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Phunny Phorty Phellows plan to kick off Carnival with socially distanced streetcar ride

The number of masked riders will be limited and the public won't be allowed in to the car barn before the ride, but the Twelfth Night tradition will continue.
Credit: NOLA.com
The Phunny Phorty Phellows' streetcar ride from Twelfth Night 2020. Photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.

NEW ORLEANS — As they've done for 40 years, the Phunny Phorty Phellows plan to board a streetcar to kick off the Carnival season on Twelfth Night this Wednesday, but with some changes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Costumed and masked riders who board the St. Charles Avenue streetcar will be socially distanced and the number of riders will be limited, the group's captain said Monday.

Due to Regional Transit Authority regulations, bystanders will not be allowed in the Willow Street streetcar barn before the ride. In recent years, a large crowd has turned out to celebrate with the Phellows and see them off.

The ride begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. and follows the St. Charles Avenue streetcar route.

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“We are so pleased to be riding through uptown New Orleans," said the captain, who by tradition remains anonymous. “We will traverse a route that is the route of many Mardi Gras parades, so it’s only fitting that we honor them with our ride. We know that the season will be different this year but we are doing what we can to kick off the season in a responsible way. We are grateful to the Regional Transit Authority for their cooperation.”

The Phellows are an historic Mardi Gras organization that first took to the streets in 1878 but ceased parading in 1898. The group was revived in 1981, making this year the 40th anniversary. 

Since the beginning, the Phellows were known for their satirical parades and today’s krewe members’ costumes often reflect topical, satirical themes. That should be no different this year, the captain said.

Other Twelfth Night Carnival groups have also altered their plans. Instead of a prade, the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc will produce a socially distanced, drive-by event to celebrate in Algiers. Tickets are on sale for the event which will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cars will drive past a series of tableau performances in Behrman Memorial Park, 2529 Gen. Meyer Ave. 

Two other Twelfth Night groups, the Societé Des Champs Elyseé and the Funky Uptown Krewe, have canceled their rides. The second group is  substituting a scavenger hunt for hand-decorated throws.

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