The Tale of the Mardi Gras House Floats

Mardi Gras isn’t cancelled, it’s just different

Way back in April of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, I remember seeing a billboard on the side of the Smoothie King Center downtown that had an illustration of one person wearing a surgical mask & on the opposite side, another person wearing a masquerade mask. The slogan at the time was “wear this mask (surgical) so you can wear this one (masquerade).”

Flash forward to 2021, January sixth, parades were supposed to start. We were literally in the after effects of infections from COVID spiking because of holiday gatherings & travel. New Orleans had reached the +5 percent positivity rate, that meant parades & gatherings were cancelled. Most would say Mardi Gras was cancelled. Not the residents of this great city.

New Orleans has been down before but they have been able to continue the resilient spirit. Thus the ingenuity of the now famed house floats were born.

Since we couldn’t have our traditional Mardi Gras celebration, float artist from all over the city began to work on people’s homes & make them floats. Some houses even had signature throws for people that came by. One house even had New Orleans’ own Big Freedia as the Grand Marshall.

All across the city, the houses began to be transformed into these amazing floats! The weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day, the word spread through social media about the Krewe of House Floats as they are now called. The movement got so big that every major news outlet picked up the story. The New York times even did a few articles on the phenomenon.

On Mardi Gras Day I had the chance to visit a few.

Being a child of the 90’s & a Jurassic Park enthusiast, I had to check out the Dinosaur house. Apparently, the house is called the Dino Gras 2021.

Me, in front of Betty (the name I gave her) the Brachiosaurus at Dino Gras on Saint Charles Ave.

My only disappointment was….they didn’t play the theme from Jurassic Park. That would have made my Mardi Gras for sure! The house even had a pterodactyl seemingly flying from the balcony! Talk about creativity! The family even had a name the dinosaur contest. So many people had visited the house that by the time I got up to the gate to name them, they had run out of paper. Such a bummer. I had such good names too.

I walked further up Saint Charles & stumbled (literally, because Champagne) into this New Orleans house. It had New Orleans legends on every inch of their yard. On one end, they had Trombone Shorty & the Neville Brothers. On another end, they had the likes of Big Chief Tootie Montana of the Mardi Gras Indians. On the right side, I missed something about that particular side, two of the greatest musicians this city has every produced, Professor Longhair on the roof playing his piano & his buddy/ band mate, Dr. John in typical, grand fashion. I also got a chance to meet Ms. Patricia Byrd, the wonderful daughter of Professor Longhair. She was so excited to see him honored in that way. She then told me stories about growing up with her dad & Dr. John, Mac as she called him. In a way, it was the perfect piece to this different Mardi Gras celebration. I didn’t mind the cold by that point.

Ms. Patricia Byrd & I in front of her dad, Professor Longhair being honored on a house float on Saint Charles Ave.

The last house I visited was in the Broadmoor neighborhood. It was the house of a twitter follower of mine, photographer, Leslie Sage. Her house was called the Flock Stars. She had bird like variations of famous musicians’ names. For example, some of the gold stars that lined her steps were, Aretha Flocklin (Aretha Franklin), Goose Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen), Kanye Nest (Kanye West), & Kelly Cluckson (Kelly Clarkson). Leslie even threw out a few throws from her steps just to give people the full Mardi Gras experience. She was really cool in talking about all of the attention that the media was giving the whole notion of house floats. She had been interviewed by CBS earlier that day on her porch.

Flock Stars. House float of New Orleans photographer, Leslie Sage.

The new Mardi Gras tradition of the house floats also brought about a celebration similar to Celebration in Oaks, it’s just called Floats in the Oaks. You pay a small fee for your car, then you just drive around City Park to look at the floats you would normally get to see at the parades during parade season. It sold out faster than the organizers imagined it would. I honestly think they should keep it going. Expand the display for a longer amount of time to give everyone a chance to see the floats.

So, in closing, I know we didn’t get to celebrate Mardi Gras the way we normally do but I think the addition of the house floats is a new tradition that should stay.

You may cancel the parades, but you’ll never kill our spirit.

Stay forever beautiful New Orleans, I love ya girl!

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