No changes planned for Baton Rouge parades in light of Mardi Gras deaths in New Orleans

It was the 40th anniversary of one of Baton Rouge’s biggest parades as tens of thousands of...
It was the 40th anniversary of one of Baton Rouge’s biggest parades as tens of thousands of people flocked downtown for Spanish Town 2020.(WAFB)
Published: Feb. 26, 2020 at 9:36 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It was a deadly year for Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans this year; two people were killed after floats rolled over them.

Immediately after the second death, Orleans Parish banned tandem floats to protect parade-goers. It’s an addition to the sweeping ordinances the parish already has on the books to keep parades safe.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, there’s a zero-tolerance policy for float drivers drinking alcohol and a ban on hazardous throws such as liquids and blunt objects. The parish also puts barricades and police officers at strategic locations along the routes, but the ordinances in EBR Parish are nowhere near as many as other parishes.

“We’ve been very fortunate in East Baton Rouge Parish,” former councilman, Darrell Ourso, said.

Ourso says what’s on the books is not enough. He pitched several “common sense” safety measures for parades when he was in office in 2006. Those included restricted on the height and length of the floats, separating the fuel source from the generator, and changing how beads are hung on the floats. Those never made it before a full council vote, but Ourso says he still thinks they’re necessary.

“You can do a few common sense tweaks and still have the atmosphere that we enjoy for our parades,” he said.

Doc L’Herisson is one of the organizers of the Spanish Town parade. He says parades already take enough precautions and the parish does not need to step in.

"Safety is always a big issue for us because if anybody gets hurt, then it’s a bad day for everybody,” L’Herisson said.

Spanish Town requires walkers beside each float and a two-driver policy. Organizers also review the parade each year to determine if any changes need to be made. He says any of those changes need to be left up to the organizers.

“Once you make it a law, then you’ve got law and you don’t have the latitude to change for the situation,” he said. “You’ve got one size fits all and where are you going to draw the line?”

The mayor’s office tells WAFB it will review this year’s parades, as it does every year, to decide what if any changes need to be made to improve safety.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is looking for walkers to go alongside its floats during this year’s parade. Volunteers will have to walk two and a half miles. If you would like to sign up, you are urged to email for more information.

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