Story and Photos By Brier Evans Data News Weekly Contributor
This year, 2021, marks the first time in 32 years that Mardi Gras has been canceled. The annual celebration of colorful parades, marching bands, bright costumes, masked balls, and revelry took a back seat to the COVID-19 Pandemic which also saw carnival celebrations around the world muted. For many residents, a New Orleans without Mardi Gras is unthinkable. So, to keep the spirit alive, if not in a safe, socially distanced way, across the metro area, residents have transformed their homes into floats.
“The big thing about Mardi Gras and all the social organizations in New Orleans is the fraternization amongst members and friends and different walks of life,” said Brian Lapeyrolerie, a Zulu member from Gentilly.
Lapeyrolerie decorated his home with a bold show of purple and yellow and featured Black coconuts along the front of his home, in tribute to the Zulu parade.
“Everyone forgets their worries and what’s going on and are enjoying that moment because life is so short,” he said of the Mardi Gras season.
Like Lapeyrolerie, Mardi Gras for many residents is part of New Orleans’ life. Decorating their homes was a source of comfort and joy after a long year of isolation and loss. It was also a way for many residents to fill the void of missing out on the festivities this year.
“My family and I started on the house during the middle of last month,” said Yvonne Milton, a resident of Algiers Point. “I love the house. I love Mardi Gras. I’m really going to miss the carnival. Mardi Gras was the best, but it’s gone now because of the coronavirus,” Milton said.
Milton’s home, like many others, has been recognized by Krewe of House Floats 2021, a local effort that started in Algiers Point. The organization began as a simple Facebook group made by Megan Joy Boudreaux, a Marine Insurance Claims Manager, and became popular overnight. Boudreaux has since gotten over 5,000 followers and has gained approval and support from the New Orleans City Council.
For those who love Mardi Gras for its intricate floats, the city council is hosting a “Floats in the Oaks” stationary parade in City Park. The parade will feature floats from 26 carnival parade organizations such as Zulu’s King float, Bacchus Bacchawhoppa whale float, and Rex’s Boeuf Gras float, among others. Visitors can even throw their own beads at the floats.
Despite COVID-19 canceling the traditional scheduled festivities of Mardi Gras, residents said the virus cannot strip the city and its people of their culture.
“It’s in our blood,” said Ingrid Labat, an Emergency Room Physician, who designed a float in front her Lake Vista home. “Unfortunately, COVID is curtailing a lot of our activities but if it’s not Mardi Gras, it’s Jazz Fest, it’s French Quarter Fest, it’s Essence Fest, football, and then back to Mardi Gras. It’s a never-ending cycle. Mardi Gras is part of our culture,” she said.