Jackie Clement joined the Krewe of Houmas simply because he loved Mardi Gras and that club was the only one to ride on Fat Tuesday at the time. After nearly 50 years as a Houmas member, his reign as king came in 2021 — fitting that it’s the same year the historic krewe celebrates its 75th anniversary.
“To me, that [75th anniversary] means a lot,” the Houma native said. “It’s just a great organization. I met so many people, lasting friends, over the last 48 years.”
Although Terrebonne Parish parades were canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Houmas was still able to hold its tableau and ball in mid-April — when Clement and the rest of the royal court finally got their time to shine.
“I was kind of bummed out about not riding,” Clement said. “But it was very important for me for the girls to be able to be maids and for my queen.”
Kate Cazayoux, this year’s queen, missed out on such activities as prom and graduation her senior year of high school because of the novel coronavirus. So, her outlook on events had changed before this past Carnival season.
“I had to stay optimistic and make the most of it, and I think that’s what a lot of people have learned from COVID,” she said. “[The tableau] got postponed, and a lot of plans were changed. But it’s been about making the most of it. It was definitely weird with no parades, but we still had fun.”
Kate added that she also wanted to make the most out of it for the maids. “They didn’t get a lot of their senior year. So this was kind of their one thing away from school that they were able to have like a little dose of normal life,” she said. “I wanted to give them that experience.”
The Krewe of Houmas holds a special place for Kate. Although not an official member of the organization, she’s participated in several events over the years as her father, Robert Cazayoux, has been a member for over 20 years.
Robert Cazayoux said his daughter being presented as queen was “exciting” and “ very humbling.”
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We were very, very fortunate that we were able to proceed with everything that we would normally do in a normal year, except for the parade.”
Colin Seibert, ball captain, said that despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, he feels this year’s event went great.
“You’re trying to plan things on sands that are shifting every day. We just kind of battled that. A lot of events you felt like you planned them three or four times,” he said. “But we were adamant. We wanted to make sure we gave our king, queen and court the best possible Mardi Gras experience we possibly could under the circumstances.”
Founded in 1946, the Krewe of Houmas rented floats — and even used costumes — from New Orleans clubs in the early years. Floats were put on barges and sent down the Intracoastal Canal to get to Houma.
“We would barge the floats into Houma, unload them, and on Mardi Gras morning, we would get to our floats and would have to load our floats,” said Clement, who was parade captain for 17 years.
After some time, the organization built its own floats and kept them at its den on the Houma Airbase — the beginning of the original parade route that started in East Houma and crossed into West Houma over the Intracoastal Waterway by way of the Main Street Bridge. The club eventually purchased land off of La. 311 and built a 35,000-square-foot facility that currently houses its floats and conference room.
Although the Krewe has evolved, officials make sure to honor traditions that date back to when King Houmas I, John Foolkes, and Queen Houmas I, Gloria Babin, paraded through the streets of Houma in 1947.
“We’re a very traditional club,” said Robert Hamilton, tableau captain. “We’ve grown and come up with some of the times, but at the end of the day, we’re still holding on to the roots and the traditional history of the Krewe of Houmas.”
The club is also deeply rooted in family.
“We have a lot of family here in Houmas,” Clement said. “At one time, I knew exactly how many fathers and sons rode together. But now we have fathers, sons and grandsons ride together — that means a lot.”
From its humble beginnings, Terrebonne Parish’s oldest club has 350 members today and puts on its signature parade in West Houma on Fat Tuesday every year.
But the Krewe of Houmas means more than just the historic and famous parade to its members. For them, in addition to a good time, it means friendships, family, giving back and more.
“It’s a good experience. It’s a good comradery,” said John Breaux, club president. “It’s a good cause. It’s a good way to help people and get the community together.”
“As with any club or social group, it’s only as good as the group of folks,” Seibert said. “And we’ve got a really, really good group of folks.”
Photos by Deno Theriot Photography.