NEW ORLEANS (AP) – High school marching bands performed, costumed marching groups danced, and riders tossed moon pies and pearls to the thousands who showed up on Saturday for the first major parade of the New Orleans since the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on the city’s frivolity brand.
âIt’s better than Christmas,â said Lacey Sanders, a member of the Pussyfooters Walking Club. “I have been waiting for this since April 2020.”
After more than a year where the coronavirus largely ended the parades, the streets were lined with thousands of locals and tourists alike to watch the Krewe of Boo parade – the first float parade since Mardi Gras in 2020.
Krewe of Boo is a Halloween-themed parade that stretches from the city’s Marigny district, through the French Quarter and into the warehouse district. Riders on the floats dress in Halloween-themed outfits and toss ghoulish and fun trinkets and beads at the crowds that take to the streets.
Crowds in sequined or sequined costumes lined the streets. Parents held costumed children on their shoulders. Members of the Rolling Elvi – an Elvis tribute band that drives scooters – took photos with each other. Students from the AcadÃ©mie Lafayette marching band warmed up as girls from a dance troupe practiced their movements.
All would have been common sites in an ordinary year, but many knew how long it had been since the city had seen such an event.
âIt’s one of the best feelings for a very long time. It’s so beautiful,â said Jordan Philebar, a New Orleans resident who was dressed as Wednesday Addams from âThe Addams Familyâ as she walked upstairs. a float with four family members. “It’s nice to feel a little normal again.
Mardi Gras 2020 has been widely credited with helping make the city an early hotspot for the coronavirus. As the extent and severity of the pandemic became apparent, parades and music festivals were canceled.
If the city can safely hold the Halloween-themed Krewe of Boo parade without an increase in COVID-19 infections, it will bolster Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s tentative plans to bring back the lavish Mardi Gras processions that fill the crowds. city ââstreets during the pre-annual. -Celebration of Lent.
âIt’s a step towards the return of Mardi Gras next spring,â Cantrell said in a Twitter post after announcing in September that the Krewe of Boo show could take place. “What happens next depends on what we’re doing right now !!”
On Friday, the mayor said unless there was a “dramatic turn for the worst of our COVID numbers” that Mardi Gras would continue next year – her strongest comments to date than the massive parades that accompanying the annual celebration would take place again.
New Orleans resident Melanie Smith walked with her granddaughter along Elysian Fields Avenue on Saturday, snapping photos of particularly beautiful costumes and participating in something she hadn’t been able to do since. more than a year.
âWe miss it. We the locals miss it a lot and we are just happy to be back, âshe said. She said she hoped that with the city’s vaccine count continuing to rise, the parade would not result in more cases of the coronavirus.
As part of Saturday’s safety measures for Krewe of Boo, riders and members of the walking group were to be vaccinated or show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test.
Additionally, health officials were conducting a study during the parade to better understand the spread of the coronavirus in large gatherings. About 40 health care workers and volunteers were expected to be on the parade route to help people complete the survey and hand out goody bags to those who participated. In keeping with the Halloween theme, the 40 dressed up as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House adviser and the face of the federal response to the pandemic.
Krewe of Boo was dropped last year, and this year’s Mardi Gras was a low-key affair with no parades and a largely vacant French Quarter. As vaccinations became widespread and infections waned, the city began to ease restrictions that limited the capacity of restaurants or concert halls. In one of the final stages of easing the restrictions, officials announced in May that they would start accepting requests for parades and smaller parades called second-line parades.
The rise of the delta variant, which filled hospitals across the state over the summer, called into question the viability of the parades. But in September, Cantrell announced that Krewe of Boo would be allowed to parade. She attributed the work residents had done to slow the spread of the delta variant.
Stephen Hawkins, a New Orleans resident, watched the parade with his family, though as a longtime member of the Moon Krewe he also knows what it’s like to march. He said the krewe dancers have been practicing throughout the pandemic – outdoors and socially distant – but with no one to perform for. Now their time was here.
He said everyone in their brotherhood was vaccinated, but the same cannot be said for the crowds of people crowded along the parade route. He said he hopes Saturday will lay the groundwork for Mardi Gras next year.
“We are looking forward to Mardi Gras 2022. It’s running,” he said.
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