The Uptown parade season begins tonight with the krewes of Oshun, Cleopatra and Alla on the St. Charles Avenue route. It will be a special anniversary ride for two of the krewes. Oshun is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And Alla, one of the city’s oldest krewes, will close out the night of parades on its 90th anniversary.
The residents of the Irish Channel are once again showing their creativity and Carnival spirit in Year Two of the Krewe of House Floats. This year, the neighborhood’s theme is “Down on the Bayou.”
The Irish Channel subkrewe captain, Autumn Town, said that the theme is a way to pay homage to bayou communities struggling to recover from Hurricane Ida. Because New Orleanians are able to decorate their homes while so many people on the bayou are still rebuilding, the subkrewe is also holding a fundraiser for Ida relief. The KoHF participants are collecting supplies and funds for the People of the Bayou campaign as part of the neighborhood efforts.
Town was the subkrewe’s co-captain last year and is flying solo this year. She first got involved when KoHF started in 2021 from a random post that popped up on her Facebook feed.
With several hundred thousand people about to descend on the streets of New Orleans, each of us should make a personal commitment to avoid becoming a statistic during Carnival season. After all, Covid-19 and crime are the overarching themes of this year’s Mardi Gras. Although parade goers might not see floats or throws touting either, they definitely will be lurking in the background.
Some people – including the majority of the Louisiana Legislature – think that masks and social distancing are a thing of the past and that Covid-19 is no longer serious or life-threatening to the majority of the population. Tell that to Ed Robinson Jr., founder of L&R Security, whose employees dressed in bright yellow T-shirts are a welcoming presence at Jazz Fest and other major events. Robinson’s wife, Octavia Robinson, a retired New Orleans police officer who had been vaccinated and boosted, just died from Covid.
In its second year, the Audubon-Riverside subkrewe of House Floats selected the theme “Déjà Vu in 2022.” It has a double meaning. First, it’s here we are again — still with the pandemic. The Krewe of House Floats’ overall theme for the 2022 Carnival season, “Vaccinate, Decorate, Celebrate,” is also a nod to the enduring pandemic.
Audubon-Riverside’s theme has a second meaning, recognizing that many residents plan to re-use most or all of their house float decorations from last year. One such resident is Sarena Teng, whose house float on Laurel Street at Napoleon has its own Instagram account (@queenofbouncehouse). Her Queen of Bounce House uses the same Big Freedia figure from 2021, but added a twist, based on the KoHF theme “Vaccinate, Decorate, Celebrate.”
“It is still and always will be the Queen of Bounce House, but this year, it’s ‘Big Freedia Saves the World’ against viral invaders,” Teng said.
Playing off the popular 1980s “Space Invaders” video game, she made coronavirus germs out of lime green paper lanterns with hot-glued red glittery pompoms to look like spike proteins. Her Big Freedia has a giant vaccine syringe with a light-up laser gun that shoots down the germs. Nighttime viewers can see the vaccine explode in a fireball of green flashing lights.
The signature hand-decorated sunglasses will fly from the Krewe of Iris parade on Feb. 26, and so will something new in Iris throws. The city’s oldest and largest all-female Mardi Gras krewe will debut a line of sustainable throws in its 2022 parade. Iris riders will toss throws provided by Grounds Krewe, a local nonprofit dedicated to Carnival sustainability. The city estimates that sanitation workers collect at least 150 tons of garbage during a typical parade season, a number that Grounds Krewe aims to reduce.
Matt Haines didn’t intend to write a book on king cake, its historical and modern incarnations, or the bakers who mix and roll it into shape and knead innovations into their dough each year. But when you spend a Carnival season determinedly sampling your way through scores of king cake varieties in the metro area, the development comes naturally. Haines, an Uptown resident and the author of “The Big Book of King Cake,” said it all started at a party he attended a few years ago. “I’d had king cake every Carnival season without really thinking too much about them for most of the years that I was in New Orleans,” he told Uptown Messenger. “But then, in 2017, I was invited to a king cake party.”
Every attendee of the lavish affair had to bring their own cake, and Haines was determined to bring the best.
The children’s Mardi Gras ladders that are ubiquitous along parade routes probably came from a family-owned Uptown hardware store. Clement Hardware & Variety, Harry’s Ace Hardware and Freret Hardware have long produced parade ladders that allow children to safely see the parades and catch throws.
The parade-ladder tradition has been traced back to the 1940s, according to a 2007 Times-Picayune story. Uptown native Linda Clarke told a reporter that her father, Clarence Francis, came up with the idea of building a ladder seat after she was burned by a flare during an evening parade. Not long after, the DIY retrofitted ladders started appearing up and down the parade route. “I used to sit in one of these when I was a kid,” said Darren Clement, who co-owns Clement Hardware with his wife, Michele.
Rick Torres, the owner of Freret Hardware, said he began making parade ladders in 1982, when he took over the business from his father, Fred Torres.
It’s Carnival time — and before we know it, we’ll be hitting the streets and enjoying parades. Something that goes great with parades, king cake and good times is that perfect beer or cocktail. It seems like nearly every brewery or distillery in town is getting in on the action and offering special Mardi Gras-inspired drinks. Here’s a list of Carnival offerings from a few breweries and distilleries to get you in the Mardi Gras mood. Broad Street Cider
2723 S. Broad St.
The King Cake Hub, a Carnival pop-up, opened for its fourth season Jan. 6 with its traditional Twelfth Night kickoff party at a new location next to the Zony Mash Beer Project at South Broad and Thalia Street.
As usual, the first sweet taste of Carnival was enjoyed to live music, Mardi Gras Indian chants and costumed dance troupes at a kickoff event hosted by Professor Carl Nivale and Grand Marshal Marty Graw. There was something missing, however: the energetic presence of King Cake Hub co-founder Will Samuels. Samuels died in September 2021 at 52. His widow, Jennifer Samuels, is carrying on the tradition in his absence.
The city will not readjust the Krewe of Thoth’s 2022 route to allow the parade to bring Carnival to patients in medical institutions along its idiosyncratic path that includes Henry Clay Avenue, Doug MacCash reports in The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate and NOLA.com. The New Orleans Police Department does not plan to accommodate krewe officials’ proposal to remove the downtown section of the parade to keep its traditional route deep into the Uptown neighborhood, Mayor’s Office spokesperson Beau Tidwell told MacCash. “The routes announced in December will stand for this season,” Tidwell said.