JARREAU, La. (AP) - The family who organizes and sponsors the popular False River Fourth of July Boat Parade in Pointe Coupee Parish says it is calling it quits.
The reason, family members say, is new pressure from the state to obtain liability insurance and provide adequate security patrols for the safety of participants - a burden they aren’t prepared to shoulder.
“We just can’t take on the responsibility anymore,” attorney Marc Barker, of Jarreau, said Friday. “It used to be a little parade; now it’s hundreds of people and boats. It’s not necessarily a parade anymore. It has evolved into something else.”
Family members say they hope the boat parade - a local tradition for more than 30 years - will resume next year under the sponsorship of a local nonprofit organization or group with the resources to support the event.
The event has evolved from modest beginnings into more of a floating party. Dozens of boats and watercraft now cluster in the middle of the south end of the 10.5-mile-long oxbow lake to party and throw water balloons.
Barker said the family noticed fewer folks decorating boats in line with parade themes, instead just showing up to party. He said that prompted the family to try to take a different approach this year before ultimately deciding to cancel the event altogether.
“In lieu of having a judging stand and a theme this year, we were just going to pass out trophies in the river because folks that came out on the Fourth would decorate their boats in red, white and blue,” Barker said. “But then the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries informed us we couldn’t do that without an approved marine event permit.”
The Barkers took over organizing the annual boat parade 10 years ago from the event’s founder, Lionel Kleinpeter.
Kleinpeter, along with several friends, started a tradition of visiting one another’s piers and party barges each Fourth of July, which eventually led to the annual parade.
As crowds grew, Kleinpeter said, he began brainstorming annual themes. Trophies were awarded to the best-decorated watercrafts, and the event became a parade and family function that generated a lot of publicity for the parish and for False River.
Most themes have been tied to local news controversies like the BP oil spill and the New Orleans’ Saints bounty scandal. But they also have included broader concepts like Looney Tunes cartoons and the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
“It is a little disappointing,” Kleinpeter said Friday of the news of the boat parade’s end. “People just don’t parade anymore, though. I was fortunate, I think, because of the youth of it. People got a kick out of the themes. Now it has just evolved into an anchored-down party.”
Adam Einck, a spokesman with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the agency requires marine event permits whenever officials feel waterway navigation will be hindered.
In the case of the Fourth of July boat parade, he said, the cluster of boats partying in the south end of the lake has become a cause for concern.
The permit requires organizers to obtain an “adequate” amount of liability insurance. They also are required to provide adequate security patrols to ensure safety.