Welcome to Yardi Gras ya’ll
By Trent Friedel, Exclusive to the Times
Mater artium necessitas, in Latin that translates as “the mother of invention is necessity” or as we are more familiar, necessity is the mother of invention. So, it is in the Covid-19 altered world of a new reality in the Big Easy. In New Orleans, there is nothing more necessary than Mardi Gras and all that goes with it. Since 1837, Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans and only a handful of times have festivities been canceled since the early 20th century. Carnival was on hold for the outbreak of World War I in 1918 and the following year with the other noted global epidemic, the Spanish Flu of 1919.
Then there was the 1942-45 halting of Carnival with the United States deeply involved in WW II. The Korean war saw a scaling back of festivities but no outright cancellation. The last time things were halted to an extent was the Police strike of 1979 where many krewes either cancelled their parades or moved to neighboring parishes.
Here we are back in the throes of another global pandemic and Mardi Gras has been cancelled. No Coronation balls, no parades rolling through the City and no Laissez Le Bon Temp Rouler for fear of a Covid virus super spreader event. But can you really stop something as ethereal as Mardi Gras? Yes, the Mayor closed all the bars on Bourbon Street and you cannot get a go cup from any French Quarter establishment, no pedestrians or vehicles on the streets of the Vieux Carre.
The City has all but shut down, but you cannot stop the spirit. Megan Boudreaux is credited with the idea of house floats. Yes, house floats! The Krewe of House Floats was established to celebrate Mardi Gras in a safe and fun way till tradition returns next year. We hope. Homeowners all over New Orleans, the country and even around the world are decorating their homes and yards for the Carnival season.
So, Yardi Gras was born.
A trip down St. Charles Avenue reveals the lengths that people will go to in the interest of keeping Mardi Gras spirit alive and well. With the annual parades cancelled, the house decorating idea also gave rise to many people employing traditional float decorators to make elaborate scenes in their yards. A map of the homes registered with the organization shows just how many people participated. This could possibly spurn a new tradition of Mardi Gras. Another option born of innovation this year was Floats in the Oaks, a drive through event in City Park where more than 40 floats from some of the City’s most iconic Krewes (Endymion, Bacchus, Rex, etc.) were on display. Cars were charged a fee to drive through the Oaks to see the floats and a bike option was also available.
The event sold out early. With bars closed and the tourism lifeblood of New Orleans almost exsanguinated, another mother of invention has come to fruition. Enter the Krewe of Red Beans, a local NOLA group with an initiative to save struggling neighborhood bars in the Big Easy. The Krewe launched NOLA Bean Coin (nolabeancoin.com). The idea is to purchase these glass red beans (bean coins) that will be used next year as a pre-paid bar tab for drinks in local bars from 12th night to Halloween 2022.
Fifty percent of proceeds raised will be distributed to bars in need to defray expenses till they can re-open and thrive. Necessity has proven to be the mother of invention and the crucible of innovation in a city hurting and struggling during its most lucrative season. Happy Mardi – Yardi – Gras!!