Krewe of Thoth officials say they are willing to sacrifice the downtown half of their parade to keep their traditional route deep in the Uptown neighborhood, where they bring Carnival to patients at Children’s Hospital and other institutions.
“Hopefully, we can adjust it,” said Penny Larson, spokesperson for the Krewe of Thoth. “If we have to, we’ll cut the end off.”
The historic parade route begins at Tchoupitoulas and State streets, then traverses Henry Clay Avenue before turning right on Magazine Street, where it rolls until turning on Napoleon Avenue. Under the city’s revised 2022 parade routes, the krewe will line up at Napoleon and Prytania Street.
If forfeiting the downtown half of their route is required, Larson said, they are ready to adapt to keep the parade in the neighborhood.
On Dec. 22, City Hall announced that some historic parade routes would be changed due to police staffing shortages, but Endymion, Zulu and Rex will stay on their original routes with minor modifications.
“The changes were made after extensive consultation and planning between all involved. … Mardi Gras krewes were involved in the planning process to make the necessary changes equitable,” reads a Dec. 22 press release from the Mayor’s Office.
However, Larson said the Krewe of Thoth was blindsided by the impending changes. “I am worried it may be permanent,” he said. “We got a call from the NOPD about cutting the route, but no details. We were floored that we were not asked.”
The mayor’s communications office did not respond to a request for information on the city’s discussions with the krewe.
Thoth officials are still unclear about the final outcome of their route, Larson said, but they are hopeful they can speak to someone in authority soon.
“We can all appreciate that the city is in a bind, having not hired and trained more police,” said the Rev. Ray Cannata, who watches Thoth from his home on Henry Clay.
“But the route change for Thoth is going to be extra hard on a lot of people who need encouragement right now,” he continued. “Thoth created its special route 74 years ago to bring Carnival to those who can’t get out and experience it otherwise: Children’s Hospital and the several nursing homes. Seriously ill kids and the elderly – people on the margins.”
The parade of shut-ins
The parade of shut-ins, as it was known, formed in 1947. The all-male krewe is heavily comprised of local physicians and other medical professionals.
Its route was expressly created to pass by the Lighthouse for the Blind, Children’s Hospital, the John J. Hainkel Home and Rehabilitation Center (formerly called the Home for the Incurables, founded in 1891 to house the terminally ill), the former U.S. Marine Hospital, the Poydras Home and several other facilities that house people who cannot participate in Mardi Gras unless Mardi Gras comes to them.
Hainkel Center residents have been rolled out in hospital beds and wheelchairs every year since just after World War II. The same routine occurs at Poydras Home. Floats pause in front of each of the facilities, where the patients enjoy special attention and generous throws purchased by the krewe specifically on their behalf.
Children’s Hospital has a special connection to the Krewe of Thoth. For over 75 years, masked revelers have climbed down from floats to mingle with the children before the parade rolls — tossing Moon Pies, candies and literally thousands of large stuffed animals and toys. Tiny patients who are unable to leave the building experience Mardi Gras through the hospital’s windows as they watch the child-themed cartoon floats pass by.
“It’s the only parade the children and the infirm get to see all year,” said Larson, referring to the hospital patients, care home residents and the nuns who wait all year for what the area has deemed “Thoth Sunday.”
The sisters of the Order of the Poor Clare Monastery nuns consider Thoth their very own parade. The krewe created a special float for the sisters with a portrait of Saint Clare of Assisi riding shotgun on the back of the float. When reached for comment, the cloister said they were unaware of the route change. They are unhappy, but respectful of the decision.
The children’s neighborhood parade
Thoth, a daytime parade on the Sunday before Mardi Gras, is also known as the children’s parade because it’s viewed as a safe parade for New Orleans families to attend.
“As a lifelong viewer of Thoth between Jefferson and Valence on Magazine — this cannot possibly be the same parade,” said Uptown native Clark Thompson, the father of several small children who attend the parade. “It’s lacking the essential neighborhood element.”
Another loss is the hundreds of annual Thoth house parties. These parties, which often begin with breakfast and coffee in the wee hours, have been held by the same households for generations.
Some are annual reunions, bringing extended New Orleans families back to the neighborhood where they grew up, to see the parade from the same porches where they first viewed it decades ago.
“It’s also the best day of the year for local businesses along the Magazine corridor — just ask them,” Larson said. “Henry’s Bar on Magazine Street even has a Thoth room.”
Numerous locals, business owners and krewe members have taken to social media to convey their dismay at the decision. The Frankie & Johnny’s restaurant on Arabella Street opens at 9 a.m. on Thoth Sunday to accommodate the parade riders. Owner David McCelvey said he loves the krewe’s altruistic mission. He also said the route change will mean a great loss of revenue for his and other local businesses.
Many krewe members and parade goers said they have emailed and continue to email City Hall to request that their neighborhood parade continue without change.
“This whole plan is ruinous regarding Carnival for local residents and families,” said Richard Parisi, who has watched Thoth line up near his house for over 40 years. “Thoth is for locals more than for visitors — and this arrangement is going to ruin that.”
The Krewe of Thoth originally did not parade to Canal Street, Larson said. It was solely an Uptown parade until the early 1960s, when Mayor Chep Morrison requested the krewe extend its route to pass in front of his newly built City Hall.
Now, Larson said, the krewe is willing to go back to its roots and give up the downtown part of the route to keep Thoth on Henry Clay.