PLAQUEMINE – Pre-schoolers from around the parish ascended on Railroad Avenue midday Friday to participate in the 29th Annual Gray Monkey Children’s Parade.
The parade is sponsored by the Iberville Parish Library and held each year during National Library Week.
“It will be 30 years next year that the library has had the parade,” Head Children’s Librarian Tonya Nicolosi said. “It is a tradition that was started by a teacher and the library picked up. The monkeys will be 70 years old in 2016. They have been around for quite some time.”
Nicolosi is in her first year at the library replacing Anne Reeves, who retired last year.
“I am brand new but there are groups that come back every year,” Nicolosi said. “The kids must have a good time.”
Each pre-school or daycare chooses their own theme and decorates their floats accordingly. The only stipulation is that no motorized vehicles are allowed.
Every pre-schooler in Iberville Parish is invited to participate.
“It originally started out during Mardi Gras as a fundraiser for class trips and since developed into encouraging kids to read through the library,” Nicolosi said.
The story of the Gray Monkey Parade begins in 1946 when Plaquemine kindergarten teacher Lolita Daigre purchased two plush toy monkeys in the French Quarter.
The pair, Gray and Brownie, were married in New Orleans’ City Park and eventually had a baby, Koko.
Each year a parade was held that the monkey family reigned over during Mardi Gras. However, it stopped and it wasn’t till Daigre’s family donated the monkeys to the library in 1984 that it was revived.
It was held on Library Boulevard beginning in 1985 and used to promote the library’s summer reading theme.
Four years ago, the parade grew too large and returned to Railroad Avenue, the site of the inaugural parade.
“We missed Math and a nap to come because it is such a nice parade,” said Brenda Acosta with her grandchildren Amelie Mabile and Collyn Dupont. “This is our first time and I am very impressed.”
Another grandson Wyatt Mabile participated in the parade.
“You start them out early and they become great readers and leaders,” Acosta said.