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Despite Cold, Thousands Expected Saturday At Soulard's Mardi Gras Parade

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson explains public safety protocol for the parade as Mardi Gras Foundation President Mack Bradley looks on.
Camille Phillips | St.Louis Public Radio

The historic Soulard neighborhood in south St. Louis is gearing up for its annual Mardi Gras parade this Saturday. Thousands of people are expected to line the streets for a view of the Valentine-themed floats.

According to Mardi Gras Foundation president Mack Bradley, Mardi Gras festivities add about $23 million to the regional economy.

The forecast calls for chilly temperatures this weekend, but Bradley said he’s not concerned about the cold keeping people away.

“People in St. Louis are pretty hardy,” Bradley said. “You know, we’ve had a wide range of weather over the years and it can be beautiful or less than beautiful and people are still going to come.”

A number of roads, including the ramp from the Poplar Street Bridge, will be closed because of the festivities, which begin at 11 a.m. Visit the St. Louis Mardi Gras website for a map of the parade route and road closures, and to locate taxi stands and Metro shuttles.

To many, Mardi Gras in Soulard means elaborate floats, multi-hued beads and free-flowing drinks.  

And those will all be present, but during a news conference Thursday parade organizers encouraged revelers to keep in mind that people live in the neighborhood.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson said his department—with the help of 50 officers on loan from St. Louis County and the highway patrol—has a plan to keep the crowd in line.

For instance, some plainclothes officers will be blending in with parade-goers, ready to issue citations to underage drinkers.

Dotson also said that parade-goers should be careful not to drink too much.

“It’s going to be cold, so people are going to want to find a way to stay warm. People like to drink some times to help themselves stay warm. The effects of alcohol even in the cold can creep up on you very quickly,” Dotson said. “Have a designated driver, know where you parked your car, know where your keys are, and if somebody says hey, you’ve been over-served let them drive you home.”

For those who wish to keep their cars at home, Bi-State is offering a round-trip shuttle from the MetroLink station at 14th and Spruce to 10th St. near the Soulard Farmer’s Market.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.