The parade never ends.
Rebirth Brass Band, New Orleans (Treme Sidewalk Steppers Annual Second Line Parade), 2/6/12
A highly anticipated moment of the social aid and pleasure club parade season is when the Treme Sidewalk Steppers emerge from the African-American Museum. First, comes the call of the trumpet and then a flash of color can be spied as a member waves a feathered fan and dances out the door. One by one, the Steppers strut their stuff as they energetically file down the sidewalk with a “look-at-me” attitude. Those in the waiting crowd on Gov. Nicholls Street, peer through the iron fence that surrounds the lovely building and gardens, trying to get a better look at the spectacle. They cheer at the triumph.
The Treme Sidewalk Steppers . . . was established in 1994 by a group of friends who were enthusiastic second line followers.
“We’d always go to the parades and parade on the sidewalk and have fun,” Sidewalk Steppers president Charlie Brown explains, “so we decided we might as well come up with our own.”
Brown as well as some dozen or so originators, including New Birth Brass Band’s Tanio Hingle and Kerry “Fat Man” Hunter, all hailed from the Treme so the name of their club was a natural. “That’s our neighborhood; that’s where we’re from,” Brown proudly states. “Being the oldest Black neighborhood in America and being raised around all these different musicians and just to have the culture makes it special to us. It’s in your blood–that’s what makes it so authentic with us.
Since most of the club’s members grew up in the Treme neighborhood, they boast deep roots in and respect for the second-line culture. The Steppers take that base and serve it up with its certain, individual style and personality.
“We try to keep it in the tradition but we have our own little swagger,” Brown says. “We try to be unique in our dress and our ways. We love the fun in dancing and showing off our little parade gear. We take pride in it. We don’t take shortcuts with our parade.”
The Sidewalk Steppers’ outfits are usually specially designed and tailored for them rather than store-bought. Creating their decorative fans is a group effort that’s accomplished under the direction of original member Corey Holmes. . . .
While some clubs keep the colors of their outfits secret, the Treme Sidewalk Steppers declare them right on the route sheet . . .
“We want the people to know,” Brown explains. “Maybe our followers would like to dress in the colors we’re wearing. We invite that. We really love the people that love us and we appreciate them all. The followers made us–they made us as good as we are or are supposed to be.”
The Treme Sidewalk Steppers also kept the second liners in mind when drawing up the parade route. The procession primarily travels on wide thoroughfares like Basin Street, Broad Street, N. Claiborne Ave. and St. Bernard Ave. that offer the crowd room to move.
“We use main streets so people can be comfortable and we try to spread out so you can enjoy us and view us well,” he explains.
“The Sidewalk Steppers mean everything to me,” Brown says with deep sincerity. “We give thanks to all the people who came before and how they gave this history to us and showed us the way.”