LAFAYETTE, La. — At first glance, this Spirit of Acadiana story is Mardi Gras-themed, and it is, as beads, revelry and fun will be a part of it.
But there's another message, which I think calls for a more solemn tone.
For the last few years, a Friday parade didn't happen in Lafayette. But the Friday parade is back, and this one is about honoring the heroes, the heroes of Covid-19.
"The Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association was looking for a way to bring back the Friday parade," begins Robert Kallam, "and we came up with the idea that, there is no better way this year than to honor law enforcement, healthcare workers. Honor the Covid heroes of all sorts through this parade."
And the Covid heroes are many. There are the friends family and neighbors who lost battles to Covid, and then doctors and nurses and so many other first responders. All will have a spot in the Heroes parade.
"Each organization is going to have representatives employees, family members of their facility, their organization and their entity," says Kallam. "We want the community to come out, hold signs up and say, 'Thank you, thank you for the sacrifice that you've put yourself through over the past two years'."
16 floats. Nine marching bands. Tactical units. And yes, "traditional Mardi Gras symbols. "Absolutely. Beads will be flowing."
Plus, there's a unique twist on the heroes definition.
The Ragin Cajuns football team that, during the fall, helped us get our minds off the Covid numbers and for a few hours each Saturday had us thinking of the illuminated numbers on the Cajun Field scoreboard.
"When things were really down and we were all just wondering when normalcy would come back, UL was there, the Ragin' Cajuns were there, winning championships."
Friday night, February 25th and running along Lafayette's standard Mardi Gras parade route. It's a chance to simultaneously have fun, and pay tribute, and in a decidedly Acadiana-type way, salute some true heroes of the Covid Era.
"There's no better way than for us to line the streets of our city and honor these heroes that are going to line the streets of our city," furthers Kallam. "We'll throw beads and have a good time. They haven't had many good times over the last two years."
"This will be their night, and it will be our night in the community to honor them."
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