A Look Into Mardi Gras 2021

Mardi Gras is known for gathering streets full of people drinking and collecting beads while enjoying parades and other festivities; they looked a lot different this year as New Orleans residents were more cautious due to the ongoing pandemic. The carnival has had to make many adjustments, as have other gatherings and holidays, in light of the outbreak of COVID-19. Despite these changes, the people of New Orleans did their best to maintain popular traditions when possible. New Orleans baker, Chaya Conrad, has taken it upon herself to make her king cakes available to ship and has reported a boost in sales despite the halt in festivities.

By nature, Mardi Gras celebrations are not known for their friendliness to social distancing, attracting people from all over to join in crowds. According to the Wall Street Journal, last year’s Mardi Gras celebrations were responsible for at least 50,000 individual Covid-19 cases, categorizing it as a super-spreader event. Because of this, changes were made for this year’s festivities, cutting back on the many traditions associated with Mardi Gras. Their efforts to divert travelers from the city seem to have been successful as the hotels reported to be one-third or around halfway full; This is low compared to a typical Mardi Gras week when hotels usually report an occupancy above 90%. 

The New Orleans mayor, LaToya Cantrell, was determined not to repeat the super spreader event from last year.  This year, strict rules on alcohol sales, large gatherings and overall vehicle traffic were enforced. Restrictions on alcohol sales were taken very seriously, as we’ve seen other cities do during the pandemic; New Orleans put in place a constraint on the sales of any to-go cups to prevent people from drinking and gathering to celebrate in the streets. Beyond that, all bars in the city were closed for five days, threatening to close businesses that go against these rules. Even a section of the iconic Bourbon street was shut down on February 16th from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. on the following day and maintained limited access throughout the five days of Mardi Gras. Despite these unfortunate but necessary changes, New Orleans residents carried on the traditions and got creative with COVID-friendly celebrations

For example, to bring some normalcy to this year’s celebrations, events like virtual parades with drive-by float displays have been organized. Chefs and artists enhanced virtual celebrations by streaming on nola.com. Some New Orleanians have taken this to the next level by choosing to turn their houses into floats! These new house floats featured themed displays with connections to Mardi Gras and the rich history of New Orleans. The details in design and abundance in houses participating in the new tradition show New Orleanians' willingness to come together as a community by creating an attraction people can safely enjoy. Being a resilient city that has faced many hardships in the past, New Orleans handled the situation well. Residents did their best to keep the city safe amidst the pandemic, all while kindling the spirit of Mardi Gras!

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