Jonathan Allen is a senior business major at Grambling State University, but Thursday was his first time in the Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“Being my first time I didn’t know what to expect,” said Allen, Grambling State’s Student Government President. “But the crowd’s reaction to seeing us and catching beads was electrifying and a joy to experience.”
Last weekend’s Bayou Classic events started with a Tuesday morning football-focused coaches news conference, but the two-hour parade was the real kickoff for most Bayou Classic fans.
“I am truly enjoying the parade and the band,” said Evette Wilson, a 1963 Grambling State University graduate, as she stood along the parade route where she watched the university’s cheer squad, band and a host of other marching bands, floats and more. “Two of my daughters played in the World Famed Tiger Marching Band.”
The hundreds in the parade entertained those lined up on New Orleans downtown streets and French Quarter streets with musical ballads, dance tunes and fancy dance moves. Much like a Mardi Gras parade, people on floats tossed beads to parade watchers as they scrambled to grab the goods.
“The crowd was pretty cosmopolitan,” said William Broussard, Southern University’s athletics director. “New Orleans is such a great town. I’m happy to see the parade attract so many different kinds of people.”
Thanksgiving is a traditional day for family dinner and professional football, but there were thousands lining the parade route to see the parade in its second year after a hiatus.
After hearing about the parade on the news, Ariel Leggett says it was must-do. “I was ready to get outside,” said Leggett. “I had my dinner already, plus I’m supporting Warren Easton High School Marching Band.”
Easton was one of eight high school bands rocking the crowd. Among them all, one stood out. This year’s “Future of HBCU Talent” high school marching band is the Jacksonville Red Devils Marching Band from Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville, Ark. The award-winning marching band has been voted best band with the most spirit in Arkansas twice in an Arkansas statewide poll. The HBCU Talent winning dance team accompanying the Red Devils was The Divas of Olive Branch Majorette Team from Memphis, Tenn. The “Future of HBCU Talent” program recognizes one high school band and one dance team from outside of Louisiana, giving them a chance to participate in the Bayou Classic Parade.
Parade participants agreed that non-college students should be spotlighted. “I enjoyed making the kids happy,” said Grambling State University Junior Class President Jordan Harvey”They were ecstatic about the beads and paraphernalia.”
Of course the Bayou Classic football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome features Grambling State University and Southern University football teams and the two school’s bands compete during Friday night’s Battle of the Bands and during the game halftime show. Last Thursday, the two bands shared the streets and showed a little of what they have coming later in the week.
For some it didn’t matter that there is a Grambling State-Southern rivalry. “I just came to bring my nieces and nephews. This is my first time coming to the parade,” said Wilnetta Taylor, a New Orleans resident. “I just wanted to see what it was all about. I don’t have a favorite school. I like both Southern and Grambling.”
Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue and his wife, Dorothy Pogue, stood atop a float, both wearing gold blazers and throwing black and gold beads.
“I’m just so thoroughly pleased that the parade has returned to the Bayou Classic week,” Pogue said.