"This year, particularly with our 50th anniversary, we wanted to continue with the tradition of having a function with 3,000 people in Washington and, at the same time, with empathy and compassion to those fellow Louisianians who suffered from the effects of the hurricanes, do something in a positive way to help address our future needs," says Joseph Rault, senior lieutenant and 40-year krewe member. "So, we selected the LEMU concept as the targeted charity for the fund-raiser."
The LEMU system is the brainchild of local physician Andy Blalock, Arkansas doctor Charles Mashek and designer/engineer Ashton Langlinais. After hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Blalock manned the medical clinic at the Cajundome, while Langlinais handled the technology. Blalock's long-time colleague, Mashek and his wife drove down from Arkansas to help with the effort. Within the first 10 days, the physicians saw more than 3,500 evacuees seeking medical treatment. The majority of these patients needed treatments such as insulin shots, medication refills and wound care. "What we learned after Katrina and Rita was that the majority of people who came in to seek emergency attention tended to be ones who didn't necessarily require an emergency room visit," Blalock says. "If they were to go to an emergency room, they would quickly overwhelm the hospital's ability to handle the patient flow and could potentially cause a public health problem."
This revelation prompted the three volunteers to devise a future solution for this patient surge problem in the event of other major disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, industrial accidents, chemical spills, train derailments, pandemic outbreaks and terrorist attacks. The idea they developed was a "chameleon" system of 12 components, consisting of five clinic trainers, a mobile pharmacy, a mobile command center, sleeping quarters, mental health facilities, a water purification facility, a food preparation unit and storage trailers. The units could also be converted for non-disaster uses, including blood pressure screenings, glucose screenings, and disseminating health information. One storage trailer and a clinic trailer are complete, while two others are in progress. Each unit costs about $100,000 to produce.
Rault says the krewe selected LEMU as its first award recipient "because it's mobile, it's medical, it's good for deployment to any part of the state, and it's an immediate response in case of crisis, need or emergency." The fund-raising proposal came up at a Petroleum Club Sunday brunch between Rault and fellow krewe member and Senior Lieutenant Joe Broussard of Lafayette. The krewe tapped Rault and Boysie Bollinger of Lockport to serve as co-chairs and appointed a committee of 30 volunteers. It intends to raise the money by asking its 500 krewe members and friends to support the project.
The Mystick Krewe hopes to solicit at least $500,000 to purchase additional LEMU units. "We would buy as many of those units as we could afford, depending on how much money we raise," Broussard says. "They would bear our logo, so wherever they go, the Krewe of Louisianians would be recognized as the entity that paid for those units. We have never raised money in the past; this is a departure. It was justified by one of the worst disasters to ever hit the state."
The LEMU fund-raiser will be the featured event at the Friday Night Captain's Dinner Dance on Feb. 9. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell will headline the presentation.
This event is just one of the many functions occurring during Washington's Mardi Gras extravaganza, set for Feb. 8-10. For years, it's been one of the most coveted tickets in town. With three days of jam-packed activities, politicians, members and guests are in for non-stop partying and schmoozing. "In effect, you don't have to leave the Hilton hotel for three days if you don't want to," Broussard says. "There is enough hospitality, food and activities going on to almost keep yourself [entertained] for three days."
The krewe's 50th anniversary gig promises to be its biggest ever. The festivities begin on Thurs., Feb. 8, with the "Louisiana Alive" reception at the Hilton ballroom. For the informal event, the krewe flies in Louisiana's premier chefs, food, and bands to entertain 3,000 to 4,000 guests. The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and the Louisiana Oyster Task Force are providing raw oysters and shuckers, as well as baked oyster dishes from Galatoire's Restaurant, Acme Oyster & Seafood House and Drago's Seafood Restaurant in New Orleans. Lafayette is bringing its own contingent, Team Acadiana, featuring chefs Mike Richard from Coyote Blues, Roy Angelle from Oakbourne Country Club and Donovan Solis from Randol's Cajun Restaurant.
Following Friday night's black tie dinner-dance, the krewe gears up for the main event, the Mardi Gras ball. Reigning over this year's gala is King Boysie Bollinger and Queen Elizabeth Claire Chance, daughter of Thomas S. and Lisa Chance and granddaughter of John E. and Joretta Chance of Lafayette. In honor of the krewe's golden anniversary, the tableau will feature 23 past royalty members, including New Orleans-based Rault and Lafayette residents Broussard, Bridget Edwards Boustany, George Rodrigue and Richard Zuschlag. After the court, 24 festival queens and 39 princesses are presented, the king and queen's throne will break away from the main stage, transform into a float, and officially start the Mardi Gras madness. "The 500 krewe members join in ' five bands, five floats ' they throw beads, doubloons, favors ' it's crazy," Broussard says excitedly. "It's almost identical to what you expect to see on Canal and St. Charles during Mardi Gras ' people going crazy in the booths, looking for a favor, bead or memento; women in $10,000 evening dresses crawling around on their hands and knees ' it's typical."
For the first time, Lafayette will sponsor a hospitality suite, hosted by Glenn Armentor, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission and Lafayette Economic Development Authority, with a special appearance by the Marquis de Lafayette. "They will use the suite to network and having meetings in, to increase tourism and to try to get some of these people who are in attendance to come visit, talk about and promote Lafayette," Broussard says.
The gala is not just important to Lafayette, but the whole state as well. "It puts a face of the state up on a national platform," Rault explains. "It is extremely important."
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Prepare yourselves for sun
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
Due to the chaos of Mardi Gras and the weather, the entry deadline for this year's INDesign Awards has been extended by one week.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
Queen Evangline and King Gabriel ruled Tuesday night
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
IND Style does Gabriel
Newsy bits for the fam
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
Saluting the red, white and blue — let freedom ring
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Feel the spectrum
Unless you work for an energy company, specific decisions related to the economics, risk, etc. are not conveyed to the public. They are a closely guarded secret.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
Lafayette native screenwriter returns