BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When the Wearin' of the Green Parade courses through Baton Rouge's Garden District on Saturday, March 18, there will be no fewer than three boisterous and very Irish bagpipe bands.
The St. Patrick's Day celebration is a showcase of homemade floats and green Carnival-style beads mixed in with recycled beads from recent Mardi Gras parades. The Baton Rouge Pipes and Drums sometimes surprises parade goers with its sheer numbers of musicians. Who knew there were so many bagpipe players in Baton Rouge?
Bob and Marianne Cargo are founders and casual organizers of this large kilted unit. Bob plays bagpipes and Marianne plays tenor drum. How do bagpipe players find each other to form a band?
"That's an odd question. I don't know exactly how it came about," Bob Cargo says. "It started when we used to go to the Magnolia Cemetery each year. We would play at the Ghost Tours [sponsored by what was then Foundation for Historical Louisiana]. We'd play bagpipes and would sometimes play the banjo. Two of the actors and organizers of the Ghost Tour were Lenore Feeney and her husband, Randy Walsh, who brought in their law partner, Margaret Cook, and her husband, Glenn Morris. Lenore wanted to learn to play, and Glenn heard that if she was gonna' learn, they decided they would learn, and next thing we knew, we had a band going! Our first event was the 2008 Wearin' of the Green. This parade will mark our 10th Wearin' of the Green parade!"
Cargo says the group practices at the Jefferson Methodist Church on Tuesday nights. WAFB's Donna Britt asks if they warn the neighborhood they're going to start blowing bagpipes. Cargo laughs. "No, but we have people that pull off the street (outside the building) and park in the parking lot and come and listen to us play," he says.
Cargo says his group is willing to teach anyone who wants to buy a bagpipe and learn to play. Just attend the Tuesday night meetings. The lessons are free. He says the group will have 20 to 30 songs prepared for the parade, and will usually play them two or three at a time. As for the uniform, Baton Rouge Pipes and Drums wears Black Stuart tartan kilts. Britt asks how it feels for an American male to wear a kilt.
"It's very airy," Cargo says. "Well, I've worn one for so long now that I don't really think that much about it."
Britt points to the drum major's kilt and asks about the furry bag that hangs on the front of the kilt. Cargo says all the band's musicians have a bag, it's just the drum major's is more extravagant. It's called a "spornan," Cargo tells Britt. And why do they wear them? Cargo replies, "Because the kilt doesn't have any pockets in it."
With three bagpipe bands in the parade, how can we spot the Cargo's clan?
"I don't know what they'll be wearing, but we'll have all our matching uniforms and wearing our green and our caubeen (a green Irish beret)," Cargo chuckles.
You'll find all kinds of people under those kilts. Cargo has been a factory rep for a casket company for 35 years. Marianne is an interior designer. Their focus is on families and members will play instruments or carry banners or flags. It's fun.
The Wearin' of the Green Parade starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 18, and rolls through the Garden District. You'll probably hear the bagpipe bands before you actually see them.