Charting a New Course

There just wasn't enough room. That's why, this year, there's a new route for the Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade.

Scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at Seventh and Park, the parade will head south on Seventh Street and end at Lynch Street.

"The parade route was 1.2 miles before, and it's still 1.2 miles," says Bev Hacker, station manager at KDHX (88.1 FM) and chairwoman of the parade. "But now it's all straight and we keep it out of the residential area." In the past, the jammed, narrow streets made it almost impossible at times for many of the more than 100 floats to negotiate the street corners.

Another change in this year's parade is a family viewing area between Carroll and Lafayette. "For the most part, this really is an adult parade," says Mardi Gras chairwoman Ann Chance.

One thing that's not likely to change is the event's popularity. Hacker says police estimated last year's crowd at 150,000, but she says she thinks it was a lot bigger.

"It's the third-largest Mardi Gras parade in the world, based on participants, behind Rio and New Orleans," Hacker says.

What does she think about the possibility that more people will turn out for the Mardi Gras parade than for the recent papal motorcades in St. Louis?

"I wouldn't even know how to comment on that," Hacker says, but then she adds, "We got a call the other night and someone said people here must like it more when there's a party with a parade."

Count on it.

-- Michael Kunz

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