The Krewe of Thoth — the altruistic children-centric parade that historically rolls through Burtheville and Hurtsville before heading down Magazine Street — hopes to return to its roots Uptown.
Due to police shortages in 2022, the Krewe of Thoth lost over a mile of its Uptown route, including the Henry Clay and Magazine Street portion. Its unique route was designed 75 years ago to bring Carnival to the patients at Children’s Hospital and other institutions.
“We’re trying to work it out,” said Pendleton “Penny” Larson, spokesperson for Thoth. “We’re still learning how the rules are going to play out.”
The mayor’s press secretary, John F. Lawson II, told Uptown Messenger that only Endymion’s route has been sanctioned. “Several krewes have reached out to NOPD regarding going back to their original routes; however, no extensions (outside of Endymion) have been approved,” he said in an email.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell has told the krewe, Larson said, that it can return to the neighborhood — but with stipulations. The krewe must provide its own security along the route.
Larson said the krewe will hire private security to line the route if required. He also said he was told that the city would reimburse the krewe if that occurred.
“We should know all the details by next week,” Larson said.
Thoth Sunday returns?
At the recent Kings Day ceremony held at Mardi Gras World, Cantrell may have given the go-ahead to the Krewe of Thoth to return home.
While announcing the restoration of the Krewe of Endymion’s route, the mayor explained her solution, stating that the city will hire non-NOPD officers to make up numbers for the city’s Police Department during the 2023 Carnival season.
Mid-City’s Endymion parade, which was cut short downtown in 2022, announced that they will be back to normal and parading along their pre-2022 route. A spokesperson said the route will be safeguarded by Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputies and ranking NOPD officers, and that City Hall will pay for the privately hired security detail.
“We are prepared to invite and pay for any Louisiana POST-certified (Peace Officers Standards and Training Council) law enforcement agencies to support us,” Cantrell said.
It is Larson’s understanding that any security hired must be licensed in Orleans Parish, but what that entails is unknown. The pool of private security employees he hopes to hire or borrow includes Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputies, constables, off-duty NOPD officers and members of Tulane’s Police Department, Loyola University’s Police Department, the Harbor Police and the Orleans Levee District Police Department. Whether they will be allowed to hire off-duty Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies or State Police officers is uncertain.
Cantrell has yet to make a definitive statement regarding specifics regarding security and route reinstatements other than the Krewe of Endymion.
Uptowners and Thoth krewe members were distraught after losing their historic parade route last year. City Hall changed several historic parade routes due to the pandemic and police staffing shortages.
At the time, Larson said the Krewe of Thoth was not consulted before the decision and was effectively blindsided when they received notice of the impending changes. A major concern was that the change might be made permanent.
“We got a call from the NOPD about cutting the route, but no details,” Larson said. “We were floored that we were not asked.”
Thoth’s altruistic history
The Parade of Shut-Ins, as it’s known, was formed in 1947. It is also known as the Children’s Parade, and krewe membership is heavily comprised of doctors and other professionals.
The Krewe created the altruistic route to pass by the Lighthouse for the Blind, Children’s Hospital, the John J. Hainkel Home and Rehabilitation Center, the U.S. Marine Hospital, the Poydras Home, and several other facilities that house the infirm, elderly or disabled — those who cannot participate in Mardi Gras unless Mardi Gras comes to them.
“Thoth created its special route 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,” said the Rev. Ray Cannata, one of the Henry Clay residents who look forward to the parade every year.
When Thoth began parading after WWII, the Hainkel Home on Henry Clay— now the Audubon Retirement Village — was the Home for the Incurables, founded in 1891 to house the terminally ill. Patients who had spent their entire lives at the center were rolled out in hospital beds and wheelchairs every year to enjoy the parade.
The same occurs at the 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 for them.
Children’s Hospital has a special connection to the Krewe of Thoth, which is why the parade lines up near the corner of Henry Clay Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street. For 75 years, masked riders have climbed down from floats to mingle with the tots before the parade rolls — tossing Moon Pies, candies, and thousands of large stuffed animals and toys. Tiny patients who cannot leave the building experience Mardi Gras through the hospital 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,” Larson said last year, after the city changed the route.
Neighborhood Mardi Gras
Neighbors, businesses and even the sisters of the Order of the Poor Clare Monastery nuns were vocal over the 2022 loss. As a sign of respect, each year, the krewe creates a special float of the sisters with a portrait of their patron saint riding shotgun on the back of the float.
Thoth is widely seen as the safest parade for New Orleans families to attend. It’s far away from more crime-afflicted areas, and the Uptown route does not attract tourists.
Each year hundreds of Thoth house parties are held along the route. These parties – which begin with breakfast and coffee in the wee hours – have been held by the same households for generations. Neighbors go from party to party, seeing friends and family.
More like annual reunions, extended New Orleans families travel back to their old neighborhood, bringing older relatives to the block where they grew up. Generations watch the parade from the same porches they first viewed it decades previous.
Editor’s note: This report was updated after posting to add the statement from City Hall.