By Catie Santos
When you hear “Mardi Gras,” many different images come to mind. Colorful beads flying from floats; the overpowering smell of fried and sugary foods; a cold drink in one hand while the other hand frantically waves at a float; getting together with friends to navigate the crowded, festive streets.
When Amanda Laliberte, a freshman at LSU, hears “Mardi Gras,” however, she thinks of the years she has spent with her family as a member of a Mardi Gras krewe riding on floats and, now, getting presented as Mardi Gras royalty.
For the Krewe of Pontchartrain’s 40th year 18-year-old Amanda is taking on an even bigger role in the Krewe – the Queen of Pontchartrain.
Amanda is a business management major who hails from Belle Chasse and is a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, where she acts as the liaison for their philanthropy, CASA.
She has been a part of the Krewe of Pontchartrain since her father was asked to be the king in. Her parents, Brent Laliberte and Kathy Laliberte, knew the captain of the parade through work, and he approached them at a company party to see if Brent would be interested in riding in the parade. When he agreed, he was then immediately asked if he would be the king – and after saying yes, was referred to as “Brent the New King” for the rest of the evening. In an unprecedented move, he was the King the first year he ever rode in the parade.
The Krewe of Pontchartrain quickly became a family affair for Amanda, her parents, her brothers, Tony, 26, David, 24, and twin Adam, 18, as they all have taken on different roles in the Krewe.
Her first year, at age 7, Amanda was able to ride with her father on the King’s float as a page. From age 8-11, she was on a special “kids’ float” in the parade, and was able to join her family as a regular rider on their family’s float at age 12. She was a maid through all her high school years but her senior year when she decided to take a break from being royalty and ride with her family in anticipation of being queen the next year.
Many of Amanda’s fondest memories of Mardi Gras past include the times spent on her float with her family members.
“I love it because every year at the ball the lieutenants of the floats toss something out and my dad likes to throw something related to our float,” Amanda said, laughing, “One year, we were cockroaches, and we got us all hats that said ‘Team Cockroach.’”
Almost as soon as her family joined the Krewe, Amanda’s name was put down on a wait list to become Queen.
“I found out about 8-11 years ago that I would be the Queen for 2015,” said Amanda, “and my dad asked if he could be King again when I was Queen.”
Her father did not take no for an answer when he was told he could not be king again.
“No one’s been King twice,” he told them, “but no one’s been King their first year either.”
While Amanda was initially indifferent to the idea of becoming Queen when she learned about it almost a decade ago, she is now counting down the days until she is presented as Queen at her ball. However, she does still have some reservations.
“I feel a little iffy about the crown situation,” Amanda said, “It’s pretty heavy.”
Reigning as the 2015 King and Queen of Pontchartrain, Brent and Amanda will be the center of attention from when the Krewe’s festivities kick off with a Jeudi Gras ball on Thursday, Feb. 5 to when they ride in the parade on Saturday, Feb. 7.
At the ball the maids will be presented in a tableau, followed by the introduction of Amanda and her father.
“After we are presented, everyone says ‘Hail King and Queen Pontchartrain’ and then we lead the maids into a second line across the ballroom, and everyone joins in,” Amanda said.
Dinner follows the presentation, and the rest of the evening is devoted to dancing, drinking and generally having a good time.
The party resumes bright and early the next morning at a luncheon at New Orleans’ beloved Galatoire’s, located on Bourbon Street, celebrating the Krewe.
After the luncheon, the Krewe lines up outside the restaurant and follows a band, throwing beads and second-lining their way down Bourbon to wherever the after-party will be.
“Honestly, Friday is my favorite day – it’s an all-day party,” said Amanda. “It’s always kind of kind of funny when we second line because half of the people watching us know what’s going on and the other half are tourists and are confused because we are throwing beads.”
This year, Johnny White’s on Bourbon will host the Krewe, who will be throwing beads from the balcony and partying until the sun goes down – and then some more.
Amanda can recall many fond memories of throwing beads from the balcony, but also cringes at one specific memory from the balcony party one year.
“I hit a toddler once, right in the face,” Amanda said. “It was the saddest moment of my life.”
The 2015 Krewe of Pontchartrain Parade will begin to roll at 1 p.m. the next day, on the first Saturday of the official Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. It begins rolling in front of Tipitina’s Uptown and rolls for about 4 hours, followed by an after party for the Krewe.
“At the after party last year, our family basically closed the party down with the family who runs the whole thing and had a great time,” Amanda said.
And while Amanda looks forward to reigning as Queen this year, she also looks forward to being able to ride with her family on their float once more.
“I like being able to ride in the parades with my family because they become a family event and it’s one of the few times we’re all able to be together each year.”