This year’s Carnival season was much quieter this year. No parades with their marching bands and screaming crowds. No music venues packed with dancing patrons. Bourbon Street was closed. In fact, the French Quarter shut down liquor sales in the French Quarter for the final weekend of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday. But New Orleans managed to make the best of a bad situation and came up with some fairly marvelous distractions. City Park created a drive-thru parade – Floats in the Oaks – as a safe way to see the floats, maybe catch a dance krewe, and relive some memories. I got to dance twice with my fellow Pussyfooters and it was pretty great being able to make people smile as they drove by.
But is was “Yardi Gras” that really gave the city something to smile about. Another socially distanced version of Mardi Gras, Yardi Gras turned thousands of houses and businesses throughout New Orleans (and as far away as Australia and Abu Dhabi) into parade floats. The grassroots Krewe of House Floats promoted this safe parade concept, encouraging people to use local businesses and artists to help decorate their places, or go DIY, then register on their crowded map.
There was no way to see all of the great house floats throughout the city, but we did see quite a few in the Marigny, the French Quarter, St. Charles Ave., Magazine Street, Algiers, the Irish Channel, Mid-City, and the Garden District and Lower Garden District. Some of the neighborhoods were quirky and DIY while others featured giant professionally crafted tableaus like those on parade floats. Many of us have voiced a desire to see the tradition carry on even after the pandemic releases its hold on us. Some of these houses were super expensive to decorate and for many, that money came from not paying to ride in a float this year and purchase thousands of beads and toys to throw to the crowds. But, this week I saw my first St. Patrick’s house float – so maybe the habit is here to stay…
These last photos are from mostly the same neighborhoods I already visited. They either popped up after I’d already photographed those areas, or when we tried more side streets. My favorite is the State of the Art house, but I’m extraordinarily biased since the house features an amazing redux of George Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grande Jatte” with the painting’s subjects replaced by parade dance krewes including my own beloved Pussyfooters. Max Bernardi is responsible for this fabulous local reimagining of the artwork.
I also really loves the Night Tripper house, a tribute to Dr. John, the Acadiana Hay Ride, and the Chris Owens Easter Parade – which I hope stays up at least until that Sunday arrives.