The pandemic can’t stop the party in New Orleans, where residents have transformed their homes into stationary Mardi Gras floats to help adapt the city’s traditional pre-Lenten celebrations for the age of social distancing.
Last year’s festivities were among the nation’s first superspreader events, so there are no parades this year. Instead, in the interest of public health, Carnival has become a drive-through affair, with homes festooned with beads and all manner of decorations.
“We’re doing this. Turn your house into a float and throw all the beads from your attic at your neighbors walking by,” wrote Megan Joy Boudreaux on Twitter on November 17, the day that the city called off Mardi Gras 2021. What began as a joke was soon formalized, with Nola residents planning for the unconventional take on the holiday season on the Krewe of House Floats Facebook group.
The result is a stunning city-wide display of more than 3,000 homes decorated in the great traditions of American folk art.
A crowdfunded “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” initiative helped employ out-of-work artists to create 11 house floats, and commissioned work for two more homes and seven businesses, reports local CBS affiliate 4WWL. Each display costs about $10,000.
“We normally don’t do Mardi Gras stuff, but because the whole city wants Mardi Gras décor for their homes, we jumped right in,” Coco Darrow, of the local Stronghold Studios, told 4WWL. “Before the Krewe of House Floats, we had nothing. There were no jobs for months and we were barely surviving.”
“This was definitely the turnaround we needed,” Rene Pierre of local float company Crescent City Artists told the Denver Channel. The business is thriving after decorating 64 homes.
Many house floats have been inspired by local traditions and classic Mardi Grad imagery. There’s also a house for the late musician Prince at 3804 Banks Street, and one for Dolly Parton at the Scriptura stationery store on 5423 Magazine Street. It features an Andy Warhol-style portrait of the country singer, who helped fund much-needed vaccine research.
When Parton learned of the tribute, she sent a massive trove of her merchandise for the shop to hand out to visitors, reports the Times-Picayune.
Meanwhile, there’s a Lego-themed house at 418-420 Eliza Street, Algiers, that looks to “Lego” the trials of the past year, and a tribute to the late Alex Trebek in the form of a giant Jeopardy! game board on the facade of 2371 Chippewa Street.
Other memorable designs include the Little Shop of 2020 Horrors, which features murder hornets, a toilet paper shortage, and Audrey the man-eating plant at 430 Bounty Street, Algiers.
“I took a sculpture class from a local float maker,” homeowner Cori Haines told local ABC affiliate WGNO. “2020 was a dumpster fire, so let’s just throw all the elements from it in and have fun with it.”
Our favorite so far, however, is definitely the Gustav Klimt design at 1819 S. White Street, featuring a giant recreation of his masterpiece The Kiss.
The final day of Mardi Gras is February 16, or Fat Tuesday, and a map of the city’s house floats can be found here.
See more house floats below.