By Ann Marie Quill

Erika Allen, center, was crowned this year’s parade queen at Krewe du Forest’s annual event. Krewe board members surrounding the queen are, from left, Greg Bishop, Mark Stovin, David Moffett, Fleet Medford and John Griner.

A group of men in the Club Forest neighborhood gives residents a reason to come together and celebrate Mardi Gras by holding an annual parade.

David Moffett, who has lived in Club Forest since 2005, is from Louisiana, and says a tradition in his home state inspired him to create a neighborhood “krewe,” a New Orleans-style social club for men. Each year, these krewes throw a ball and a parade before Mardi Gras, a celebration held before the start of Lent, a period of the religious calendar associated with fasting.

He said that he and his neighbors kept saying they should organize because the women in the neighborhood already knew each other through regular get-togethers for walks, coffee or lunch.

“This was a way for the men to get to know each other,” he said.

“Krewe du Forest,” as the group is called, is open to men who live or have owned property in the Buckhead neighborhood, which is located near the Brookhaven city line. It has around 50 members, including a five-person board made up of Moffett, Mark Stovin, Fleet Medford, Greg Bishop and John Griner, who helped Moffett create the club.

Each year the krewe also makes a donation to a charity with ties to the neighborhood, and for the second year is contributing to pancreatic cancer research in honor of a neighbor battling the disease.

“I’ve met a lot of people I probably wouldn’t have met” because of the krewe, said Griner, who has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years.

Moffett is known as the captain of the group. “It’s very much not a democracy,” he said. Neighborhood women aren’t allowed in the krewe, he said, but “they have a lots of recommendations.”

Griner said the club’s Mardi Gras parade, which was held for the second year in a row on March 2, is put on “for the goodwill of the entire community,” and that everyone is invited to watch as he and his krewe members dress as pirates and ride floats, throwing beads and Moon Pies to the kids.

Moffett said he picks up beads and wholesale orders of Moon Pies in Mobile, Ala., for distribution during the parade. Griner said he and his family were invited to Mardi Gras a few years back, and brought back thousands of beads, which were also put to good use during the Club Forest parade.

Moffett said krewes always a have a theme, and his group’s choice of pirates was based on Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival and the fact that members can easily buy the costumes.

“It’s mandatory for krewe members to be in costume during the parade” for which hundreds of folks show up, even from outside the neighborhood, Moffett said.

Around 2 p.m. on parade day, folks gather at the top of the neighborhood at Club Valley and Carter Drive. At 2:30 a surprise queen shows up, whose identity is a secret up until then. The parade starts around 3, ending on Angelo Court with a gumbo party.

Last year’s queen was Griner’s daughter, a 17-year-old with Down syndrome. He said she loved every minute of the experience.

This year’s parade was led by a police officer, followed by a drum corps, the queen – an Atlanta Public Schools bus driver for the neighborhood, last year’s queen, and then the floats carrying the krewe’s pirates.

“The kids love it,” he said. He says it’s impressive that the krewe has 50 members in a neighborhood with 107 homes.

“We have a good time,” Moffett said.