When Cleopatra and Oshun kick off on Friday evening, we launch the 10 day sprint known as Carnival in New Orleans. Krewe population trends varied around the metropolitan area, an interesting pattern to say the least. Orleans Parish organizations are growing by leaps and bounds, while Jefferson Parish saw several krewes fade away. I really cannot explain this development. The suburbs have been growing for decades as the city lost population. So why did Thor, Zeus and Atlas, three old Jefferson krewes with 140 years of parading history, cease marching?
In the past 17 years, 25 Carnival clubs have quit. The trend precedes Hurricane Katrina. In spite of the Orleans Parish parade moratorium, the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale received permission to ride this year on February 8. They will parade after the three previously scheduled parades. In Jefferson, the Krewe of Athena Carnival Club received a parade permit to follow Excalibur tonight.
Parade goers will have to come up with a new plan if they set up shop on certain neutral grounds and city street intersections this year. The Army Corps of Engineers’ drainage projects along Napoleon and Jefferson Streets will mess up lots of Carnival plans. Fences on the neutral grounds along Napoleon will severely limit parade watching.
According to Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, the 2015 season will be a busy one, with many area hotels already filled up between now and Fat Tuesday. However, the Quarter and downtown have suffered recently from bad publicity due to a rash of robberies and assaults.
Additional state troopers were deployed in the French Quarter in August after more negative publicity when a shooting on Bourbon killed one woman and injured several others. Those officers left the city after the 2015 Sugar Bowl was concluded even though the mayor asked Governor Bobby Jindal to extend their stay.
Now, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson says he is working with New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu to extend their tenure. Plus, the tourism industry has ponied up $2.5 million to keep troopers here. That’s an impressive amount of money.
On a lighter note, the New Orleans Advocate is producing 14 full color Krewe Parade Bulletins for 2015. In 1886, the Krewe of Proteus became the first Carnival organization to present full color chromolithograph newspaper editions showing the float designs for it’s street pageant. Other krewes quickly followed suit, and these carnival editions or bulletins continued to be printed and sold on street corners for a dime until 1941.
This year, and this year only, Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day fall on the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Several krewes will indicate this event via their float designs and throws.
For most of the last 150 years, New Orleans official reviewing stand for Mardi Gras parades has been historic Gallier Hall. That changed when a large piece of the facade fell off the building last year, closing the building for 2015.
I have been going to Slidell for decades for parades, friends and clients. Slidell’s krewe of Claude is the first major parade of the Carnival season. It seemed after Katrina that Slidell’s growth was speeding to some sort of record. Welcome to the future, Slidell might be big but they are obviously suffering financial problems, as they are telling the local krewes to pay half of cleanup and security for their parades.
Only six of the eight krewes have to pay. These krewes share the main parade route. Digging a little deeper, sales tax revenues started dipping in 2007 and continued until 2010, the last figures released. It turns out that city and parade officials have been working on a new Mardi Gras ordinance for fifteen months, but it hasn’t been introduced and won’t be considered until after Carnival.
Meanwhile Mandeville recently waived billing its four Carnival krewes, which comes to approximately $70,000 in parade costs.
There are other factors influencing this situation, such as the delayed opening of Slidell’s new municipal auditorium, the replacement for the trashed building caused by Hurricane Katrina. This forces the Slidell krewes to come up with a replacement site for this season’s balls. One ended up in a vacant food store, another is holding their ball after the season ends.
It seems someone needs to do an economic study of Slidell’s Mardi Gras krewes impact on the local economy to settle the big issue here, just how important the krewes are to the parish’s bottom line.