‘Celebration Gator’ alerts nation Louisiana is back

The 95th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured a taste of Louisiana this year as “Celebration Gator” made its debut down the parade route. The 60-foot alligator crawled down the streets of New York City with its tail wagging and mouth open shooting confetti, spreading the word that Louisiana is ready for visitors.

“It was really a lot of energy and I think got people excited about coming to Mardi Gras,” Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser said.

Nungesser rode aboard the float which was decked out in a blend of French Quarter architecture, accompanied by stilt walkers, individuals passing out beads and stuffed alligators all joined by the sounds of Louisiana native Jon Batiste, bandleader and musical director for “The Late Night with Stephen Colbert.”

“It was an incredible show. He (Batiste) was the hit of the parade,” Nungesser said.

Debuting in the parade is about much more than the float, he added. “It’s very important to me that we have Louisiana ambassadors on our float. Not just a float that looks pretty. We want to tell a story and get people excited about coming to Louisiana.”

The state had to compete for the opportunity to be featured in the parade, a hance that comes with millions of dollars of publicity all aimed at beefing up tourism to the state. “They (New York City) had record-breaking crowds…We’re expecting the same here,” he said.

Seeing tourism across the state make a strong comeback has been a priority of Nungesser’s team since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. “Lafayette, Lake Charles—before COVID we saw record breaking numbers of tourists from all over the country and the world coming to Mardi Gras besides New Orleans. We want to get back to those record-breaking numbers quickly and help promote every corner of the state.”

The difficulties the state has faced beyond the pandemic may be one of the reasons Louisiana was welcomed to the parade, he added. “We had to interview four to five times. Everyone had COVID, but we’ve been hit by the worst hurricanes two years back to back…We think that was a deciding factor in them picking us.”

In addition to the parade day exposure, Louisiana’s tourist attractions were featured in Times Square leading up to Thanksgiving Day and will continue this week. “We got over $6 million dollars in free publicity…They had an eye blinking at Times Square and it said, ‘Coming soon to New York: Louisiana Feed Your Soul’ and it’d bring you to our website. This week we’ve got a commercial in Times Square. So, we’re getting a lot of great publicity from this,” he said.

Louisiana has made a three-year commitment to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Plans are also underway to enter the Rose Bowl festivities in similar fashion.

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