Cloutierville parade organizers fear suppression but find support

Capt. Jesse Taitano, seated far left, Sheriff Stuart Wright, center, and Chief Deputy Greg Dunn, right, met with organizers of the Cloutierville parade. Photo by Nathan Wilson

Nathan Wilson | Reporter
When the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office reached out to organizers of the Cloutierville parade to discuss safety and liability concerns, it united the parade’s boosters in a way that few issues could.

This article published in the Feb. 10, 2022 print edition

A perceived threat to their community celebration initially led to anger, and the tension as Cloutierville residents filed into a basement conference room of the Natchitoches courthouse led Chief Deputy Greg Dunn and Capt.Jesse Taitano to waste no time outlining the plans their office had created.
“Things can be fractured” Dale Carter, a Cloutierville native, later expressed, “You’ve got families over here that don’t gee haw with these families, but one thing we could all agree on was that the parade was good.” To everyone?s surprise, a joke by Sheriff Stuart Wright led to Carter being unceremoniously designated as spokesperson and standard bearer for the committee.
Dunn was quick to point out that he, more than anyone wanted the parade to go ahead, but as the event had grown, so had his office?’s concerns over the potential for accidents that might threaten the future of the parade and its participants. His proposal: to formalize the planning, that until now had taken the form of understandings between parade organizers so that the community’s needs could be coordinated with the sheriff’s office.
Simple steps such as documenting the parade’s route, time and anticipated attendance would help the sheriff’s office know how many deputies to assign to the parade and avoid excess expenses, which the sheriff’s office was willing to bear as it had in years past, as a show of good will.
Further steps, such as conducting breathalyzer tests for float drivers and establishing temporary parking for the disabled, would ensure that Cloutierville’s parade operated in compliance with state laws.
The most heated objection voiced during the meeting followed the most beneficial advice for organizers. Fortunately, it was based on a simple misunderstanding; Taitano had proposed that the Cloutierville parade committee form a limited liability corporation (LLC) to protect its members from personal liability in the event of an accident. The response was adamant, “Cloutierville is never going to incorporate.” an unidentified attendee objected.
Taitano clarified his point, elaborating on the benefits an (LLC) could enjoy in reducing risk to the organizers, insuring the parade against accidents and providing funding for the parade’s expenses such as rented restrooms, and as quickly as it had appeared, the objection melted away.
Committee members broke away from the conference room to discuss the route and Sheriff Stuart Wright joined the meeting carrying printouts to reinforce the message delivered by Dunn and Taitano.
Over the course of the meeting, the parade route was drawn, discussed and redrawn. By the end of their planning, the sheriff’s department brass and the organizers were reminiscing about the parade’s growth over the previous decade and a half. One member recalled its unlikely origins.
Like an acorn to oak story, the parade’s attendance had grown to a thousand from what began with a lone farmer pulling a trailer full of scouts who needed to earn merit badges.