Bagpipe club practices on Mandeville lakefront for parade season

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MANDEVILLE, LA (WGNO) -- You can find joggers and walkers and seekers of all kinds of exercise along the lakefront in Mandeville.  But one group is turning heads every time it gathers for a little training.

The group is called Kilts of Many Colours.  It's a band of bagpipe players and drummers.  If you've seen many of the carnival and Saint Patrick's Day parades in the New Orleans area, you've probably seen them perform.  Each season, they could participate in ten or more parades.

But the musicians don't just show up for the multi-mile gigs. They have to practice, too.  And we happened to find them on the lakefront for their first rehearsal of the season.

"I taught a lot of these guys to play," says group founder Steve Brownlee.  "I've taught 30 or 40 people here to play."

Brownlee decided to learn how to play bagpipes at the urging of his wife as they watched some of the very same parades that he would later march in.

"I'd stand on the side of the parade route and watch the pipers go by and say, 'Man, I wish I could do that.'  My wife finally said, 'Shut up. Do it or don't, but shut up'."

In 2002, Brownlee formed his group with other bagpipers who he'd met while learning to play.

"It just attracted people.  People started calling saying, 'Teach me, teach me.  Let's do this band thing'."

Since the musicians march while they play in parades, they do the same thing during some of their practice sessions.  Click on the video button above to see some of the group's first rehearsal of the season.  And be sure to cheer them on when you see the pipers and drummers marching in your favorite parades this season!