The trip to Washington, D.C., Miss Evangeline Zoë Bertrand recently made to take part in the Mardi Gras celebration in the nation’s capital was an activity filled adventure from start to finish.
The first time the St. John School senior visited D.C. was the reward for having won Pointe Coupee Electric’s annual essay contest and her fellow travelers were other students who’d won the contest in their own parishes.
Along for the ride this time were her parents Gary and Missy Bertrand – all three were impressed with the hospitality and extravagance of this trip, one of many privileges Zoë earned after winning the Miss Evangeline Pageant.
The trip not only afforded the lovely and bright student a fantastic history lesson, but the opportunity to make connections that will likely be beneficial to Zoë later.
She met most of the Congressional representatives of the state, including U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who had been shot just before Zoë made the trip with Pointe Coupee Electric.
“I made so many with so many people,” she said. “That was one of my favorite things about the trip.”
“Being able to bring things home was great but knowing that I had an internship waiting for me was unbelievable,” Zoë continued. And the Plaquemine native will have options in that regard because two of the three invited her to contact them about interning.
Then there was the seemingly endless social events. The many fair and festival queens from Louisiana were given a two-page, single-spaced itinerary of places to go and things to do while in Washington.
“There were 24 queens there representing Louisiana from the various festivals throughout the state and when I tell you they were treated like queens, they were really treated like royalty,” Missy said.
She said each queen was assigned a chaperone to ensure their safety throughout their visit.
“I did not have to worry even though she was in a big city like D.C.,” Missy said. The hospitality extended to the parents as well. “We were all taken care of just so well.”
She said the parents had their own tour and were transported as a group to numerous famous sights in the historic city, going from one to another to another.
“Somebody was waiting at each place we went,” Missy said. “There was a tour guide assigned for just our group.”
“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.
Gary said visiting the Arlington National Cemetery was a high point of the three-day trip for him.
“The Changing of the Guard was unbelievable,” he said. ”When the one in charge comes out and meets the guard on duty, it was like they were twins, mirrored reflections.”
“they never get out of sync,” Gary continued. “They were like robots with their precision movements. I’m telling you it was perfection. It was impressive.”
The queens’ social calendar was filled every evening with balls and other official appearances and parties afterward each night. Zoë made the most of the opportunity.
“My roommate didn’t go to any of the parties or anything,” she said. “She just went to what she had to then went home.”
“My thinking was, ‘I didn’t want to come home and then have to say I wish I’d have done this or I’d have done that.’ Zoë said. “I didn’t want to come home with any regrets, so I said I was going to go to literally everything.”
The 17-year-old said the “Louisiana Alive” celebration was the most impressive.
“It was pretty much a big circus-themed ball,” Zoë said. “There were acrobats everywhere, they were throwing beads, there were four different bands plus one on the main stage.
“The party was like something,” she said. “The only way I can describe it is ‘boujee.’”
The term likely would require definition for anyone over 30. The Urban Dictionary defines the term as “high class… one who possesses swag…(is) rich.” Zoë defined it as “extremely extravagant.”
“Then there was a parade in the room,” she said. “Floats came out of the back, some carrying congressmen and they were throwing fancy beads and Raising Cane’s collectible plush toys.”
Zoë said the over-the-top ball was just part of the founder and owner of Raising Cane’s Todd Graves’ contribution to the queens’ experience.
“He wanted it to be the best, most extravagant event in the history of the Mardi Gras celebration in Washington, D.C., and I’m sure it was,” Zoë said.