All Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans have been canceled only thirteen times since 1857 when The Mystic Krewe of Comus first rolled down St. Charles Avenue past Gallier Hall. The Civil War, World Wars I and II, and a police strike in 1979 stopped the floats from rolling in years past.* This year COVID-19 is the culprit. Although parades and all large Mardi Gras celebrations have been have been forbidden this year, the Mardi Gras spirit cannot be shut down.
“House Floats” are bursting out around the city like the blossoms on our Japanese magnolias. The Krewe of House Floats was organized by one of our Mardi Gras marching groups, Krewe of Red Beans, to help provide work for the artists who are employed as float designers and builders for the parades that usually roll through our city between Twelfth Night, or January 6, and Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.
There are more than 3000 official house floats scattered throughout the city on both sides of the Mississippi River. But just as we have renegade parading groups in neighborhoods during carnival season, many residents have joined the second-line and are making their own house floats. Like the rolling Mardi Gras parades, the stationary “house floats” are designed around a theme. They can be rooted in mythology, history, satire, or fantasy.
Calliope, the muse of poetry or, more likely, a Calliope imposter, must have come home with me after I walked along St. Charles Avenue this week to view some of the official house floats. Forgive me, Calliope. I am no Amanda Gorman, but here is my offering.
The “floats” along The Avenue
Are mighty strange to see.
They have no wheels and sit quite still.
We move from “A” to “Z.”
Nine muses were the first I viewed,
And it became quite clear,
They are an inspiration
For the many artists here.
A leopard and a tiger
Announce a circus theme.
Giraffes traverse a mansion lawn.
I feel I’m in a dream.
Two blocks away a brachiosaur
Sports a jaunty hat.
Around its neck hang massive beads.
Can you imagine that?
One stationary heron
Guards an iron gate.
While Bernie, masked and mittened,
Sits upon a bench to wait.
Bumblebees wear jester hats,
Oaks flash bulging eyes.
A balcony of jazzy blooms
Lures mammoth butterflies.
While 2020 was a bust and
Twenty-one’s just here,
We love our town and cannot wait
‘Til Mardi Gras next year.
*Check out Arthur’s Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide or visit the website at www.mardigrasguide.com.