Carnival spirit takes over New Orleans

Rebecca Santana and Janet Mcconnaughey
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Revelers decked out in traditional purple, green and gold came out to party on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans’ first full-dress Mardi Gras since 2020. The fun includes back-to-back parades across the city and marches through the French Quarter and beyond, with masks against COVID-19 required only in indoor public spaces.

Parade routes are shorter than usual, because there aren’t enough police for the standard ones, even with officers working 12-hour shifts as they always do on Mardi Gras and the days leading up to the end of the Carnival season.

But with COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers falling worldwide and 92% of the city’s adults at least partly vaccinated, parades and other festivities are back on after a season without them.

“I love Mardi Gras,” said Todd Hebert, who was dressed in a purple jacket with sequined lapels, a pale blue tutu with pink stripes, and a black hat with small horns on the top and a fringe of pink feathers as he rode the ferry across the Mississippi River on Tuesday to take part in the festivities.

“It’s the best time of the year. Last year was sad,” he said.

Costumed partiers gathered before dawn to see the North Side Skull & Bone Gang, dressed as skeletons, wake up the city’s Treme neighborhood, reminding everyone of their mortality. From then on it was “Let the good times roll,” with celebrations in just about every corner of the city, leading up to a ceremonial clearing of Bourbon Street at midnight.

Nikia Dillard was putting on gold, purple and green false eyelashes and taking photos with the group of girlfriends and family she has gathered with to watch the Krewe of Zulu parade at the same spot for years. After spending last year celebrating at home and “in spirit,” it was good to be back to something closer to normal.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. We have been cooped up, quarantined, trying to be responsible for so long, and we’re still being responsible,” she said, noting that her group has been vaccinated and received their booster shots and has masks.