‘A learning experience’: Large turnout leads officials to improve parade crowd, traffic flow

Staff Report

Local officials said last week that the 10th annual Krewe of Comogo Parade brought unprecedented crowd volume to Plaquemine, but it’s hard to determine how many attended.

Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi, Plaquemine Mayor Ed Reeves and Plaquemine Police Chief Robbie Johnson all said the event went mostly smooth in terms of safety, but traffic flow was the challenge.

Paradegoers lined up five-deep along a route through Plaquemine for the 10th annual Krewe of Comogo Parade. Officials are looking at ways to improve crowd and traffic flow for next year’s event.

“A lot of people are estimating, and I’d say it was definitely excess of 25,000 – and some people have it way higher than that,” Stassi said. “A lot of people came, and they certainly weren’t all from Plaquemine.”

Reeves said parade organizer Edward Earl Comeaux estimated as many as 70,000 spectators.

That number may not be far off the mark, the mayor said.

“They were five feet deep everywhere around … it was incredible,” he said. “I was in the parade, and I saw everyone in those areas… it looked good, and we had a good time.”

Johnson said he heard crowd estimates between 50,000 and 75,000.

“I’ve looked at the drone footage and I have no idea on the exact number, but it’s safe to say at least 60,000-plus – and that’s with no issues,” he said.

City police officers did not have many problems with the crowd, other than the challenge of directing thousands of vehicles that brought traffic to all major arteries across the city, Johnson said.

“It was a learning experience on how we prepare ourselves in terms of traffic, which was the biggest challenge,” he said. “Once people get here in Plaquemine, there’s only one way out – north and south on La. 1 – and when you’re leaving that parade, everything has got to funnel north and south because there’s no east-west artery here.

“You had traffic from the Intracoastal Waterway (near Port Allen) to Plaquemine constantly flowing for two hours,” Johnson said. “Other than the understanding that once the parade was over, we had to take control of the traffic and operate as if we were the lights and not let the lights conduct the flow of people getting out of here. It was not overwhelming, but we didn’t expect that.”

City police officials expected a large crowd for the event, but nobody expected a crowd of the magnitude for this year’s parade.

“People were lined up all the way back to the (Bayou Plaquemine) bridge and people thought that was the parade route itself because people were getting here late parking all over by the community center, La. 1, across the railroad tracks, across the service road and by the hotel because they couldn’t get into Plaquemine,” he said. “All traffic had stopped and there was a lot of walkup traffic from point in north Plaquemine.”

Aside from the traffic tie-ups, most of the event went well.

Johnson said two kids lost touch with their parents for a moment, but they got them back quickly.

Johnson said his officers also worked one medical emergency that was not handled as quickly as he would have wanted.

He said wants more presence from Acadian Ambulance and first responders in the area to ensure they are readily available.

Johnson said he and Plaquemine Fire Chief Darren Ramirez have already addressed that issue and have put plans in place for next year.

“Everything was rectified relatively quickly,” he said. “Otherwise, it was a great parade.”

The 2024 Mardi Gras is Feb. 13.