The history behind Spanish Town flamingos in the lake

The Flamingo flock representing the beginning of Spanish Town Mardi Gras sat beautifully on the University Lakes for a little over 13 hours before they were “adopted.”

Members of the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana (SPLL), the organization that puts on the Spanish Town Parade and Ball, went out in the early morning hours of Monday to kick off the tradition that spans over 30 years.

“We put them in (the lake) the other morning,” Robert King, the president of SPLL, said on Wednesday. “We finished up about 3:30, 3:45 in the morning. We started at 1:30 and I went out there around noon and they had about 12 to 15 left and I came back a little after noon and there were like maybe three or four left. It’s just fun to see people get all excited about them.”

Jason Broussard, an SPLL board member, said placing the flamingos in the lake used to be a way to promote the Spanish Town Ball but the ball sells itself now. He said the Feb. 4 event is already sold out.

Broussard and King pointed out that Flamingos were not always placed in the University Lakes. It started in Capitol Lake, then moved to City Park Lake but both bodies of water had problems with debris and/or sludge.

“The flamingos symbolize, ‘Hey, Spanish Town is right around the corner’,” King said.

The question of why flamingos was posed to both King and Broussard.

“Flamingos are like the spirit animal for Spanish Town,” King said. “When Spanish Town first started, it might have been Charles Fisher who was one of our board members that’s no longer with us. He had some other people start putting flamingos in their yards in Spanish Town and it kind of grew from there. When you look at a flamingo standing there on one leg, just calm and serene and just beautiful and that’s what we kind of go with. We always love our pink. We love our flamingos.”

Broussard said the parade became an event that needed to have a permit from the city in around 1985 and that’s when the Flamingo was adopted as the parade’s mascot.

“The reason why the flamingos were adopted as the mascot is that we are considered a poor man’s parade or the everyday man’s parade,” he said. “Well-to-do people are not going to put a plastic yard flamingo in their yard.”

Broussard said about 420 flamingos are processed every year. About 140 of them are the big flamingos while the other 280 are the little ones Broussard referred to as weeMINGOs. The small flamingos are sold to help offset the costs.

“Whatever we have left over at the end of the year after we pay our bills with the sales of the ball, and the parade, we give away to local charities. We give away around $100,000 a year to about 30 different local charities.”

Broussard said one of the unique things about the Spanish Town parade is freedom of expression is greatly encouraged, even if the board doesn’t agree with some of the floats and their messages.

“Although SPLL is the operating board that manages the parade and ball, the floats themselves are individually owned and we encourage them to express themselves any way they see fit,” he said. “Sometimes we might not agree with what a float does, or how they decorate their float but we try to stay away from monitoring that. We encourage freedom of speech. We’d like for people to come out on that day and just let their hair down and be something completely different than they are in their everyday life.”

The parade is set to roll on Feb. 18 at noon.

“I think that the most important thing for people to understand is that No. 1, we’re an everyday man’s parade,” Broussard said. “Number two, we encourage people to express themselves and we accept any and all. Whatever political views, whatever it is, you know, we, we want everybody to come in for at least a day and just be pink, you know, be together. And then the other thing is we give back to our community.”

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