Shreve neighborhood around 6:30, makes a southern turn to bisect the neighborhoods at about 7:00, and finishes up in the middle edge of Broadmoor around 8:00.

The first two-thirds of the parade go along open roadways and through commercial zones, but the last third is almost exclusively residential. An increasing proportion of residents are beginning to feel that the tremendous traffic hassles lasting for hours on those Saturdays and the unsightliness of portable toilets left around for a two-week period detracts from their quality of life (Shreveport can’t win for losing on this issue – in other cities with Carnival parades such amenities generally are lacking leading to widespread outdoor irrigation by members of both sexes).

Also of concern is that starting next year public works projects in and around parade routes with cause further congestion. Some neighborhood activists are calling for future routes to head straight down the broad Clyde Fant Parkway than runs along the river, which has plenty of open space – but little in the way of room to park cars containing a couple of hundred thousand people and necessitating long walks to any food or drink, whether in the form of commercial establishments or private house parties.

A little comparative perspective is in order here. Such concerns would be greeted with silence, if not outright laughter, by the vast majority of Garden District, Uptown and Midcity residents in New Orleans, Lakeview residents in Metairie, and other denizens along routes in St. Bernard Parish and on the West Bank in Orleans. Many bought their properties precisely because of close access to historic parade routes. The East Kings Highway route in Shreveport that is of most concern is a little different because it is all residential which generally only short stretches of parade routes down south are.

Still, only one side of the route (west side or Broadmoor) is really residential. The other side is taken up by a bayou which does tend to cut down on people flowing into the area. The Captain Shreve neighborhood does suffer in that two sides of it gets wrapped by the parade but there is some insulation (businesses to the north, the bayou to its west).

It’s also worth noting that the Shreveport area is an odd place for there to have developed a Carnival tradition. Like it or not, Carnival has become associated with (for most, at least a restrained kind of) excess which doesn’t fit well with North Louisiana’s more prim and proper demeanor in contrast to its wilder relatives in the southern part of the state. Only in Shreveport is there a going out of the way to promote Carnival parades as “family” events (indeed, the city even creates a “family zone” along the route where boozing is prohibited). In some ways, this controversy harkens back to this fundamental disjointedness of attitude and purpose.

In the final analysis, it’s up to the city to decide where to grant a parade route. And while a growing number of residents indeed may be growing disenchanted, the area is represented by only one of seven city council members and the political lobbying by the commercial interests who do incredible business along the Shreveport-Barksdale Highway corridor during the two parades are factors auguring strongly against any change being forced upon the two krewes.

However, this does not mean that the city can’t do a better job of things. Perhaps improved traffic control, or speedier removal of waste and the containers of it, or even slight route and time changes, will placate residents’ concerns. And greater tolerance, both of residents of a few disruptive hours once a year and of visitors to their neighborhoods to respect the privacy and property of residents, will have without dissension the good times rolling again.

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