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Organizers hope Mardi Gras parade will be back in 2009

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For the last four years, Mardi Gras in San Luis Obispo has consisted of security enhancement zones and triple fines for active revelers. Although Mardi Gras weekend has remained calm in recent years, San Luis Obispo officials got spooked by a recent Facebook page and are emphasizing that the Mardi Gras party--and the family friendly parade that was at its core--is still over.

So when, exactly, can the parade come back? The answer depends on who you ask.

"We'd be happy if it never happened again," said SLO police spokesman Capt. Dan Blanke. "We'd be entirely opposed to any parade."

Despite the preceding years of Mardi Gras peace, Blanke insists that inviting the parade back would inevitably lead to the problems of 2004, when 206 people were arrested in what police described as a riot.

Parade organizers won a lawsuit against the city in 2002 for the right to have the parade, but Blanke said that any attempt to hold the parade now would face opposition from the police department and possibly the city attorney.

"I don't think they're going along with the spirit of the informal agreement with the city," said Jay Mueller, a member of the Krewe of Sybarites, organizers of the Mardi Gras parade.

According to Mueller, the city appealed to the Krewes to take a two- to three-year break, with the implication that the Krewes could bring back the parade once the cooling-off period was over.

"They never told us not to have the parade," Mueller said. "We've given them more than they've asked for."

Mueller said that there's currently definite thought of reviving the parade in 2009, and he believes that if the city did take any legal action to prevent the procession, "they'd lose."

However, Ken Hampian, the city administrative officer, said that the city has gone on record multiple times about how it feels about the event.

"It's the position of the city that we do not want to host the parade," he said.

Hampian agrees with Blanke that if the event were to come back, it would only be a matter of time before the community would begin to suffer. According to Hampian, the city spent years trying to excise the bad from the good of the event, but, in the end, they asked the Krewes to stop the parade because it was what was best for the city as well as what officials thought was best for public safety.

"The price to the community is too high," Hampian said. "I don't think anyone wants to go back to spending half a million."

Nevertheless, Mueller feels it's unfair for the city to oppose the parade and remains hopeful for its future.

"In a way, the existence of Mardi Gras did create a more intense atmosphere of partying than other places, there's no denying it," Mueller said. "But I think we're all a little wiser and know how to address the situation now."

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