Mardi Gras Coconuts Survive Insurance Crisis

January 28, 2005

One of the most prized traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the handing of elaborately decorated coconuts to eager parade-watchers during the Zulu parade, is safe—at least this year.

Earlier this month, officers of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, heard their insurance premium was about to triple—and the coconuts were the reason because of the possibility they could hit someone.

To Gary Thornton, chairman of Zulu’s governing board, parades without coconuts would have been sacrilege.

Fighting to save tradition—and money—Thornton and other Zulu leaders turned to Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley. Recently they were able to declare the crisis averted.

Not only did Wooley’s intervention help the krewe catch a manageable premium increase—one-third more than last year—but coconuts will still be aboard the krewe’s floats as Zulu rolls down St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras morning.

Thornton lauded Wooley for saving the day, but krewe members are already looking ahead to future parades—and premiums.

“We’re exploring ways to reduce the weight of all of our coconuts from about l to 11/2 pounds to about 3 to 6 ounces,” Thornton said. “This could reduce our insurance costs next year.”

This is not the first insurance crisis the krewe has faced. Years ago, a similar concern about potential coconut dangers prompted them to stop tossing them and start handing them out.

The raw coconuts—which are sanded smooth and layered with shiny beads, glitter, feathers and other ornaments—historically have been drained by some krewe members to increase longevity. But a universally lighter version will require further steps.

The weight would be decreased by cutting a hole, coring out the coconut meat on the walls of the shell and then plugging the hole, Thornton said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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