The Krewe of lris and Kern Studios announced last month the completion of the Krewe of lris dens at 3038 Earhart Blvd. and 1212 S. Roman St. To mark the grand opening, the Krewe of Iris and Kern Studios had planned to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony honoring the Krewe of Iris Dens on Monday (Sept. 13). Given the recent impact of Hurricane Ida on the krewe’s members and Louisiana home, the event has been postponed.
The pandemic may have upended the city’s traditional Mardi Gras plans, but the show must go on. Residents of the University Uptown neighborhood have raised the curtain on a fleet of Broadway-inspired house floats, following the theme of “2020: The Musical!” This Krewe of House Floats has stepped in during a Carnival season of no parades, no bars and no partying in the French Quarter after curfew.
“Krewe of House Floats has really been building the plane while flying it. The humor and the whimsy of our neighborhood really shows through with our theme,” said Jenna Rockett, captain of the University Uptown subkrewe. “It’s that ability to look around and laugh and make it work.”
Plans to travel the world in 2020 and 2021 may have been put on hold, but you can always make your own “staycation” at home. That’s the theme that neighbors in Broadmoor, Fontainebleau and Marlyville chose for their Yardi Gras house floats.
“We’re aware of the irony and the reality that we can’t have Mardi Gras in its normal incarnation. We can’t just go on vacation if we want to model good public health choices,” said Caitrin Gladow, captain of the neighborhood subkrewe. It’s part of the larger Krewe of House Floats, a citywide effort to encourage people to decorate their own houses as floats since parades cannot roll because of COVID.
The goal of the house floats project is to have fun, support artists who are out of work, and help neighbors in need. “One of our obligations as neighbors is to look out for one another,” Gladow said.
The New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and Sosusu Boutique on Magazine Street have storefront floats that add to the Carnival spirit on Magazine Street. Both of these professional creations light up at night.
In more than 40 years of being in the same building at 5256 Magazine St., never did the nonprofit New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts imagine that they would be turned into a house float. The school located on the route of many Uptown parades usually has a viewing stand. This year, school officials had planned to turn it into a fundraising event for the institution and charge admission.
But the pandemic and canceled parades changed all that. “We wanted to have our installation look like a real float,” said school President Dian Winingder about the creation entitled “Gogh Mardi Gras.”
It is of course an homage to Vincent Van Gogh (they call the tractor driver “Vincent”) and, Winingder said, his imagery is easy to recognize and simple enough to make into float props and decorations.
“Here’s your Elvis outfit,” said the wife, tossing a Vegas-era Elvis Presley jumpsuit and a pompadour black wig with sideburns at her husband.
“But … uh … I don’t even like Elvis,” piped the husband from his armchair. “Put it on,” came the wife’s command. “We’re going to a parade!”
That scene took place seven years ago, shortly after Illinois native and raconteur Terri Bird and her husband, Kassinger Valente, relocated to New Orleans.
Creativity isn’t canceled.
In the Carrollton-Hollygrove neighborhood, the houses are especially colorful. The Carrollton-Hollygrove subkrewe’s theme is “Nesting in Place” — a nod to the neighborhood bird sanctuary that resident peacocks call home.
Courtney Bullock, one of the subkrewe’s co-captains explains how the Krewe of House Floats idea came together. “It all blew up in a week,” Bullock said. “There was a division of neighborhoods, and I knew that people would want to decorate their houses — we just had to do something.”
Bullock’s house, adorned with musical instruments and a piano banner, has a musical theme. “The title of my house float is ‘Lay That Funky Music,’” she said.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell is caught between a rock and a hard spot.
By her own admission, the citizens and businesses of New Orleans have done a pretty good job of following the city’s ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions. Tourists, on the other hand, come to New Orleans to party — and party they will regardless of any “rules” they consider arbitrary and capricious.
The sheer number of visitors traveling to the Crescent City has continued to increase over the past few months – especially on the weekends. Unfortunately, some do not wear masks. Tourism leaders expect that Mardi Gras weekend will create the highest hotel occupancy since last March and lead to additional infections. Although Dr. Anthony Fauci is telling Americans “to lay low and cool it” instead of attending or holding Super Bowl parties this weekend, expecting people not to flock to New Orleans for Mardi Gras is unrealistic.
Parades are canceled this year, but have you no fear. Freret held a vote on a theme for house floats. They picked a theme based on Seuss, let creativity loose, and let everyone know: The theme’s “Oh, the Places You Can’t Go!”
The Freret neighborhood has become a colorful storybook as it takes on a Seussian theme for Yardi Gras, a safe alternative to Mardi Gras parades where residents decorate their own houses as floats. Imagination abounds in houses decorated in the spirit of beloved children’s books.
When given lemons, “leave it to this city to make some lemonade and put vodka in it,” said Liz Cooke, a resident of the Freret neighborhood and the owner of Lionheart Prints on Magazine Street. Cooke came up with the idea for the theme because, simply, “I can’t wait to go places.”
“I’m used to traveling every month for business or just life, and I’ve just staying put like I’m supposed to,” she said.
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.”
The subkrewe of the Garden District has fewer than 20 houses registered on the map that rolled out on the KoHF website on Monday (Feb. 1), but there are more that didn’t make it to the official map.
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.
Mardi Gras parades may be cancelled, but that hasn’t stopped residents of Central City from turning their neighborhood into a festive Wonderland. Central City is one of the many neighborhoods participating in Yardi Gras, an alternative to Mardi Gras parades where homeowners decorate their own houses as floats. On the 3200 block of Dryades, for example, residents are working together to turn four homes into “Alice in Wonderland”-themed house floats.
Friends and neighbors came together on Saturday to start putting up whimsical decorations. One house was the Cheshire Cat, and the others were the Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar and the Mad Hatter. The neighbors shared pizza and art supplies as they decorated, and music kept everyone bouncing.
“We have all embraced it, and we have had a lovely time,” said Shirley Madison, the Queen of Hearts.
Two more storefront floats have appeared along Magazine Street this week – at Del Fuego Taquería and McEnery Residential. One is part of the Krewe of House Floats subkrewe for the Audubon Riverside neighborhood, and the other joined up with the Krewe of Read Beans’ “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” project.
Chef Dave Wright at Del Fuego Taquería summed up their decision to make a storefront float this way: “We’re all really going to miss the parades this year, so when the Krewe of House Floats was formed, we jumped on the idea of celebrating Mardi Gras in our neighborhood. Our ‘Krewe of House Margarita’ is where it’s at!”
The Del Fuego staff used the Margarita as their inspiration for the DIY float. “We all collectively came up with creative ways to incorporate the ingredients we use to make our fresh-squeezed house Margaritas without breaking the bank,” Wright said. The homemade float flowers’ leaves are painted lime wedges, and the parasols are glittered citrus wheels.