Kenton Ridge High School band students returned from New Orleans on Monday morning after performing in a Mardi Gras parade over the weekend, the same parade where 28 people were injured when a man drove a truck into the crowd.
The 108 students were well in front of the crash on the Krewe of Endymion parade route, Kenton Ridge Band Director Jim Templeton said, and none were injured. He didn’t realize it had happened until after the parade was over.
“There was a spot where the parade stopped and we could see it was to let through several ambulances … and then it started up again,” Templeton said.
Neilson Rizutto, 25, was arrested by police and charged with first-degree negligent vehicular injuring, hit-and-run driving causing serious injury and reckless operation of a vehicle, according to New Orleans police. He’s alleged to have been drunk at the time of the crash.
The parade route was nine miles long and ended at the Superdome, Templeton said. It’s one of the largest events of the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebration.
“The parade was amazing,” he said. “It was 30 people deep for nine miles solid. Just insane.”
The length of the route took its toll on the marchers.
“I was almost in tears. I ended up getting a right shin splint not even halfway through it just from marching so much,” junior trumpet player Debbie Holland said. “And it hurt but I made it through.”
But the pain was worth it, she said.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “People would start yelling and cheering. People would point and they would dance.”
It was a once in a lifetime experience, she said, and different from other parades she’s participated in.
“People were more talkative. They were more into the parade,” Holland said. “If we were standing still they would come up to us and start dancing with us. A lot of them were throwing beads at us.”
The students were also able to explore New Orleans during the trip, Templeton said. They went on a riverboat cruise, swamp tour, visited a World War II museum and toured a cemetery.
“I hope they take out of it the culture of traveling to a different area and getting out of where they grew up,” he said, “and experience the diversity of other cultures and just enjoy the arts.”
The band returned back to Kenton Ridge High School on Monday morning after a 19-hour bus trip. Students were able to take the day off of school to rest and plan to return to classes today.
Templeton hopes to plan another trip like this in the future. The band previously performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade a few years ago.