Photos courtesy Krewe of Tucumcari

Cover Story: Krewe of Tucumcari

From Apache Indian lore to Red Stick royalty, Tucumcari has a long and colorful history. The all-male krewe’s origins date back to 1947, when founding members Lionel Champagne and Fred Marks and their wives were vacationing along Route 66 in New Mexico. They came across a town called Tucumcari, named for an Indian legend of star-crossed lovers. With Baton Rouge having its own Native American heritage, the travelers thought Tucumcari would be the perfect name for a Mardi Gras krewe. And so this city’s oldest krewe was born. After holding its earliest balls at the auditorium at Ryan Field, Tucumcari began packing patrons into the River Center in the 1970s to see the elaborate costumes, locally created by Madge Gomez for 35 years before she passed away in 2011. The stage designs have in recent years been the visions of Catherine Whitehead, daughter of krewe president Michael Hale. Memorable past balls have included the 2009 event, themed “Dance, Dance, Dance” and honoring three queens from the same family, and the 1996 party, during which Charlie Lazare, aka James Bond, was jet-propelled down from the catwalk. At the 2012 ball, which was a tribute to Broadway, ball captain and former Governor Edwin Edwards appeared as the Phantom of the Opera. This year’s ball, which will feature a tribute to Dr. Seuss, is set for February 18. “We like to think of ourselves as a gentlemanly krewe,” says past president and ball captain and current royalty chair Darrell Ourso. “We make sure the women have the best seats in the house. We put on a great show and have a good time.”