Pink plastic chicken feet were tossed from several floats at the 33rd Spanish Town parade. The unusual throws were an homage to a board member of the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana who knew how to be creative with limited resources.
Lonnie Hunter was a long standing member of SPLL, the organizers of the annual downtown parade. The former marine passed away in September from lung cancer at 61.
SPLL board member, Lawrence “Doc” L’Herrison, said back in the day the parade didn’t have enough beads to throw and Hunter would improvise.
"One year we got some old law books, shredded the inside pages into confetti, and threw it out into the crowd," L’Herrison said.
But some of Hunter’s inventions weren’t well received by the crowd.
He was particularly fond of creating pink chicken feet. Hunter would buy chicken feet before each parade. He would wash them and let them sit out in the sun to dry. Several days later Hunter would spray paint the feet pink.
L’Herrison said one year a little girl picked up a foot and the mother was very upset.
“They were for someone who wanted something usual. They felt sort of rubbery and if you moved the tendons the chicken foot looked alive,” L’Herrison said.
He said the best part was watching dogs get a hold of the feet. “The pink paint would leave a pink stain around their lips,” he laughed.
Another year Hunter joined the Krewe of Generic Yo-Yos to create cat turds made of Tootsie Roll candies hidden in cat litter and cat hairballs made of tennis balls dipped in glue and then covered in hair.
That year L’Herrison remembers the expression on parade attendees’ faces. “They’ll go from glee to terror, and then drop it like a hot potato,” he said. There was nothing germ-infested about it, but he wouldn’t have advised anyone to eat it, he added.
SPLL had its own special way of having Hunter ride with them this year.
It was subtle. Their all black float was dressed in countless pictures of politicians and one recognizable face to the entire board, Hunter. On a poster-sized picture plastered on the side of the SPLL float there was Hunter, smirking in a pirate costume.
Hunter called himself “Not So Grand Wazoo” and wasn’t afraid to wear pink from head to toe.
He would show up to the parades in his typical warrior costume, consisting of various pinks and, one year, rollerblades.
“He could cover some ground in those things,” said Brumfield SPLL president. “He was the best cheerleader we had.”
2013 Spanish Town Parade King, Robert King, said Hunter had a heart of gold.
“He took me under his wing and helped me learn the pink path,” King said. This year it wasn’t hard to spot King wearing multiple pink flamingos, pink fishnet stockings, and waving to the crowd as his float passed down North Street.
Hunter’s ideas didn’t stop at parade throws and costumes.
“He wanted to be a part of moving us to the next level,” said Bruce Childers, another SPLL board member.
The next level was the Spanish Town Ball.
Twenty-four years ago to celebrate the 10th year of the parade, Hunter and another member, created a nontraditional ball.
The Spanish Town’s first ball occurred in an abandoned building off Third Street with port-o-potties, generators, and about 13 tables.
The ball now rents out the Baton Rouge River Center and averages over 3,000 participants.
King said Hunter showed him how instead of growing up how to regress. Now every year his children, who are in their 30s, hear one thing from their father before the Spanish Town parade.
“This is the one day your dad is going to embarrass you, if you have a problem stay home,” he laughed.