Giving students and community members a front row seat to parades isn’t the only job the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has this Mardi Gras.
Various campus departments, including the UL Lafayette Police Department and the Office of Facility Management, team up with local police forces and the Lafayette Consolidated Government to provide security and cleanup for the five-day festivities.
Lasting from Friday, Feb. 9 to Mardi Gras day, Tuesday, Feb. 13, UL Lafayette and campus police will look to have a “stress-free and friendly-free period,” said Lt. Billy Abrams, ULPD public information officer.
“(Parades) start at Pontiac Point, which is on Surrey Street,” Abrams explained. “So that’s pretty much where all the parades start and they all end at Cajun Field, so that’s where university police largely come into play. Because we are concerned with what happens at Cajun Field and anything along the route that deals with the university.”
Abrams said the parades become part of the university because the route extends from Johnston Street and hits University Avenue, which then becomes part of UL Lafayette.
According to Abrams, the goal for the campus police along with himself, is pretty simple.
“Make sure everybody is safe,” he said. “There is no one crime or illegal activity going on at Cajun Field.”
Abrams said to ensure everyone is safe during what he described as “organized chaos,” UL Lafayette employs a larger number of agencies, including both city police and parish sheriff officers, as well as help from outside the city.
“We don’t like to give out a specific number, but it’s a multitude of officers from various neighbors’ agencies,” Abrams said.
“We don’t have many arrests, and I think that’s because we have a show force, and in the past we have not tolerated that type of behavior,” Abrams said. “Usually if we see something that looks like it’s going to escalate, we escort those people off the property.”
Abrams added that for the most part, everyone in Lafayette celebrating Mardi Gras is just out to have fun. Parade-goers, he said, generally police themselves and are usually cooperative.
“They’re out to have a good time,” Abrams said. “They are not out to promote violence. But any time you have all these different personalities, then you’re subject to conflict. That's why we try to promote visibility.”
Along with the security Abrams and his crew have to coordinate, waste and debris management is also a major part of the Mardi Gras parades.
Each year in Lafayette, thousands of pounds of beads, along with an enormous amount of trash, is thrown around the city.
According to a press release from Cydra Wingerter, chief communications officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government, 25 Project Front Yard volunteers and the Krewe of Rio partnered to help reduce waste.
“The volunteers then walked as the last ‘float’ in the parade where they collected more than 5,300 pounds of beads to be repurposed and reused,” the press release read.
According to the release, more than 4,600 pounds of cardboard and almost 400 pounds of plastic film were recycled, helping to divert about 85 percent of normally landfilled waste at the start of the parade.
Bill Crist, facilities management director and operations manager at UL Lafayette, said his job, like the volunteers for Project Front Yard and Krewe of Rio, is to help reduce waste all around UL Lafayette.
“Our job is to help clean up debris around campus,” Crist said. “That’s what Mardi Gras is all about.”