‘Yardi Gras’ floats parody the virus

Published 10:42 am Friday, February 5, 2021

By John Howell, Sr.

Publisher Emeritus

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In past years when the New Orleans Saints season has been brought to an ignominious end with a playoff loss, the Who Dat Nation recovers quickly by morphing over into Carnival season.

Not so this year, of course, with the pandemic.

Mardi Gras parades and related krewe social activities were sidelined last fall, with parades in Orleans Parish cancelled outright and those in surrounding parishes also cancelled, or drastically altered to reduce person-to-person contact.

With COVID restrictions discouraging large gatherings, folks in New Orleans have naturally improvised other ways to celebrate the Carnival Season that ends on Mardi Gray day, Tuesday Feb. 17.

Instead of colorfully animated floats parading the streets this season, a movement has evolved to decorate front porches and yards at homes. They call it “Yardi Gras.”

Homeowners at tony addresses like St. Charles Avenue employ otherwise unemployed Mardi Gras float artists to provide the decorations and with spectacular results. Others have produced elaborate do-it-yourself extravaganzas that rival the work of the professionals.

It has become quite a show. Instead of crowds thronging streets to catch beads and other throws from floats, people walk the neighborhoods to take it in. Admittedly, it’s not like the traditional celebration, but what is traditional anymore?

Krewe du Vieux, always irreverent and occasionally obscene with its parade themes through the French Quarter, has this year opted for stationary displays created by sub krewes.

Mostly they parody the virus: The sub krewe of Mishegas, for instance, created a display theme, “When Life is Distasteful — Eat Cake.”

The Krewe of Mama Rue’s display, “Mama Roux Puts a Smell on You;” the Krewe of Drips and Discharges joined the Krewe of K.A.O.S to create a large image of former President Trump wearing a nine-pointed crown on his head. On each point is the now too familiar red-spiked image of the COVID virus. And so on.

On Saturday, I noticed crowds on Magazine Street shopping — the most activity that I’ve seen there since last March. The same was true at the hardware store and the grocery store. Over the weekend, there were reports in the newspaper and on TV news showing crowds thronging the French Quarter after dark.

Other than a few wearing decidedly non-Mardi Gras masks, it looked like business as usual. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and city public health officials are apoplectic, decrying it as a “superspreader.”

This busting loose is coinciding with discovery in New Orleans of the more contagious UK version of the COVID virus. Time will soon tell if Spring 2021 will look all too much like Spring 2020.

Write to John Howell, Sr., at johnhowl1948@yahoo.com