When you take a look at the surprising brief history of Baton Rouge’s largest parade it comes at no surprise why it is the way it is.
Back in the day Spanish Town was less of a hipster magnet and more of a… questionable neighborhood. The progenitors of the parade celebrated this, capitalizing on the district’s difference from those around it, but the flamboyant floats and haze of pastel pink flamingos we enjoy today did not come about until much later. In fact, the parade saw only a handful of spectators during its first run in 1981. But honestly when the entire parade is just a handful of kids banging on fruit cartons and throwing a few beads (which they had to reclaim to keep the show rolling) you’re not going to draw a crowd. But everything changed the following year.
1982 was a big year for the Spanish Town Parade, when their famous, satirical and sometimes wonderful inappropriate themes began to liven-up the procession. What’s truly wonderful about the idea of Mardi Gras is that people, rich and poor, can dress like royalty and feel the power of being a king or queen. Spanish Town’s first theme, “Every Man a King,” embraced this ideal and began the tradition of mocking elected leaders and elevating the common man. Besides, what greater fun is there than making fun of our benevolent leaders’ screw ups? Hell, if you don’t bribe the float judges, you’re doing it wrong.
It’s a sobering thought that there’s a deeper meaning behind Mardi Gras besides partying – unless you’ve just polished off three medium cajun lemonades from French Quarter Daiquiris and can’t tell the difference between the floats and the tree next to you. Then, you just don’t give a damn about anything and your “friends” post all over the Internet how you were screaming at a tree to give you the beads stuck in its branches. Before you know it, your mom is calling you a hundred times insisting you go to AA meetings…
But I digress.
The Pink Flamingos we know and love rose out of the parade’s favorite saying: poor taste is better than no taste at all. Lets face it, pink is tacky. Flamingos were all the rage in the 1950s – when pink was cool. The flamingo became the official symbol of the parade and the neighborhood after it was adopted by the founding Mystic Krewe for the Preservation of Lagniappe, which collects the float entry fees and donates them to the LA Food Bank. The flamingo has since become synonymous with the Spanish Town Parade and Ball, and residents know exactly when the party is about to start. How? About two dozen giant pink flamingos show up in the LSU lakes. True to the parade’s tradition in glorifying harmless bad behavior, stealing these big birds to decorate your lawn is encouraged. To be clear, this is pretty much the only time you can legally commit larceny, so take advantage of it if you get the chance.
This year’s parade, themed “Flamingo Dynasty,” will roll on March 1, and lead by none other than Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne – Louisiana’s best-payed tour guide. Some parade advice: bring a trash bag to clean up after yourself, keep it in your pants and don’t forget the daiquiris.