Mayor Cantrell’s promised “robust announcement” came Monday, officially restoring Mardi Gras parades to their traditional routes.
Or at least to their pre-COVID routes—sorry Freret St., Carrollton Ave., and all of Algiers, LA.
Of all the strange political battles to fight, route shrinkage in our party-heavy city revealed a fundamental power-to-populace disconnect. Something like the wisdom of pelting yourself in the face with a bead: self-inflicted and leaving a mark.
Was it really for health and safety? Minimal police protections? A quieter month for Audubon Park residents?
No matter, this year’s budget spreads out our parade property holdings. With outside law enforcement help, Mardi Gras returns to scores of Uptown blocks – and, in many ways, to the krewes themselves.
Mardi Gras returns to Thoth.
For Thoth, it’s more than the 32 blocks – the distance between Tchoupitoulas at Henry Clay and Napoleon at Prytania. It’s the distance between parading purpose and just another party.
During the year of one-size-fits-all scheduling, much was made about Thoth’s foundational purpose: to bring Mardi Gras to those who cannot go out and grab it themselves. Children’s Hospital, the Lighthouse for the Blind, the Poor Clares, the Hainkel Home—all have been in the krewe’s line of sight krewe because all have had the krewe process nearer to them.
As chaplain of Thoth for seven years, I had the privilege of going back in time each year, shuffling down the narrow uptown streets in a parade chain that extended all the way back to 1947, bringing the neighborhood it’s one Mardi Gras day.
In my annual Sunday morning krewe Mass, the surprisingly ballroom-filled and, even more surprisingly, emptied-liver crowd always heard one point of parade-day decorum:Throw to the people, not at the people. Those first 32 blocks presented no challenge in that regard. Powerlines above, oak trees in front, fenced in yards behind—you could only possibly throw to that square foot of sidewalk below.
During the negotiations with the city, it was reported that Thoth floated a parade contained solely to its neighborhood route. The suggestion was understandable from purpose and history perspectives, but also from a practical one. Once we made the turn onto Napoleon, a whole new parade broke out. The neighborhood gave way to the masses, a quieter acoustic set to the Jazz Fest Acura Stage.
I’m grateful riders will catch that glimpse again, shifting suddenly from three-foot sidewalks to thirty-deep crowds. It takes your breath away.
But only if there’s a breath to take.
With the restoration of Thoth’s 32 start-the-route blocks, a neighborhood has Mardi Gras breathed back into it.
Better still, so does Thoth.
Two plus weeks from the big day, we need to get into our Mardi Gras playlists proper. One song that speaks the season to me is not a marching band classic or on the purple-green-and-gold greatest hits cd. It’s later than you think. Something worth parading with.