The Mardi Gras spirit lives on in New Orleans for the 2021 season thanks to City Park’s “Floats in the Oaks” event, as detailed in a Nola.com article.
When the 2020 Mardi Gras season led to rising COVIS-19 cases in Louisiana, many thought that the 2021 season simply couldn’t be done. Such pessimists must have never met a Louisiana citizen who has been denied their self-given right to celebrate the Mardi Gras, because efforts quickly came together to offer the Crescent City public: “Floats in the Oaks,” a drive-thru, krewe-populated, and stationary Mardi Gras Parade. The event, set to take place February 4-14 in City Park, will be similar to 2020’s drive-thru version of “Celebration in the Oaks.”
Though this time, the line of cars won’t be driving to see holiday light displays, but instead the tour of visitors will pass by signature floats from many of the city’s 34 krewes. The lineup already includes the krewes of Alla, Argus, Babylon, Bacchus, Carrollton, Druids, Femme Fatale, Hermes, Iris, King Arthur, Mid-City, Morpheus, Pygmalion, Rex, Thoth, Tucks, and Zulu. Though, City Park is hoping to hear from more krewes that would be interested in participating.
One of the biggest challenges of staging “Floats in the Oaks” was the fact that many of the taller Mardi Gras Floats would not be able to pass through the low-hanging oak trees of City Park. City Park Chief Operating Officer, Rob DeViney, who is also the co-captain of the Krewe of Argus Parade, was well aware of the challenges. To ensure that the floats would fit, DeViney contacted local master float manufacturer Barry Kern, who dispatched a logistics team to measure the height requirements of the task.
The task was eventually accomplished by driving around in a golf cart that was surmounted by an 18-foot pole, and according to DeViney, “surprisingly, it worked.” Soon after, he contacted krewe captains to gauge interest in the event, and he assured any hesitant captains by promising to provide floats with rain-resistant tarps, 24-hour security, and insurance.
The initial idea for the stationary float parade came to the public’s attention in early January when Delgado Community College baseball coach Joe Scheuermann and his daughter Nataly began floating the idea across social media. The concept eventually ignited a fire of public enthusiasm from the Carnivale-crazed community that was hard to ignore.
Alongside Scheuermann’s campaign, DeViney also had drafted a similar drive-thru plan, which just assured him of the public’s support for a safe Mardi Gras season. Scheuermann was quick to deny being the originator of the idea, as he was simply happy to see City Park’s acceptance of the event. He explained by saying, “I can’t take the credit, but maybe our little story got it over the hump.”
Similarly, as DeViney sought out official city approval and began to make the Krewe contacts, he was reportedly “ very encouraged while [we] were working behind the scenes.”
Both men put pride aside in the spirit of the Mardi Gras season, by simply being excited that the the traditional celebration wouldn’t be another sacrifice of the pandemic. In fact, as soon as Scheuermann learned of City Park’s plan, he purchased his ticket immediately. “We’ll be one of the first ones through,” he said.
Conventional Carnival parades were impossible to plan for the 2021 season due to the continuation of the coronavirus contagion. Though, this didn’t discourage the spirit of New Orleans, and “Floats in the Oaks” represents the resilience of the city and its residents to safely celebrate in a traditionally unique manner.
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