By Maria Jose Subiria
Seniors wore colorful costumes and masks as decorated floats rolled through the crowd at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center.
The center hosted a Mardi Gras event Friday, complete with a parade and beads, for roughly 40 older adults.
"I am an original New Orleanian, so to introduce it to them is a highlight for me," said Linda McKenzie, program coordinator for center. "Plus it brings a little bit of home for me, since I get homesick sometimes."
McKenzie, and Marquita Bundrage, administrative secretary for the Griswell Center, organized the day's events, which were a first for the facility. McKenzie said she hopes to expand the Mardi Gras program next year.
The first four floats in the parade had holiday themes, including Christmas and Valentine's Day.
"We wanted to go with seasons this year for the floats' themes, because we basically recycled the decorations we had, and in that way, we didn't have to buy stuff," said Kiran Shailendra, manager of the senior center.
The last float revealed the Mardi Gras Queen.
"I was chosen to be in the Mardi Gras float, and I used styrofoam, feathers and rhinestones" to make a costume, Bundrage said. "It took me about five to six hours to put the costume together."
Seniors wore their own glittering costumes and hoped to catch multi-colored beads as floats passed by.
"I am dressed as a woman from the caverns, because it's wild like me," said Carmen Pico, a visitor to the center.
Richard Orchison, a regular volunteer at the Griswell Center, pulled the Valentine's Day float.
"This reminds me of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and I hope next year it gets better," he said.
After the parade, seniors took to the dance floor.
"It's kind of therapeutic, cheery, happy and they forget about their personal troubles while they're at the event," said Shailendra.
McKenzie said she wants to involve the center's seniors more in the planning of next year's Mardi Gras event, which may stretch over two days.
"For next year we want the seniors to get floats together," she said. "So next year we might have a parade on Friday and a ball on Saturday. We might even go as far as having a court with a king and queen."
The senior center opened three years ago, and offers older adults fitness classes, massage therapy, health seminars, water fitness and a variety of learning courses.
"It gets them out of the house and helps them physically," McKenzie said.