So far this season, finding good news about Carnival has been about as easy as trying to catch a Zulu coconut in a crowd, but every so often circumstances take a fortunate bounce in our direction. Challenging situations sometimes create new ideas that can be lasting and enriching. There are glimmers of that this season.
One is the idea of decorating homes like floats. There have been two problems with conventional parades; there are too many of them and they have moved away from the neighborhoods. On the New Orleans East Bank, where most of the krewes march, all of the parades, except Endymion, are along the St. Charles route. (Endymion is the lone survivor along the Canal Street path.) There was a time when there were parades in Gentilly, along S. Carrollton Avenue; Treme and lower Mid-City. On the Jefferson Parish East Bank, parades once rolled along quaint Metairie Road; now most everything in on the Veterans route. To be fair, there is good reason for limiting the route alternatives—public safety. With so many parades, the police need to have safeguards, such as barricades, cameras and traffic controls built in place. But the neighborhoods have lost their own block celebration. Having the porch floats could change that.
Imagine streets with every home decorated (except for the occasional grinch of which there is at least one of on every block.) Imagine porch bands (something else popularized during the COVID days) and street parties. More people could participate in Carnival, less expensively and do so while sitting on their stoops. Neighborhood groups and the media could give prizes for best decorations and every neighborhood could even have its own king and queen. (Ok, maybe even some biodegradable beads and things could be thrown but the attraction should be the homes and not the bling.)
As for the parades, maybe instead of creating more, the energy could be used for enriching the neighborhood celebrations. Everyone would be better off.
Another promising idea is City Park’s so-called Floats in the Oaks, for which various krewes donate a float to be driven past. The idea is patterned after the Christmas-time Celebration in the Oaks. Someone told me about a friend who called and asked if she could join when his group took the drive. Then I realized, the friend who called would probably not go to any parades but a drive through was perfect. Like the decorated houses, it is just another way to bring Carnival closer to the people, and who knows what ideas that might inspire.
May Carnival 2021 give us ample opportunity to turn bad into wonderment. And, if a few coconuts bounce our way, so much the better.
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 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.
SOMETHING NEW: Listen to Louisiana Insider a weekly podcast covering the people, places and culture of the state: MyNewOrleans.com/LouisianaInisder or Apple Podcasts.
Listen to Mardi Gras Beyond the Beads, a seasonal podcast covering the ins and outs of the Carnival season: MyNewOrleans.com/beyondthebeads