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Culture Watch: That’s the St. Aug Marching 100 on aisle two

By Sharon Litwin

I wonder how many towns celebrate themselves in as many varied ways as we do? I know there are those who think some of our self-congratulations are corny, and I guess they are.

But, I’ll admit it, I love it.

Take the Rouses TV spot aimed at folks who are gearing up for Carnival. There are the St. Augustine Marching 100, some Mardi Gras Indians and their drummers, along with a couple of members of the-only-in-New Orleans kind of female parading group, the Baby Dolls. It must have been organized chaos to get such a collection of cultural characters together in order to sell crawfish, king cakes and party “samiches” to locals thinking about making Mardi Gras groceries.

And has it been successful?

The grocery gurus say it has been incredible. Why are we not surprised?

Still, you can’t just plunk a bunch of folk in Carnival costumes down in a supermarket and turn on a camera. TV ads like this don’t just happen. They actually have to be produced by a creative crew working at the behest of the client who has agreed to the story line. And, in this case, the man very much in command of that is Donald Rouse. He may live down in Thibodaux, but he is seriously into the New Orleans spirit.

“When you’ve been in business for more than 50 years, you’re local and you have stores along parade routes, you see every Mardi Gras character imaginable,” Rouse says, explaining that, to him, the St. Aug Marching 100 is “one of the sounds of Mardi Gras. That opening whistle gets me every time.”

Rouse asked some of his more recognizable customers to appear in the spot, along with some of his employees. Produced by Marcy Nathan and Alford Advertising, the piece was created in one week and filmed while the Tchoupitoulas Street store was open.

“Customers went crazy when St. Aug entered the store,” Rouse says. “The band weaved in and out of the aisles between takes, almost like a real parade. Father John Raphael said they’ve been asked to do a lot of things, but they’ve never been asked to parade through a grocery store before.”

You gotta love it. You really do.


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