NPR’s Scott Simon talks with Mardi Gras parade organizer Devin De Wulf, whose organization, Krewe of Red Beans, is decorating locals homes as floats, and donating the money they earn to local artists.



New Orleans and Mardi Gras go hand in hand, so when the city decided it had to cancel the the parades, parties and large gatherings for 2021, residents knew they wouldn’t let the holiday pass without a celebration.

Mardi Gras parades are not permitted this year because large gatheringshave proven to be super-spreader events for COVID-19said Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office. But despite the cancellations, festive “floats” will still line the streets of New Orleans — because people have decided to decorate their houses instead.

New Orleans Celebrates Mardi Gras During COVID-19 Pandemic
View of a home decorated in honor of the renowned local chef Leah Chase on January 28, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. ERIKA GOLDRING / GETTY IMAGES

House decorating has given artists in the city months of work when jobs were sparse due to the pandemic. Krewe of House Floats is a local group connecting homeowners looking to celebrate Mardi Gras with businesses hit hard by the pandemic that can help with decorations.

Megan Joy Boudreaux, who created the Krewe of House Floats, was one of the first people to mobilize the effort to decorate houses in lieu of regular Mardi Gras parade floats.

When it was decided on November 17 that the city would not hold its traditional parades during the pandemic, Boudreaux tweeted: “It’s decided. We’re doing this. Turn your house into a float and throw all the beads from your attic at your neighbors walking by. #mardigras2021

She soon created the Krewe of House Floats Facebook group to begin planning the alternative event.

New Orleans Celebrates Mardi Gras During COVID-19 Pandemic
View of a “house float” decorated in honor of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on January 28, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. ERIKA GOLDRING / GETTY IMAGE

Now, Stronghold Studios is taking orders for house floats and has been able to hire nine employees. 

The “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” project, which also helps Mardi Gras artists find work, began their operation last year in partnership with the the Krewe of Red Beans.

“Krewes” are organizations that put on parades during Mardi Gras. Each has a unique history and some have been around for many decades.

Virus Outbreak Paradeless Mardi Gras
Designer Caroline Thomas looks at a house decorated like a parade float in New Orleans on Jan. 8, 2021.JANET MCCONNAUGHEY / AP

The “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” project hopes to create at least 40 house floats across the city — but it’s only possible through fundraising. Artists are paid through donations and their elaborate creations cost about $10,000 per house, according to WWL.

“I’ve never been on a Mardi Gras float until now,” Demian Estevez told WWL after his house was transformed into a float by artist Caroline Thomas.

“This is the most beautiful and amazing thing ever,” Angela Estevez said. “There’s been a lot of tears. There’s been so many happy tears.”

Virus Outbreak Paradeless Mardi Gras
Passersby look at dinosaurs decorating a mansion on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Jan. 26, 2021. The banner says “Thank you, Mayor, for keeping us safe.”JANET MCCONNAUGHEY / AP

Mardi Gras season, also known as Carnival, began on January 6 this year. Houses will be decorated at least two weeks before Fat Tuesday arrives on February 16.

Participating homes will have their addresses on an official online map for spectators, one of the mapmakers, Charlotte “Charlie” Jallans-Daly, told the Associated Press.

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