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New Orleans houses turn into Mardi Gras floats

CBS News logo CBS News 1/30/2021 Caitlin O'Kane

a group of stuffed animals sitting on top of a building: Virus Outbreak Paradeless Mardi Gras

Virus Outbreak Paradeless Mardi Gras
© Janet McConnaughey / AP

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 gatherings have proven to be super-spreader events for COVID-19, said 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.

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.

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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.

Coco Darrow, whose family owns Stronghold Studios, which creates props for celebrations, says Krewe of House Floats saved their business. "Before the Krewe of House Floats, we had nothing. There were no jobs for months and we were barely surviving. We were about to close our doors," Darrow told CBS station WWL-TV. 

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.

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."

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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