The Garden District, bordered by the Uptown parade route on St. Charles Avenue, is a neighborhood that parties during Carnival time. The neighborhood’s Krewe of House Floats theme, “Garden Party,” reflects their spirit.
“One of the best parts of living in our amazing neighborhood is the access to so many magical Mardi Gras parades and the spirit of the season,” Garden District subkrewe Captain Meghan Caye Turner said. “When I heard the concept of Krewe of House Floats, I knew it was important to keep the spirit alive in our neighborhood, while supporting local artists and shops.”
One striking creation is in the 1200 block of Harmony Street, where neon artist Nate Sheaffer has created a magical “Krewe of Garden Party” covered with his custom designed neon lights.
Sheaffer moved to New Orleans right after Mardi Gras 2020. “What a time to move here and open a business,” he commented. He saw a post about the Krewe of House Floats on Facebook and got involved.
“I think we are all looking to let off steam and celebrate, so this seemed like a great idea,” Sheaffer said. His neon business always has extra inventory around, so he put it to good use on his house float.
Down the block on Harmony Street there are three contiguous houses all with musical and party themes — with musical notes, accordions, stringed instruments and tea cups. Located across the street from a house that hosts porch concerts early on most Saturday evenings, the neighbors have gotten into the Carnival mood.
Another notable installation is the Commander’s Palace’s tribute to Pete Fountain. Created by Royal Artists, it also features angels, clouds and a few of Commander’s signature dishes.
From the 1970s until his death in 2016, Pete Fountain led the Half Fast Walking Club, which gathers on Mardi Gras morning at Commander’s before setting off down St. Charles Avenue to the French Quarter, ending at the Monteleone Hotel.
Near Commander’s, on Sixth Street, a resident has decorated her house with the theme “Thank Heaven for Commander’s Jazz Brunch,” reflecting the hunger New Orleanians have for live music. Residents within hearing distance of Commander’s sit outside on Sundays to enjoy the jazz coming from its patio.
The Sixth Street house float is complete with turquoise lights washing the wall to echo Commander’s color and a tribute to the late Ella Brennan, the Commander’s proprietor who lived next to the restaurant. Her dog Harry gets his own tribute, with a fond reference to his habit of barking at delivery trucks.
Several Garden District residents have engaged local artists to make beautiful decorations, while others are doing a combination of purchased decorations and those of their own making.
Still more are going the complete DIY route. A good example of this is “Garden Party” on Pleasant Street where Lana Hunt cleverly framed her doorway with nutcracker statues transformed into masked revelers.
The windows are decorated with flowers and butterflies that she cut from sheet metal and painted in her backyard. “I was afraid I could not meet the deadline for the Krewe of House Floats map,” she said. “So I just did this on my own.” Others are following suit, for the same reason or because they do not want to be listed on a public map.
A woman decorating her porch a few blocks away said she did not want to be on the map. “I usually exchange my white Christmas lights for green, gold and purple lights. That’s it — takes me 10 minutes,” she said. “But this year my installation took me almost a month.”
“The artistic creativity and ingenuity of this city has shined through this project,” Captain Turner said. “Local artists have taught classes to help people bring their Mardi Gras vision to life. I myself attended an amazing, socially distanced float sculpture class led by a local artist.”
The krewe created lists of local artists and vendors with supplies. There is a collaborative KoHF Resource Facebook page that is full of ideas and tips. Additionally, craft pantries have been set up across the city to share donated supplies and help ensure that everyone has the ability to participate.
The cancellation of Carnival parades is not going to stop Garden District residents from getting into the spirit and enjoying what they can this season. They are throwing a Garden Party with their house floats for everyone to be able to celebrate.
Editor’s note: From its seeds in an offhand remark founder Megan Boudreaux posted on Twitter, the Krewe of House Floats has quickly grown into a superkrewe, with about 11,800 members in 40 subkrewes across the metro area. All are devoted to keeping the Carnival spirit alive and providing support for locals affected by the pandemic. Throughout the season, Uptown Messenger will be visiting with neighborhood KoHF subkrewes across Uptown to see how they’re doing Yardi Gras.
See here for the Krewe of House Floats map.