Louisiana's State Capitol may be glowing in purple, green and gold when Mardi Gras rolls around on Feb. 21.
"It's a possibility," said Jacques Berry, Policy and Communication director for the state Division of Administration. "The state lit it in red and green for Christmas."
It also was bathed in blue to kick off Hanukkah.
But what about those times when the Capitol displays colorful lights when there are no holidays? Laura Phillips, of Baton Rouge, wanted to know the meaning behind these colors.
"The State Capitol building is often lit in a color or two. Where does one go to find out why certain colors are chosen?" Phillips said.
She agreed that sometimes the colors are self-evident, but adds that "sometimes it is lit in a color, for example, red, orange, pink, or yellow, and it is not readily apparent why that color was chosen. And the day is not a holiday."
Phillips points out that one such non-holiday lighting happened on Sunday, Jan. 22, when the Capitol was lit in yellow.
"I'd like to know why," she said. "Neither the State Capitol Welcome Center webpage nor the Louisiana Capitol History webpage provide this information. Is there a website or other information source that describes why our State Capitol is lit up in a particular color on a particular day? If not, it would be nice if the Capitol staff provided that information somewhere, maybe either on the Capitol's web page or in The Advocate."
Well, the Office of State Buildings is in charge of taking applications for lighting the Capitol, but its website does not include a tab explaining what the lights stand for on a particular night. In fact, none of the state's websites has this information.
But those curious about the colors can call the Shop at the Top gift shop, located at the top of the State Capitol, at (225) 342-7317, which usually is able to provide an explanation.
Phillips said the nightly view of the Capitol from her Spanish Town home piqued her curiosity about the lights.
"I see the building every evening," she said. "I enjoy the view and find our capitol to be a beautiful example of art deco architecture. Furthermore, I know that the Capitol is on display to any motorist traveling over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge and on I-110, and to anyone living, working, or visiting downtown."
So, she began wondering what the lights represent or celebrate and who decides what colors to use on a particular day?
"Are the decisions made by civil service staff or elected officials?" she asked. "Once it was lit in orange or red, and I heard by word-of-mouth that it was to honor a firefighter's conference held in Baton Rouge. Was that true?"
Phillips said that when it was lit in blue and gold about the time of the start of the Ukraine-Russian war, she wasn't sure if it was to honor Ukraine or Southern University.
"If they were for Southern, then that was a lovely public recognition of a local state university," she said. "If it was for Ukraine, then the lights signaled a political position taken by our state. Thus, my questions to you."
As for those yellow lights on Jan. 22, Berry said they were requested by the Pelican Institute for Public Policy to commemorate School Choice Week.
As is the case with all applicants, the organization was required to submit an application to the Office of State Buildings by visiting doa.la.gov/doa/osb/forms.
"When we get a request, it goes to Buildings and Grounds," said Commissioner of the Division of Administration Jay Dardenne, whose office oversees the Office of State Buildings. "They immediately send it over to the Legislature — who does or does not give the request the green light, no pun intended."
Both the speaker of the House and president of the Senate must approve the request with their signatures before the lighting can be scheduled.
"The request must include what the lights represent," Berry said. "There is no charge for lighting the Capitol."
Meanwhile, June Peay, manager of the Shop at the Top, said pink has been approved to commemorate Spanish Town Mardi Gras on the weekend of its parades.
"I live in Spanish Town, and I can always see the colors at the top of the Capitol," she said. "That pink is going to be beautiful."
In the meantime, if visitors want to get a closer look at the top of the capitol, the Shop at the Top returns to its seven-days-a-week schedule as of Saturday, Jan. 28.
"We've been closed since COVID," Peay said. "It'll be great for people to be able to take the elevator to the top of the Capitol again."
Daily hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. After that, visitors can drop into one of the downtown area's restaurants for dinner, then drive back to the Capitol to see the lights.
Curious Louisiana is a community-driven reporting project that connects readers to our newsrooms' resources to dig, research and find answers about the Pelican State. Bottom line: If you've got a question about something Louisiana-centric, ask us.