To celebrate their 10th anniversary second-line, the Uptown Swingers will parade this Sunday where they all originally started: on Freret Street.
“Some people said we couldn’t last 10 years, so we’ve got to show them,” said Uptown Swingers president Ezell Hines. “Showing is seeing and seeing is believing.”
The Uptown Swingers were formed in 2004 by Hines, a former member of the Young Men Olympians club since the 1960s who wanted to bring the joy of second-line parading to his own Uptown neighborhood in Freret. He started the group with a core group of family members including his own son and daughter and added friends from around Valence and Magnolia, many of whom played football together in Soniat Park as children.
“Somewhere down the line, we’re all kin,” said Erone Hymel, a club member and Hines’ nephew.
The Uptown Swingers parade closes out the second-line season now, but was originally scheduled the Sunday before Memorial Day. To honor that origin, the parade’s theme will be “Saluting the Soldiers: United we stand, divided we fall,” and the colors will be a proud red, white and blue that attendees are encouraged to wear as well, Hines said.
Although the parade has always traveled through the Freret neighborhood, it has not been on Freret Street itself for the last few years. This year, however, the parade will finish its route by heading up Freret and disbanding at Latrina’s Lounge in tribute to the former proprietor, Bonnie Mae Williams, who passed away earlier this year. The lounge is next door to Dat Dog, and Hines said the newer restaurant is welcoming the club’s arrival on the block.
Just as Freret itself has changed in recent years, so has the way New Orleans treats its second-line culture. Formerly, club members said, second lines were disrespected — but in recent years, they attract a following from a much broader section of the city.
“It’s not just a ‘black’ thing anymore,” said this year’s king, Kevin Scott. “It’s a New Orleans thing.”
The 2004 parade will include five floats, and will be led by the TBC Brass Band. In another nod to the club’s parading history, Hines will be debuting a new banner with the names of all the former Uptown Swingers. The total route is 5 miles of walking in the New Orleans summer heat, but club members said it will be well worth it to see their anniversary finery and footwork.
“Second line is sacrifice,” said club member Terrance Fields. “It’s hard, but if you have it in you, the love gets you through.”
The parade will start at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, and the complete route is below.
- Start at 4620 Loyola Street. Down Loyola to Valence Street, right on Valence, continue down Valence to Magnolia (pause), right on Magnolia Street.
- Stop at 3450 Magnolia. Proceed down Magnolia to Louisiana Avenue. Left on Louisiana, down Louisiana Avenue to Louisiana Parkway.
- Stop at 3321 Louisiana Avenue Parkway. Down to S. Dorgenois, right to Washington Avenue.
- Stop at Tapp’s Bar & Lounge. Proceed down Washington Avenue.
- Stop at Purple Rain Bar & Lounge. Down Washington Avenue to Dryades. Left on Dryades.
- Stop at Sportsman’s Lounge. Down Second to Danneel, left and proceed down Danneel to Louisiana. Right on Louisiana to to Freret, left on Freret, proceed down Freret.
- Disband at Latrina’s Lounge, 5010 Freret.