Pandemic Era Mardi Gras: No Big Crowds, But Lots of Cake

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A mild Carnival season began last Wednesday after the coronavirus pandemic ended the crowded dances and street parades that draw thousands of people to the city each year.

The Mardi Gras season always begins on January 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on February 16. The season is often marked by flamboyant dances and parades where costumed horsemen throw trinkets at the crowds of people who huddle along the parade routes. .

The coronavirus has ended those big events. But that hasn’t stopped the notoriously creative New Orleans residents from finding socially distant ways to celebrate.

Jeanne d’Arc’s Krewe is a club that annually honors the fallen French hero with a parade through the French Quarter at the official start of the Carnival season. This year, the krewe hosted a “Tableaux de Jeanne d’Arc,” where spectators passed through various “tableaux,” a French term for “living images,” which included stations of costumed revelers fighting like knights, sharpening their swords, and they feasted in a large fireplace with a roast pig in the background.

“Life as usual is gone, so we had to find different ways of doing things this year,” said Antoinette de Alteriis, one of the club’s captains.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows, a group that usually gathers on January 6 to mark the start of the season with a costume party on a streetcar, also altered their plans. Usually crowds of people gather at the facility where the tram begins its journey to see the group off, but this year people were asked to spread out along the tram route and watch from there.

But people can still eat cake, that is, king cake. The sweet cakes, which are decorated in the official Carnival colors of purple, green, and gold, can only be eaten from January 6.

In Mobile, Alabama, dozens of parades, dances and other events were also canceled. The city on the Gulf of Mexico calls itself the birthplace of Mardi Gras since the celebrations began there a few years earlier than in New Orleans.

The Alabama coast generally begins its celebrations later in January than New Orleans, meaning the current increase in coronavirus could be waning by the time events are set to begin. But several organizations began announcing cancellations last month to protect the health of members and revelers.

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Associated Press journalist Stacey Plaisance contributed to this report.

Associated Press
ap@nwadg.com

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