The Caesars Superdome’s exterior was illuminated in the signature green, purple, and gold colors of Carnival on Tuesday evening with news that after taking a year off due to the pandemic Mardi Gras will indeed roll next year.
The New Orleans mayor’s spokesman put out the word in addition to reinforcing the city’s position that indoor events will be restricted to those who can prove their vaccination status or provide the results of a recent negative-COVID test as attendees of the Endymion Extravaganza will bring more than black tie and ball gowns to access the legendary entertainment event..
The announcement comes only three days before the New Orleans mayoral primary, where incumbent LaToya Cantrell is seeking to claim a first round victory in a crowded but largely low-profile field of challengers.
The city had just relaxed its mask mandate two weeks ago prior to the start of early voting.
Regardless of timing and possible ulterior motives, the Mardi Gras will mark the biggest milestone yet regarding a return to pre-COVID life in the Big Easy.
And judging by the images of the sea of humanity that swarmed the Halloween-themed floats Krewe of Boo, New Orleans’ largest parade since the March 2020 lockdown, it’s very likely that Mardi Gras 2022 might be one of the biggest attended in recent memory.
It is hopeful that Mardi Gras’ return will jump start the battered tourism and service industries that have been burned by both a lack of visitors and understaffing as there will be plenty of opportunities for folks to make money in the first two months of 2022.
Of course we have seen since last year that the cancellation of major events in New Orleans such as JazzFest and French Quarter Fest can be achieved as if casually flicking a light switch off but in light of the drop in COVID deaths in Orleans Parish and the city’s very high vaccination rate, nothing short of the emergence of a new Coronavirus strain along the lines of easily transmissible Delta variant should reverse the course of Carnival, putting the prospects closer to Mardi Gras Mambo Maybe than Mardi Naw.
In the unlikely event the city flim-flams on Mardi Gras, neighboring parishes might be inclined to throw open their neutral grounds and sidewalk “sides” to suddenly displaced krewes.
That prospect alone might be enough to ensure New Orleans City Hall truly follows through on Tuesday’s announcement.
While there’s a great deal of “what ifs” outstanding, most notably the possibility of consolidated routes for the sake of uniformity and simplifying first responder logistics and who knows what other “Simon Says” rules materialize after the city election is settled, visitors from out of town can at least start making their travel plans and krewe captains can make preparations to roll (though expect generic dateless throws sans theme references as these will be the leftovers from last year’s untossed swag that were preemptively ordered for 2021).
One aspect of Mardi Naw ’21 that is expected to return next year and become a permanent fixture of future Carnivals are the “house floats” with their impressive accoutrements and elaborate decorations.
The irrepressible spirit of local homeowners of means and the ingenuity of float builders who were idle in 2021 helped salvage some shred of the Carnival spirit, in addition to the organizers of the Floats in the Oaks at City Park and the erudite members of the Krewe of Joan of Arc.
The latter produced a drive thru tableaux depicting scenes from the life of the Maid of Orleans in lieu of their traditional march through the Vieux Carre.
Carnival season begins on Kings’ Day (January 6th) and will run through Mardi Gras Day, which falls on March 1st in 2022.