Mardi Gras means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Some devote hours to costume making, while neighbors get together at house parties along the parade route.
But for many families it’s grueling. High school band members and dancers spend all year practicing, and then spend hours on the streets as they march in the parades. WWNO All Things Considered Host, Janae Pierre, is part of such a family. She sent this report, produced by WWNO’s Tegan Wendland, from the Krewe of Nyx parade.
JP: I’m a chaperone for my god-sister, who is also my cousin. Her name is Camryn Smith, and she’s a sophomore at Edna Karr High School. I support her on the streets as she’s dancing and doing her thing and I also do that for a lot of the other girls as well. It’s kind of a team effort as far as being a chaperone. We start out at the lineup which is normally near Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon. You never know how long you’re gonna be there. You're just waiting around to see what float you’re behind. When they call the float, you’re behind that float and then you roll.
CS: I am standing in line getting pepped up for this parade, about to go march into our spot and see what goes on from there. There’s Janae! Coming out of Winn Dixie with a bag full of candy!
JP: As a chaperone, aside from keeping the girls hydrated and everything like that, I’m responsible for keeping the people out of the streets. But sometimes you have folks, parade-goers, who are just a little ignorant and also a little intoxicated. So that’s also a difficult part. It’s no walk in the park being a chaperone.
CS: Janae is like another mom/sister to me. She helped my mom raise me. She’s been in my life all my life. She hypes me up, she keeps me safe and sound. She peps me up. I trust her.
JP: Cameron’s my baby. That’s kind of my kid. So I’m very supportive of whatever she does and if she needs me to be there — if I have to walk miles in a parade and keep drunk people away from her, that’s what I’m going to do!
CS: It is very hard. We spend a whole summer learning everything that we know now. Why do it? It’s really fun. And we’re like a big family. It makes me feel really good, like I’m kept, like I know where I’m wanted.
JP: To rewind back into the day when she was a child — watching her watch other flag teams as they were at the parade and now she’s participating in it, I think it’s just heartwarming to see her follow through and do that, and put on for the city that we both love.
JP: The parade begins! How do you feel Cam?
CS: I’m nervous out of my mind right now.
JP: I don't like to smile.
CS: But you look pretty, you look good!
JP: I don't think it’s that deep for Cameron. To her she looks good, she’s dancing, she’s doing her thing. Because again for high school students — this is what they do to get out of the streets. If that’s one of the things that she wants to do prevent that, go right ahead. I’m hoping that someday she’ll the be captain of the flag team, and I’ll be right there by her side.