Nyx On Parade
Concerns About Carnival In July
Last week, the Krewe of Nyx announced that it would break Carnival tradition by staging a summer version of its parade to be held in July in addition to its regular Carnival season march. This was supposed to be great news, we were assured, because it would help boost summer tourism. To which our rely is, “Yipes!” As far as we know there is no official approval for this, so we ask the decision makers to please examine the proposal carefully.
Our concern is that this is a compromised version of a New Orleans style Carnival parade and that could hurt the overall image of our Carnival tradition. And, yes, that would be bad for tourism.
Most of the major Mardi Gras parades fall within the two weeks before Mardi Gras and thus have to follow certain rules including that riders must be costumed and masked. And there shall be no commercialism.
Parades outside of the Carnival season are not subject to these rules. Already Nyx organizers have said that instead of costumes, float riders will wear tropical themed t-shirts and there will be no masking. They did not say anything about commercialism but in the absence of any supervisory law, I am worried.
Celebrating Carnival in mid-summer is not new. Several Caribbean islands stage a makeshift Carnival in August, but it is not the real thing. They imitate places like Rio and Trinidad where there is a real historic Carnival culture. August is chosen because that is when Caribbean tourism is at its worst, so it is a way to tempt Americans to see something else besides the beach.
New Orleans though does have a Carnival culture. The great American Mardi Gras celebration evolved here (not Mobile, which may have an an earlier parade but eventually adapted our Carnival as its model.) To see the best of New Orleans is to see Carnival done right, with some sort of style, purpose and tradition.
True, there are already a couple of out of season imitators: The Irish celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with a parade in which riders toss cabbages and potatoes from floats, but no one confuses that with a Carnival parade, especially coming just a few weeks after the season has ended. They do not describe themselves as a “krewe” and much of their parade is filled with staggering men in tuxedoes handing out paper flowers. There is also the Krewe of Boo, which parades at Halloween. While I wish they wouldn’t use the word “krewe,” which conveniently rhymes with “boo,” they at least parade during the time of the year when masking and costuming is a bigger deal than even at Mardi Gras.
There is one element to the Nyx proposal that we do like and that is the route which includes parts of Marigny and then into the Quarter to Canal Street on the way to the business district. That route would not be allowed under the Carnival parade rules mostly because of police and fire concerns. We do hope for flexibility one day.
Marigny has become so lively with celebrations that parades should be encouraged, but do something different. Instead of a knock-off Mardi Gras style parade why not have a parade where the emphasis is less on throws and more on participation? Many female dancing groups have evolved over the last few years. Why not make the parade a show place for them? Give the city’s brass bands a chance and how about kids groups each developing their own theme? A cynic might suggest that money is made from selling riderships on floats, but Carnival participation is not supposed to be a market place item. And don’t use the word “krewe.” Keep that for Carnival.
There is plenty of room for ideas in the city and plenty people to have them. So, let’s not tarnish the image of what already exists and create instead something totally fresh. That would not just be good for summer tourism, but for the spirit as well.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M.WYES-TV, CH. 12.