I recently met someone at a parade and we got to talking about how it's a shame there aren't more parades in the neighborhoods any more. She said they used to take floats over the Jeff Davis overpass, but one year there was a windy storm and a float tipped over and someone died. Her claim was that after that incident, no one took floats over the overpass anymore and krewes started moving Uptown. Can you help me unravel this mystery?
It's been a month since Mardi Gras, but in New Orleans we rarely stop thinking about parades. Just look no further than this month's St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's processions!
Like you, Ol' Blake laments the loss of neighborhood routes for Carnival krewes, which at one time rolled everywhere from Gentilly and New Orleans East to Kenner, Harahan and Mid-City. Now, as Mardi Gras Guide publisher Arthur Hardy points out, nearly all New Orleans krewes roll on the standard St. Charles Avenue route, with just a few exceptions — Endymion, NOMTOC and a handful of others. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) prefers the standardized route, Hardy says, because it's easier and less costly to patrol.
The incident you describe also triggered some route changes. On Feb. 1, 1970, 11 people were injured when a float from the Krewe of Carrollton was toppled by high winds while crossing the Jefferson Davis Parkway overpass, which at that time was included in the krewe's route. According to The Times-Picayune, winds estimated at more than 70 miles per hour blew the float against the overpass railing. One rider, Peter Latino Sr., fell more than 35 feet to the railroad tracks below and was critically injured. Several NOPD officers and members of the Riverdale High School band also were hurt. Latino remained in a coma for two years following the incident and died in July 1972.
In 1974, Carrollton moved its starting point from Oak Street to Canal Street to avoid the overpass.
The tragedy also led to a requirement that riders in all parades wear safety harnesses while parades roll. The city ordinance was introduced by Councilman James Moreau, Latino's brother-in-law.