A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Libby Hopkins
“Laissez les bons temps rouler,” is a phrase that Jay Stanbury, a native of New Orleans, says whenever he talks about his home state. He tells stories about his childhood and how much he misses being there. He says “Once you go to Mardi Gras, you’ll never want to leave New Orleans.” He said the city makes you fall in love with her. He may be right because millions of people go to New Orleans to experience the love of Mardi Gras.
When hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, New Orleans was devastated. The love of Jay’s life, as he knew her, was gone when he saw all the destruction. His heart bled for his family and friends.
It would be a long time before the city he loved was back on its feet, but there was a light at the end of New Orleans’ dark tunnel. The light would come from another hurricane region.
For over 12 years, Universal Studios in Orlando has been celebrating its version of Mardi Gras. Jim Stout, director of talent booking and casting, and Jim Timon, senior vice president of entertainment, are the creators of Mardi Gras Nights. It’s the only officially sanctioned Mardi Gras event outside of New Orleans.
Stout and Timon saw the devastation that Katrina caused, and they knew they had to lend a hand. They decided to make the celebration more truthful by bringing the Mardi Gras spirit from New Orleans, in the form of authentic New Orleans musicians.
In 2006, Universal Orlando teamed up with the Tipitina’s Foundation in New Orleans to start a new program called Celebrate the Music of New Orleans. This program brings local musicians from the French Quarter to perform at Mardi Gras at Universal Studios.
“The ripple effect after the Katrina disaster was that it hit the musicians of the French Quarter pretty hard. They were out of work,” Timon said.
He said that the musicians added authenticity to the whole New Orleans experience at the park and the guests loved them.
Jay now has a reason to say his favorite saying: “Let the good times roll.” New Orleans is on the mend with a little help from its Southern friends.