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25 years of Gemini

Royalty for the Krewe of Gemini XXV are (front, left to right) Russ Friedrich, Captain Gemini XXV; Shannon Banda, Queen Gemini XXV; Dr. Michael Banda, King Gemini XXV; (back row, left to right) Drew Lynch. Duke of Louisiana Gemini XXV; Samantha Lynch, Duchess of Louisiana Gemini XXV; Cindy Robertson, Duchess of Texas Gemini XXV; Mary Ann Edens, Duchess of Arkansas Gemini XXV; and Gary Knippers, Duke of Arkansas Gemini XXV. Not Pictured is Rick Robertson, Duke of Texas Gemini XXV.

It was 1989 when Bossier City got its first taste of Mardi Gras.

The idea came from a conversation between Bob Taylor, the Chamber of Commerce President; Cary Petty, Vice President of Business Development; and Freda Urban. They all agreed that something was missing from Bossier and that there needed to be “a festival or event” that the town could “get behind in a big way.”

And boy did it work.

The Krewe of Gemini was formed in 1989 as a non-profit volunteer organization made up of people from all walks of life who simply enjoy promoting the spirit of Mardi Gras in the area. They held their first parade in 1990 and has continued to deliver a taste of south Louisiana’s rich culture and history to the Ark-La-Tex for more than two decades.

From a simple idea to a larger than life reality, Bossier is home to one of the biggest and most successful celebrations in the area, attracting more than 400,000 people to the region for the biggest free party of the year. Now, the Krewe of Gemini is celebrating their silver anniversary in true Mardi Gras fashion, reflecting on 25 years of family fun, historic firsts and a whole lot of good times.

Russ Friedrich, Captain of Gemini XXV and a charter member, said the group has come a long way over the years.

“We knew nothing about floats or parade throws or even what a grand bal was supposed to be,” Friedrich said. “We started small the very first year, but we’ve continued to grow and now we really know how to do it big.”

The Krewe of Gemini began with about 200 members and currently averages 350 members each year. Along with a growth in size, their exquisite costumes, colorful floats and lavish social events have developed into show-stopping attractions.

As captain, Friedrich was in charge of picking a theme for this commemorative year. The one he decided on is what Shannon Banda, Queen Gemini XXV, called “the perfect one” because it sums up Gemini’s legacy with a twist on Mardi Gras tradition.

“They’ve all been unique in their own way, but this theme is perfect,” Shannon said.

Reigning beside her as King Gemini XXV is her husband, Dr. Michael Banda.

He added, “This year really sums it up for Gemini. It’s the silver anniversary and we’re proud to be part of it.”

The couple has been part of the krewe for eight years and has had their share of memorable moments. However, they enjoy the friendships and community service more.

The Krewe of Gemini prides itself on being a family oriented krewe, hosting a parade with designated family areas that are fun for all ages.

“Our intention was to duplicate New Orleans, but without the rowdiness,” Friedrich said. “We try very hard to keep it family oriented and still give that New Orleans experience, but with a hometown feel.”

Samantha Lynch and her son, Drew, are reigning as the Duchess and Duke of Louisiana for Gemini XXV. Samantha said she chose Gemini because of their family oriented values and is eager for their first mother-son royal events.

“Mardi Gras is a two month family event for us,” Samantha said. “It’s a lot of fun and it makes you want to be a member for life.”

Drew agreed, “I’m hoping we can do it again 25 yeas from now, but as king and queen.”

The Krewe of Gemini parade will roll on Saturday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m. The parade route is the same as last year – beginning at the “Parade Start” banner hanging over Clyde Fant Parkway in downtown Shreveport and will proceed towards Shreveport-Barksdale Highway, making a left turn then rolling down to East Kings Highway.

“NO THROW ZONES” will be clearly marked along parade route. Those zones are the sharp “S” turn, under the railroad tracks, on Clyde Fant Parkway and all bridges on Clyde Fant Parkway.

Float themes will reflect Gemini’s 25 year history, including float themes from year’s past. Themes include Pride of the Ark-La-Tex, Party Time ’99, Fairy Tales, Gemini Dreams, World Celebrations, Bad Boys of Gemini and, of course, Throw Me a Memory.

Friedrich said floats will also be throwing special commemorative throws this year. He encourages parade goers to yell, “Throw Me a Memory Mister!”, as floats pass by to try and collect all 25 commemorative throws.

The Krewe’s annual float loading celebration will be held Friday, Feb. 28. This all-day event, which is free and open to the public, is an opportunity to see the floats before the parade and maybe even catch a few beads before the big event.

“We encourage the public to come out and enjoy these events. We put so much into it and try to showcase the best of Mardi Gras,” Michael said. “This is a unique thing we can share in the Ark-La-Tex without traveling south to New Orleans.”

The float loading party will be held at the Krewe of Gemini den, located at 2101 East Texas St. in Bossier City. The Gemini XXV Grand Bal is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 15, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $80 and the event will be held at the Shreveport Convention Center in downtown Shreveport.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.