Modifying Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana, is synonymous with grand, over-the-top celebrations including huge, tightly-packed crowds, delicious foods, lots of free-flowing alcohol, and endless parades of gorgeous, creative floats and joyous marching bands. Unfortunately, not this year. COVID-19 continues to limit our ability to celebrate as we previously have and all parades in New Orleans are canceled.

However, that hasn’t stopped New Orleanians from finding a way to carry on Fat Tuesday’s beloved traditions. Instead of floats following parade routes, New Orleans has turned its attention to dozens of homes and businesses across the city. They’ve been transformed into thematic “house floats,” made by artists and everyday citizens. This clever response to the cancellation of the traditional events also helps support artists who would typically have year-round work preparing the floats for their time in the parade spotlight.

The idea came from Megan Boudreaux, a local who jokingly tweeted about making a “krewe” of her own (the membership groups that stage parades and galas for Mardi Gras) after the official cancellation announcement in fall 2020. She created a Facebook page in November and since then 3,000 international members of the group plan to decorate their houses—among them an ex-pat in Dubai.

Forty-five Mardi Gras artists and carpenters have been hard at work on 21 sites—all due to be completed the week before the February 16 holiday. Each takes around two weeks, with all handmade elements. Each house float costs $15,000. They have been commissioned by individuals and a crowdfunding initiative that randomly picks a donor’s home to decorate whenever the target is reached. This process has spread the house floats across many neighborhoods, “so that everybody can feel like they have a little bit of ownership over it.”

While parade floats go by among crowds waiting for them to quickly pass by, the house floats, and all their gorgeous details can be enjoyed while driving or strolling by each at your own pace. And, when the decorations come down the week after Mardi Gras, they will have another life at the city’s Contemporary Art Center. There, in addition to the floats, the artists themselves, usually “hidden away behind the scenes,” and their techniques will be highlighted through process shots.

Photos by RYAN HODGSON-RIGSBEE; COURTESY KREWE OF RED BEANS

 

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