People are out to party as New Orleans’ first full-dress Mardi Gras since 2020 kicks off Tuesday, with a day of back-to-back parades across the city
NEW ORLEANS — People are out to party as New Orleans’ first full-dress Mardi Gras since 2020 kicks off Tuesday, with a day of back-to-back parades across the city and face masks against COVID- 19 required only in indoor public spaces.
Parade routes are shorter than usual as there aren’t enough police for standards, even with officers working 12-hour shifts as they always do on Mardi Gras and the end of the season of the Carnival that preceded it.
But with COVID-19 hospitalizations and case counts dropping globally and 92% of the city’s adults at least partially vaccinated, the parades are back after a season without them.
And people are ready to let the good times roll.
The crowds on Sunday, when the huge Krewe of Bacchus paraded, “was a record for us in the 10 years we’ve been open,” said Thomas Houston, bar manager at the Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar, located at the start of the truncated parade . road.
He expected similar crowds on Shrove Tuesday – a public holiday – weather permitting. Not to mention Ash Wednesday, when people who follow the Catholic tradition of meatless Lenten dishes are on the hunt for seafood.
“It’s not just a fun time to make money, but you can see people who have been there for 10 years,” he said.
Hotel occupancy, however, is expected to be around 66%, down about 19.5% from 2020, said Kelly Schultz, spokeswoman for New Orleans & Co., the organization sales and marketing official for the New Orleans tourism industry.
The parades were canceled last year because officials realized tight crowds in 2020 had created a superspreader event, making the city one of the South’s earliest hotspots for COVID-19.
But “2020 was weird,” Houston said, as two people were hit by floats and killed in the week before Mardi Gras and the mayor suspended the use of multiple floats hitched behind a tractor.
“Also, the coronavirus was kind of threatening us,” even though its presence was not yet known in New Orleans, Houston said.
As it has done for years, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club will open Fat Tuesday with a parade that began as a parody of white festivities, with black charioteers in blackface and grass skirts.
Next are the elaborate and fantastical floats of Rex, the so-called king of the carnival, chosen by a group of high-society and old-wealthy businessmen.
Next are the Krewe of Elks and the Krewe of Orleans, a not quite endless stretch of homemade floats on long flatbed trailers.