- FEB 5, 2019 – 5:01 PM
After nearly four decades as captain of the Krewe of Perseus, Allen Little has decided it’s time for a change.
He’s handing off the baton to krewe member Scott Tramel, but Little is making sure Tramel will be well prepared.
“We started the process three years ago,” Little said. “The first year, we did the parade planning together. The second was the ball. This year, we’re doing it all together. We will present as co-captains at the ball and at the parade, and then he will take over.”
He said it’s time for new ideas in the krewe.
“I started in Perseus by doing wire work and making head pieces in the eighth or ninth year of the parade, which was founded in 1970. When the second captain resigned, the president and vice president asked if I could take his place. That’s how I became captain,” he said.
“I have been captain for 38 years. This will be my 75th birthday. The club needs younger ideas. Things change … but it’s time.”
During his tour of duty, Little has seen many changes in north shore Carnival culture, most notably with the influence of government.
“The most changes in Mardi Gras with Perseus have come from the City of Slidell,” he said. “The city now charges for daytime parades $2,000 (it’s $800 in New Orleans) and $5,000 for nighttime parades. The city really dictates everything. … Things are different now.”
In addition to an upsurge in the cost of parading, the overall costs of throwing a ball and parade have also risen, making what was once a small-scale, homegrown operation into something much larger, and more expensive.
“When I started, I designed and bought all of the material for the costumes and had them made. Now we buy most of the costumes already made because it’s just more economical,” Little said.
“We helped launch the Barth Brothers, who started providing all of our floats. Now we have to rent all of our floats, which costs money, and have them delivered. Things are very different now, and I don’t have the temperament to continue to deal with all the financial planning.”
Little selected Tramel as his replacement, with the eventual, overwhelming approval of the krewe’s board members.
“This is a true Mardi Gras krewe. It’s not a democracy, it’s a benevolent dictatorship,” Little said. “I acted with the support of my board by choosing Scott as my successor. I often tell them how I think things (with the ball or parade) should be and they often agree. Sometimes there’s a back-and-forth, but there’s no problem at all. Scott has a theatrical background, and so he will be a good fit.”
Tramel, who has been a member of Perseus along with his wife, Christine, for seven years, described his feelings when tapped by Little to take over in one word: fear.
“Pure, unadulterated fear. How in the world could I step in and do half the job that Allen has done for all these years?” he said.
Little noted that Tramel has been a great student, learning the process from top to bottom. Tramel, for his part, relied heavily on experience he gained volunteering at Slidell Little Theatre.
“Working with Slidell Little Theatre helped in several ways,” he said. “First, it taught me how to work with volunteers — the people that help at the krewe are doing it because they love the krewe and want to join in the tradition of Mardi Gras. You have to respect and appreciate that.
“Second, it taught me something about theatrics and presenting a pageant. You start with a blank palette and have to bring your vision to life. And third, it taught me the importance of walking the balance of artistic display and budget. You can have grand visions, but you have to bring them under budget.”
The duties of the captain are all encompassing, Little said, from conceiving the theme down to parade day, including designing the ball, deciding what each group is going to be and look like, designing the costumes, meeting with float designers and picking out which ones to rent, picking out the music for the ball and choosing a court.
“The whole process takes more than a year, so Scott is already working on 2020,” Little said.
Coordinating personalities, as well as horses and floats, is an unexpected part of the job, Tramel said.
“I got to be the parade chair for a couple of years as part of my apprenticeship, and that was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “The paperwork and the approval process is quite a bit but can be done.
“The tough part is when you have to find the bands, and where to put the horse groups so they are not in front of a dance team, and this group doesn’t like that group, and making sure the music is appropriate, and making sure the groups merge properly with the floats. Whew, that can be a handful and drive you to drink.”
Perseus’ 2019 theme is “Perseus Goes to the Circus,” which will be on full display at its Feb. 17 parade through Slidell.
“I’m excited for this year’s ball, and to open it together with Scott. My favorite part of the process is going to the ball (which was Feb. 9). That’s the first time I get a chance to see my vision all come together. Prior to that, it’s all been in my head,” he said.
When Ash Wednesday comes around, Little finally will be able to take a break, after formally passing the role to Tramel, an experience he is looking forward to.
“After this year, I will get a new float assignment in a krewe. I’m not upset about the change, I’m very happy,” he said.