BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They call her ‘Mama Nancy’ because she is the one who keeps everyone in line. Nancy Rogers knows what it takes to pull off a successful Mardi Gras, and that’s what makes her South Mississippi Strong.
Nancy has been the executive director for the Gulf Coast Carnival Association for more than 23 years. She’s busy all year long, but in the days leading up to Mardi Gras, you’ll find her at her desk answering countless calls and emails.
“I don’t get a phone call with a problem,” she jokes. "I get a phone call with a 30 minute conversation because I know them, and they know me.”
Walking down the office hallway is like a walk down memory lane. Gazing at the posters hanging on the wall, Nancy remembers each year vividly. So many memories forged with her carnival family.
Some of her fondest memories include the parade after Hurricane Katrina, when krewes were throwing MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) from floats, and then in 2010, when Nancy’s daughter was asked to be a maid.
Now, in 2019, it’s all on the line. This was Nancy’s last Mardi Gras serving as the executive director.
"What do they say, bittersweet? I'll miss it, but it's time to move on," explains Nancy.
Jennifer Schmidt is training now to take over for Nancy when she leaves this Spring. She knows she has big shoes to fill.
“Nancy, I would say, is the heart and soul of this organization," said Jennifer. "She is the backbone. She’s the constant steady, the person who is always there. She’s the glue that holds us together.”
The royal pageantry, the glitz and glam that so many have come to expect from the Coast’s oldest carnival association, takes a lot of work.
“There’s more to Mardi Gras than just parade day or purple, green and gold beads,” said Jennifer. “There’s organizing the events at the hotel. There’s the coronation ball. There’s the receptions, the post-receptions. But not only that, but the different people that you get to know and the personalities you get to work with.”
Keith Williams, last year’s King D’Iberville, has worked with Nancy for years.
“Nancy is just unbelievable,” he says. “And when you think about it, most people think about the revelry and the parade that goes on, but really and truly, this is an organization that does a lot for the community. When you’re talking about a parade on Tuesday that draws anywhere from 70,000 to 85,000 people, you’re really giving back to the community.”
And that’s what makes it all so memorable for Nancy - the woman behind all the Mardi Gras magic.
“I’m very thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to meet these people,” a tearful Nancy explains. “To get to know the people that provide this much fun for so many people. They’re in my heart.”
Mardi Gras may be over for another year, but Nancy’s not done yet. Her last official day in the office is April 30th, and she’ll stay busy with her team of volunteers. After cleaning up from this year’s festivities, the process starts all over again to plan for next year’s Mardi Gras.