Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pete Fountain's 50th Half Fast Walk

Pete Fountain's 50th Half Fast Walk
by Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Posted on February 16, 2010 at 6:24 PM

NEW ORLEANS - Only on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans can you find 250 men wearing ivory colored suits sipping milk punch at dawn. And that's how Pete Fountain's Half Fast Walking Club marked their 50th anniversary. "50 years, I feel good," Pete said with a smile. "And Mr. Pete, will you keep walking for another 50 years?" asked Father Byron Miller as he gave a prayer before the start.

They walked, staggered, stumbled, and promenaded - anything but march. They brought the first sign of Carnival on Mardi Gras day to waiting crowds in the early morning hours - some were still so sleepy they don't know who just passed. But marching and music were only part of the attraction for the Half Fast walkers. "We got a national emergency, they can't change the beer tanks," joked club officer Carl Lindberg. "We in trouble." "I was just saying, it's been a great parade so far," said one walker. "I've only had one boyfriend try to hit me so far."

Pete made a lot of Mardi Gras history during walks which started in the 1960s. "In those days it was a different kind of crowd, the people were wilder, crazier," said Judge Stephen Plotkin, a Charter Member. "This is pretty staid compared to that." There was the 25th anniversary.

"Y'all had a good time? Pete asked that year. "We had a good time, did you have a good time? If you hold me I will." And the 30th, when legendary actor Phil Harris made the trip. "Beautiful, the best," Harris said. "How many cups have you thrown? You mean full or empty?"

Over the years, it has become a family event. "You got grandfathers, you got fathers, sons, son in laws, we've even got as couple of great grandchildren who will be pulled into the parade around some of these hotels," said Co-Captain Benny Harrell. "All about family." "Here's to you Pete," said Michael Valentino in a toast. His grandfather taught Pete to play the clarinet.

"To tell you the truth, I'm getting so old now, I'm riding in the bus right now, but I'm going to get out and start strutting pretty soon," said club member Richard McNealy. And sure enough, a couple of blocks later he showed everyone the oldest walker, age 86, could still strut. They've been walking for 50 years. Now to start a new half century is just a short step, taken half fast.

"50 years. I used to be taller, I don't know what's happening," Pete ended with a laugh.

Courtesy of
wwltv.com New Orleans.

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