NEW ORLEANS — The familiar, neon glow of Mardi Gras magic is, this year, illuminated by headlights.
City Parks’ drive-through carnival celebration, Floats in the Oaks, puts New Orleanians literally in the driver’s seat of their own reverse parade.
Rex, Zulu, Endymion, Bacchus… 28 krewes in total put their best floats forward and lined them up along Roosevelt Mall.
Even the Baccha-Gator came out of quarantine for the big display.
“We missed out on Mardi Gras. It’s special. It’s something we do every year, we’re from here, it means something,” said Lisa Landry, who visited with family.
Socially-distant performers are lined up to perform, too. Opening night brough out the Pussyfooters in their bright costumes.
With more than 40 floats and light displays, you might just feel like you’re on the route, with a lot fewer people.
Rob DeViney, Chief Operating Officer of City Park, said it was a lot of work to put the event together.
“We were just wrapping up Celebration in the Oaks, our Christmas event. And then, as a community, our next holiday is Mardi Gras, we go right into it. And I think we just started realizing, ‘oh my god, there’s going to be an absence, a big void’. So we haven’t even gotten the Christmas decorations down. And tremendous effort by my staff and all the people at City Park, it just came together,” he said.
The team moved more than 40 floats from around the city on Tuesday to get them into position.
“This is one of the only times that you’re going to see these beautiful floats this year. They were all going to sit in the den. So, better to drive by them than to not see them at all,” said DeViney.
Adrian Pogue, who visited with 3-year-old Kevin, loved being able to see the detail on each float.
“At Mardi Gras, you see the floats pass by so quickly. Driving through, you see it close up,” said Pogue.
“COVID-friendy, this is the next best thing for Mardi Gras that we can do in New Orleans. New Orleans-style COVID Mardi gras,” she said.”
“I liked seeing floats from parades that we don’t get to go to,” said Monica Camp, who says she typically goes to Metairie parades during Mardi Gras.
And families who want more out of Floats in the Oaks found a lot of activities at Carousel Gardens, not far from the displays.
A train ride wound visitors through some of the lights.
“Really impressed with everything. It’s a lot of fun. They have king cake for us, hot dogs. The whole thing is pretty great, I’m glad the park is doing it,” said Jay Grisoli, who was roasting a hot dog over an open fire with his daughter.
While it’s much different than the way New Orleans is used to celebrating, it’s making Mardi Gras memories.
“To her, this will be just as majestic as it was at the event on St. Charles,” said Grisoli.
Floats in the Oaks runs through Valentine’s Day, but tickets are selling fast and some days are completely sold out. You can get yours at neworleanscitypark.com