The Big Easy Rollergirls (BERG) organization was founded in 2004 by a group of tough New Orleans ladies who saw the rebirth of roller derby happening in Austin, Texas, and felt that New Orleans was a perfect fit for such an empowering, competitive sport for women. Kate Parker (Cherri Pi), Laura Mogg (little maSCARa), and Jeannie Detweiler (Galaxy Girl) were among the founding members who organized the league and affiliated it with a just-beginning national roller derby association called the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). To this day, BERG is proud to be one of the 20 original WFTDA charter leagues.
BERG began holding practices in mid-2005, and had a dedicated and growing membership when, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina rolled into town. In the aftermath of that storm and the levee breaks that followed, the founding members of the Big Easy Rollergirls were scattered, and many relocated around the country.
When the floods receded and New Orleans began the long rebuilding process, the Big Easy Rollergirls had to do the same. Having lost most of their original membership, BERG began recruiting new members in early 2006 and began practicing again in early spring of that year. By late that summer, BERG had over 30 members and its first referee crew, and the Big Easy Rollergirls held their first bout amidst the brightly lit floats at Mardi Gras World on September 17, 2006. For many in the league and throughout New Orleans, the Big Easy Rollergirls became a touchstone of the Katrina recovery process, and a great respite from what was still a difficult and painful time in our city’s history. When we say the Big Easy Rollergirls “Skate Through Hell and High Water,” we really mean it.
BERG’s first season (2006-2007) consisted mostly of themed bouts played at Mardi Gras World between two BERG intra-league teams – the Black team and the White team – who took on various personas and costumes to fit the theme of the bout. The league held practices four times a week at Airline Skate Center in Metairie and in Audubon Park. In early 2007, the BERG travel team, composed of the best players from both intra-league teams, played their first away games against WFTDA opponents, taking on The Fabulous Sin City Rollergirls in Las Vegas and the Philly Liberty Belles at the first East Coast Extravaganza tournament held in Philadelphia.
By the second season (2007-2008), BERG had grown to nearly 60 members and was able to divide up into four separate home teams that developed fierce rivalries: the Marigny Antoinettes, the Crescent Wenches, the Confederacy of Punches, and the StoryVillains. Practices moved to Skate Country WestBank. The BERG travel team took on the name “Big Easy Rollergirls AllStars” and continued to play WFTDA opponents both at home and away.
Season Three (2008-2009) saw the home team competition get fierce; changing membership made it expedient to consolidate teams, so the Marigny Antoinettes chose to retire undefeated and self-dissolved, distributing their members across the remaining three home teams.
In Season Four (2009-2010), the league had settled in at around forty members, and it was time to do away with the home team system altogether, in favor of a sleeker, more competitive arrangement with an ‘A’ team, the AllStars, who would concentrate on higher level, national WFTDA opponents – and a ‘B’ team, the Crescent Wenches, who would play opponents on a more regional level.
During Season Five (2010-2011), BERG kicked the skating rink habit and found their own home, a cozy warehouse facility at an undisclosed location in an appropriately tough industrial area of town. For the first time, BERG teams could practice as often and for as long as they wanted.
Season Six (2012) was a great year for the Crescent Wenches, who went undefeated … but a difficult one for the AllStars, who lost several members to retirement and struggled in competitive play.
The AllStars set a new winning record in Season Seven (2013) with eight victories in a row, undefeated at home until the season closer against a Gotham Girls home team. The Crescent Wenches were a rookie-heavy team whose schedule didn’t allow much playtime; their season ended with three wins to four losses.
Season Eight is in full swing – both teams have received a boost thanks to transfer skaters and ever-increasing experience. The Crescent Wenches are set to become a top regional force, while the AllStars have their sights set on top national competition.