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Seniors second line to Mardi Gras celebration

Jonesboro resident Elaine Jefferson marches in a second line during the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center's Mardi Gras celebration Friday. Jefferson is a native of New Orleans and she said the event made her feel like she was back in the Crescent City.

Jonesboro resident Elaine Jefferson marches in a second line during the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center's Mardi Gras celebration Friday. Jefferson is a native of New Orleans and she said the event made her feel like she was back in the Crescent City.

— Elaine Jefferson sat on a park bench outside the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro Friday and called out to a nurse for help.

Jefferson, 75, was part of the approximately 150 who attended the center’s Mardi Gras celebration. The Jonesboro resident held an umbrella in her hand and danced and twirled with her fellow seniors in a second line out to the parking lot for a mini parade.

Shortly after the parade began, she exclaimed that she wasn’t feeling well and called out to a nurse who was handing out Mardi Gras beads.

“I feel sick and there is only one cure,” Jefferson said. “I need beads.”

This year marked the Griswell Center’s fifth annual Mardi Gras celebration, in which area senior citizens don elaborate feathered masks, eat red beans and rice, dance and line up for the parade.

Even Santa Claus attended this year’s event, decked out with large beaded necklaces.

OK, it was actually center Manager Linda McKenzie in a costume.

“It was either Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny,” said McKenzie, a New Orleans native. “I guess I’ll dress up as the Easter Bunny next year.”

photo

Curt Yeomans

Linda McKenzie, manager at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, leads a second line at the center's annual Mardi Gras celebration. McKenzie wears a different costume to the event each year, and this year came down to a choice between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Rex resident Erma Wyatt (right) pulls a strand of Mardi Gras beads from Jessica Smith (center), a lifeguard at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, and another member of the center during its annual Mardi Gras celebration Friday.

The entire event is meant to bring the seniors a little bit of New Orleans, which is known for its anything-goes atmosphere and its slogan “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (That’s French for “Let the Good Times Roll”).

Jefferson, a New Orleans native who relocated to Georgia after Hurricane Katrina, said the celebration made her feel like she was back in her hometown.

“This ain’t my first rodeo,” Jefferson said. “It’s a touch of home for me. They do a really good job with this. It makes me feel like I’m representing my city.”

Rex resident Erma Wyatt, 59, said the throwing of beads from small floats was her favorite part of the celebration. Her neck was draped in a plethora of green, yellow, purple, white, silver, blue and red beaded necklaces.

“I’ve got so many now, I could probably throw some back,” she said.

This year was different from previous celebrations because it was the first time the parade held outdoors rather than in the center’s dining room.

Several seniors said they thought the change was a good idea.

“This was the best one,” said Jonesboro resident Carol Evans, 62.

“Last year was good, but this year was even better and it seems to be getting better year after year,” Morrow resident Lurlean Stewart, 62, added.

Although the temperatures had been in the freezing range in recent weeks, McKenzie said the center was fortunate to get a break from Mother Nature with some warmer weather.

“The weather was perfect,” she said. “We moved the parade outside this year so everybody would be able to spread it out a little more. It also gave them an experience of what it is like in New Orleans [during a Mardi Gras parade].”

The dancing proved to be equally popular with attendees. They were dancing before lunch, between lunch and the parade and then once more after the parade.

“It was lots of fun,” said Hampton resident Ramona DeLeon.

Hampton resident Oreatha Ensley was the most active of the dancing seniors. She danced to every song played at the event and did a multitude of line dances, including The Wobble and the Cupid Shuffle.

“It was great to see all of these new people who came this year,” Ensley said.