Some traditions are too strong for even COVID-19 to suppress. In New Orleans, that was Mardi Gras. This year, the city canceled its traditional parades and live music events, but the Krewe of House Floats quickly organized a festive replacement.
Instead of watching a promenade of floats, more than 2,600 registered participants channeled their creativity by turning their homes into Mardi Gras floats. For weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, spectators toured neighborhoods following the Krewe of House Floats map to see what their fellow residents concocted.
Using a variety of items like beads, lights, large cutouts, and full-size figures, the houses showcased themes ranging from traditional kings, queens, and jesters to the unusual like dinosaurs, octopi tentacles, and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“Locals really just use the parades as an excuse to gather,” says Charmaine Cooper Hussain, The Krewe’s chief choreographer. “It’s not unusual for you to bond with people even though you see them only once a year because you watch a parade from the same corner. It’s also not unusual to be in a group and suddenly find yourself in a stranger’s house eating their fried chicken and king cake and using their bathroom. That’s literally how it is. Everyone is family. People missed that so terribly. To have something to do for Mardi Gras was a true balm for locals,” she says.
Due to the city’s COVID guidelines, the Krewe prohibited bands or porch performances, but they did create an official song and encouraged people to choreograph their own dances to it.
The event also had a social impact. They accepted donations, with a $100,000 goal, benefitting assistance organizations in the area.
Rather than the traditional Mardi Gras “throws,” the Krewe of House Floats’ signature 2021 throws were face masks. They encouraged participants to create their own or purchase them from local vendors.
Hussain also says that New Orleans didn’t experience any post-Mardi Gras spikes in COVID cases. “A definite silver lining is that we achieved our original goal, to provide a pandemic-safe alternative to Mardi Gras,” Hussain says.
Visit kreweofhousefloats.org for more details.