BAYHAM: Mardi Naw; Or, The City Of NO Parades

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who got scooped by her own city government website about the status of parades for the 2021 Carnival season, insists that Mardi Gras is not indeed canceled, just the signature aspect of Mardi Gras.

And that’s really a shame as some of that Tucks toilet paper might come in real handy during the upcoming Biden Administration.

Mayor Cantrell’s “interpretation” of her Phase 3.64B parade-less Mardi Gras reminded me of Jim Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas character sincerely conveying in Dumb & Dumber that the suitcase stash of IOUs is just as good as cash.

Of course this bungled announcement, or rather admission, happened while city officials are “earnestly” seeking input from the public about Mardi Gras 2021.

After the sham “listening hearings” related to the monuments, it’s safe to assume that City Hall already knows what they’re envisioning for the allowable celebration of this “religious holiday” (please don’t laugh…too hard).

Rather than issue suggestions the public should look at it as a contest to guess which plan the city has already cooked up for Mardi Gras 2021; the more terrible the idea, the more likely it will resemble their plan that for all we know might have also been already posted on some nook of the city’s website.

Months ago I shared two parade concept ideas with officials from the Zulu and Rex organizations about ways to preserve the parades while minimizing risks for the transmission of COVID-19.

The first option was to go Rose Bowl: have float riders but simply as wavers.  Yes that’s dull but that’s the point; keep Carnival going while giving the public less incentive to crowd along St Charles Avenue.

Option two is a variation of the above but involves scaling back throws. Basically the premium items would be shelved and the only items to be tossed from the floats would be a uniform string of beads, one color doubloon, either with the theme of perhaps a universally embossed COVID-related design, and a single standardized cup design.

By limiting throws to three uniform items, people would not as aggressively hustle (and thus not in people’s faces) for the exact same doubloon and beads that were dispensed by previous floats.

One of several reasons why Comus was a sparsely attended parade was their standardized throws.

People weren’t going to wait four hours after the 232nd sound system blaring truck float rumbled through to catch three strands of white beads and the same goblet stamped white plastic cup they’ve tossed for years.

Other temporary changes would include better shielding for participating marching bands from crowds via mobile rope corrals and spacing out musicians and prohibiting cook outs, tables, and tents that hog up space on medians.

The parades themselves don’t have many options; Jefferson Parish doesn’t seem inclined to step on their neighbor’s toes and a post-Mardi Gras Mardi Gras parade is just an Irish-Italian parade sans produce.

So aside from inebriated revelers cavorting on Bourbon and drag queens promenading about Frenchmen (the street not the people) in elaborate rhinestoned attire, what shred of float canvas can be salvaged from a pandemic interrupted Carnival?

“Carnival in the Park” Basically beach a bunch of already produced Mardi Gras floats around the driving path of City Park’s “Chris….” um “Celebration in the Oaks” display between January 6th and Mardi Gras Day. You can pay some of the local school bands who need the parade revenue to perform along the driving route.

“Mardi Gras on the Lake” The government controls the 5.1 miles of Lakeshore Drive. Why not do a ticketed limited access nightly parade utilizing small floats that are not as susceptible to wind along this easily secured route and have it broadcast on tv and livestreamed?

“Walk the Parade” Another idea would be to line the floats up along Tchoupitoulas on the night their respective krewes were to parade and do a controlled access public walk past the floats? You could even have riders, or rather standers, throw beads to folks. The floats could be parked in the middle so both sides of the floats can be manned.

To simply do nothing for Carnival in New Orleans would be another gut shot to city morale.

Thus far the decision makers seem far too satisfied with screaming Phase 2 as if it were some kind of blanketed justification for every curtailing of commerce and social engagement.

I get it: planning is hard; executing is hard; thinking is hard.

But this isn’t Austin, Texas where Mardi Gras is some kind of block party.

Mardi Gras is an essential part of the soul of New Orleans.

It is so important that it was celebrated in the swamp by Iberville and his brother explorers upon landing near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Shrove Tuesday, 1699. That site was named appropriately enough Bayou Mardi Gras.

The people of New Orleans deserve something better than a Phase 2 Nah come Carnival time.

The elected officials of “the City of NO”, and I’m looking at you too City Council members, need to develop something on the quick that provides both safety and a degree of frivolity and joie de vivre during these unhappy times.

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