One of the last happy memories I have of The Before Times was hitting all the parades with my older daughter, Ruby, a true Carnival die-hard. This kid attended her first parade at 9 weeks old (that may have been a mistake, in retrospect, but I was a homesick young first-time mom, so …) and has never missed a season since we officially moved home when she was 12.5 months old. I’m not the biggest Carnival fan, if I’m being honest, but I also am not wild about Christmas, and yet my kids drag me, kicking and screaming, into being festive. And if I can get up at 3 a.m. to crumble cookies on a plate to make it look like Santa ate them, I can definitely make it to my fair share of parades – in both instances, it’s all worth it to see my kids’ faces light up.

Last year, once Ruby was an official teenager, I took her to her first Krewe du Vieux, and after that, we trekked from our Broadmoor home down to the Avenue to watch almost every other parade that followed last season. We caught sunglasses and umbrellas from Iris and shoes from Muses. We caught King Arthur grails and Mid-City shrimp boots. We caught everything toilet-themed from Tucks. It was a fantastic season, and the isolation that swiftly followed brought into stark relief just how lucky we were.

So when Ruby asked me if she could write a bit about how she’s feeling watching another season roll in, I said absolutely. Here she is:


Carnival Season in 2021, or How to Mardi Gras Safely
By Ruby Crawford


Like most New Orleanians, I love Carnival season: the sweet scent of King Cake through the grocery store, going to parades, the excitement of catching a great throw. But Mardi Gras looks a little different this year. Due to the coronavirus, parades have been canceled along with school, and even simple trips to the store have been minimized. Mardi Gras this year is filled with stale King Cake, house floats, and FaceTiming friends, and that’s OK.  We have to do our part in keeping others safe, and if that means traditions change, then we make new traditions. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all looked different this year, but we still had fun and made memories.

I got back from St. Louis last Saturday. On the drive back, my dad mentioned being sad that he wasn’t going to be able to come down for Mardi Gras like he usually does considering the latest COVID numbers. I assured him that he wasn’t missing anything, that there would be no Mardi Gras.

But I was mistaken. There is still Mardi Gras happening down here. On Sunday, my family took a drive to see all the house floats. One specifically caught my eye. It was a house decorated as St. Louis, complete with the Arch and a Budweiser sign. This house delighted me because it reminded me of my other home while also combining New Orleans. I was so touched to see my two homes combined that I wrote the homeowners a letter and dropped it off in their mail box. The letter read as follows:

Hi! My name is Ruby. I’m a St. Louis and NOLA girl, and your house float made my day! I just got back from St. Louis a week ago, and it was amazing to see a house decorated like my other home. I’m a Cardinals fan, as well. I went to my first Cardinals game in utero. My dad is from there but moved here in 2008. He moved back a few years ago. My mom is from here and lives here, but they both went to Mizzou. If you want, we can drop off some gooey butter cake anytime. It won’t be as good as Schnuck’s, but it’s pretty good. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that your house float made my day, so thanks!

I’m fully prepared to watch the numbers of COVID-19 cases climb after Mardi Gras, but if you can, please stay home and be safe. I highly recommend driving to see the houses. There are some truly great ones. Here are some other ideas of ways to celebrate Mardi Gras safely this year:

  1. Make a Mardi Gras playlist consisting of all your favorite New Orleans/parade songs.
  2. See the house floats, obviously.
  3. Have a Zoom with loved ones and wear fun costumes
  4. Treat yourselves to any traditional Mardi Gras food, such as but not limited to Popeyes and King Cake.
  5. If you have kids who miss throws, then I suggest finding old beads; safely standing on stairs, chairs, or other elevated surfaces; and throwing the beads at them.

Although it’s not the real thing, it can help us feel less sad due to the lack of parading. Our city has been through so much before, and we have always prevailed. Once again the city needs us. It asks us to be as safe as possible in order to reduce deaths of fellow New Orleanians. Do your part and give these things a try instead. Happy Carnival Season, laissez les bons temps roulez!  (I think I spelled that right.)