The Krewe of UNO rolled through campus on Tuesday blasting its 2024 theme, “Ladies First: Celebrating UNO’s first woman president and many famous firsts.” The theme was in honor of Kathy Johnson who became the eighth president of the University of New Orleans in November and the first woman selected to hold the title.
Johnson, along with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, were aboard the UNO Privateer ship tossing beads, stuffed toys and other Mardi Gras memorabilia.
“Happy Mardi Gras!” she called and waved.
Johnson’s float was among the procession of nearly 50 organizations and groups that included bands, steppers, motorized carts and walking groups parading along a new and longer route that began and ended at the University Center.
“Chief (Joshua) Rondeno suggested the change last year as an opportunity to grow the parade and engage the community,” said dean of students LeeAnne Sipe. “We’ve outgrown our original staging area.”
Indeed, this year’s parade included three school marching bands and the addition of Ben Franklin High School marchers, as well as the Hynes Parkview Band. The route also expanded off-campus onto Leon C. Simon Drive. where high school students crowded the sidewalk calling for trinkets.
Jamarcio Ross, a freshman from Monroe, Lousisana, sat back taking it all in.
“I didn’t expect it to be this big,” Ross said. “I’m loving it!”
In keeping with the parade theme, staffers from Career Services wore signboards with the pictures of women who’ve made their mark as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies: Ursula M. Burns, the first Black woman CEO to lead a Fortune 500 company; Geisha Williams, the first Latina CEO; Andrea Jung, the first Asian American; and Indra Nooyi, the first woman of color and first immigrant CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
“Being Career Services, we focused on—careers,” said Celyn Boykin, Career Services director. “Our sub-theme is ‘Ladies First’ Fortune 500 CEOs. We used an inclusive list of women from four different ethnicities.”
The First Gen Stompers, representing the federal TRIO program and students who are from families where neither parent completed a four-year college or university degree, marched behind a banner with two students in a UNO cap and gown, which represented their future, said Lynette Denise Bates, TRIO Programs director.
Sable Murphy, a senior majoring in biology at UNO, was one of those students.
"I'm starting graduate school this year, and the McNair Scholars Program has really helped support me,” said Murphy, who intends to pursue a doctoral degree.
Meanwhile, the UNO math department decked out an SUV with equations, women mathematicians, QR codes and tutoring information--just in case assistance is needed with those differential equations and abstract algebra problems!
Along the parade route, other colorful scenes and bead-laced characters served to spark the imagination, such as an UNO-clad Yeti complete with a matching UNO hat and breastplate, ladies in colorfully draped feather boas, children pulled in wagons covered with balloons, and a very small car that carried passengers inside and in the trunk.
While it was their first Krewe of UNO parade, Chelsea McKnight and Zahia Bastian, first-year students from New Orleans, had no problem with strategy—although they appeared to be empty-handed.
“It’s our second time coming around,” McKnight said laughing.
The duo said they caught the front of the parade at the UC, loaded up on loot that they stashed in their car, then made their way across campus to the Alumni Center.
“I think it’s a great thing to bring the community together and have a fun time,” Bastian said.
The parade culminated with a free king cake party at the University Center, that also included a side of free chicken wings courtesy of Chartwells.
UNO students are on spring break next week, which coincides with the culmination of the Carnival season.