Yardi Gras stories: Creative recycling on display in Lower Garden District house floats

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Kelli Walker Starrett photo

“They All Ask’d for You” on Chippewa and Josephine streets

Although Mardi Gras as we know it is back, houses are once again on parade. The Krewe of House Floats, created in 2021 so New Orleanians could enjoy Carnival even though parades were canceled, may have taken hold. 

This year, with parades rolling again and Carnival in full swing, many people recycled their house float from last year, adding a few extra special touches to update them for the 2022 season.

The Krewe of House floats continues to connect artists and homeowners to create unique and beautiful house floats that add to the festivities of the Carnival season. 

The subkrewe of Garden District and Lower Garden District does not have an exact theme for the 2022 season, but that didn’t stop the celebration. Instead, in the true spirit of “Do Whatcha Wanna,” the neighborhood came together to create looks that capture that magic of Mardi Gras and New Orleans itself.

Kelli Walker Starrett’s theme is the song “They All Ask’d For You.” Her house float on Chippewa and Josephine streets depicts a second-line of local animals, including a gator, a crawfish and a pelican. A special touch is the large purple, green and gold house beads that adorn her porch.

“[They All Ask’d For You ] is a fun song that sounds like Mardi Gras and a party, so I wanted that to be the theme,” Starrett said. “The design is by Rene Pierre at Crescent City Artists. He built the entire float custom last year and did an amazing job.”

This year, Starrett added some cutouts of animals enjoying a second-line. The figures by artist Joe Wos, whom she found in the Krewe of House Floats resource group, make her house float stand out.

“The house has come together so beautifully using the work from these different artists with their different styles,” Starrett said. “All these New Orleans animals are just having their own Mardi Gras party.”

She said creating an art installation on her home adds to the magic of Mardi Gras.

Kristine Froeba, Uptown Messenger file photo

The 2021 “Acadiana Hayride” house float installation

Courtesy of the Burke family

The 2022 “Dance to the Music” house float on Euterpe and Constance streets.

Over in Coliseum Square, on Euterpe and Constance Streets, Michael and Stacey Burke’s house float depicts the silhouette of a couple dancing, surrounded by music notes. Because their activities with Carnival krewes picked up, the couple decided to recycle the house float they had last year.

Their house float, “Dance to the Music,” is a pared down version of last year’s float,  “Acadiana Hay Ride.” The 2021 house float featured portraits of Cajun and zydeco musicians and other expert flourishes.

The Burkes were entered into a raffle last year when they donated to the Krewe of Red Beans crowdsourced fund for float artists. To their surprise, they won a professionally created house float. Red Beans later auctioned off the creations, but a few pieces of the Burkes’ 2021 float remain to form their 2022 float. 

“Last year, Stacey and I made a cut-out of a couple dancing,” Michael said. “We sketched each other out onto foam core in an attempt to depict a dancing couple.”

From there, the couple’s friend and artist, Tim Neil, cleaned up the sketch and added a top hat to the male figure and a ponytail to the female figure.

The Burkes added musical notes from last year’s float to the silhouette to make the house float pop and add another dimension to the image. 

Michael recently retired from the film industry and had, at his disposal, an array of lights that he used to bring focus to the dancing couple and bring the scene to life.

The design is perfect for the Burkes, mainly because the couple is active during the Mardi Gras season but still wanted to participate in the fun of Krewe of House Floats.

“It was easy to do and looks good,” Michael said. “It was simple enough to give us time to get our costumes ready and decorate floats.”

The Krewe of House Floats is fun for a good cause. According to the Krewe of House Floats website, last year the effort raised $15,000 for both Culture Aid NOLA, to help fund their twice-weekly food distribution efforts, and Grace at the Greenlight’s Meals with Love and Going Home programs, which provides much-needed supplies and assistance to the homeless.

This year, the Krewe of House Floats is partnering with the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans to support existing nonprofits working with New Orleans culture bearers and artists.

Kelli Walker Starrett photo

“They All Ask’d for You” at night

Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at mlsongy@gmail.com.

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