New Orleans is hoping to run a slightly tighter ship this Carnival, asking krewes to pare down the number of bands, dance troupes and other walking groups in their lengthy processions to keep their parades from getting jammed up and delayed.
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The city also is doing away with the extra turn that most parades on the Uptown route have taken up Canal Street before heading back toward the river. In this case, officials cite the potential need to get emergency services in and out of the area quickly.
That change is definite. The limit on walking groups is, for now, essentially a suggestion from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and the city’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council, which is made up of representatives of the various krewes, but most of the parades have agreed to it.
Officials say if the recommendations work well in the lead-up to Mardi Gras 2018 on Feb. 13, they could later be codified as law.
Krewes are being asked to limit the number of walking groups that lead off their parades or are interspersed between floats. Officials are asking that parades start with no more than a dozen groups — marching bands, dance troupes and unique organizations like the Rolling Elvi — before the first float, with one group following each float after that.
The limits came about after discussions with the various krewes and took into account the number of elements each parade has, city Homeland Security Director Aaron Miller said.
The recommendations came in response to the growing popularity of groups placed between the floats, whether on foot, horseback or other modes of conveyance, a trend that has led to longer parades and more potential for delays, Miller said.
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The number of groups “was slowing down some of the parades and causing issues where we would have to hurry up the back of the parade to keep the parade on time,” Miller said.
Beyond tying up the streets, longer parades also mean longer hours for police and other first responders on duty and for the sanitation and Department of Public Works crews that follow up.
“The longer the parades go, the longer we’re out on the street,” Miller said. “We want to make sure we’re staying in some reasonable time frame.”
Mardi Gras expert Arthur Hardy, who publishes a yearly guide to Carnival, agreed that the changes could lead to a better overall experience.
“Parades are getting too long. Float riders and parade viewers are getting tired. If you’re riding at the back end of a parade, there’s no one to throw to because everyone’s left,” Hardy said. “More is not better. The thinking is that if we streamline the parades a little bit, it’ll be quality over quantity.”
Many krewes already limited themselves when it comes to the number of groups not riding on floats — most of the larger organizations already fall within the limits — and representatives of several organizations said they didn’t have a major problem with the change.
“We wouldn’t have preferred it, but we’re good with it,” said Lloyd Frischhertz, a co-founder of the Krewe of Tucks.
Tucks is one of the krewes that will have to trim some of the groups it would otherwise have paraded with. It has had a large number of such groups dating back to when the group was just starting out and relied more on marching groups than floats, Frischhertz said.
“I think what the city is trying to do is because of the police shortage they have 20 to 30 percent less policemen for the parades than they had before the hurricane, and they kind of want to make all the parades a little shorter and run faster so the police aren’t on the streets 14 hours at a time,” he said.
The other change that will lead to shorter parades is the end of the loop most processions have taken when they hit Canal Street. Instead of turning left from St. Charles onto Canal and traveling toward the lake for a few blocks before turning back toward the river, parades will now simply turn right on Canal and head toward Convention Center Boulevard.
That change comes because of difficulty in getting people in and out of the neutral ground on Canal, something that could be critical in an emergency, Miller said.
“What we saw was parade-goers on the neutral ground were essentially boxed in,” he said. “Even though we moved public safety assets to the area, they still had a difficult time getting” where they needed to go.
The Advocate will publish Mardi Gras ball stories from Carnival krewes in and around the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.
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