Parade goers reach for beads during the Kings Parade Mardi Gras Day on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 in Lafayette, LA.

The Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association announced Monday that it would cancel all of its parades in Lafayette this year due to the pandemic, according to The Current.

This isn't the first time the association, which has organized Mardi Gras events for 86 years, has canceled parades.

Mardi Gras parades were also canceled from 1942 to 1947 during World War II and in 1951 during the Korean War, the organization said in a news release published by The Current.

"As the fourth generation of volunteers who serve to carry out the mission of Greater Southwest, we take pride in carrying out our responsibilities to our member Krewes, the police and fire departments, public works and all of Lafayette and surrounding communities. We love a party and, at Mardi Gras, the bigger the better. This year, the COVID-19 virus has presented us with a unique and nearly unprecedented challenge," the news release said. 

After months of deliberation with input from community leaders, the association determined that safe, family-friendly and quality parades could not be held this year.

"However, while parades will not roll, rest assured that Greater Southwest is working with member krewes to provide safe alternatives to our traditional Mardi Gras festivities," the association wrote. "Stay tuned for details to follow."

The association organizes most of the Mardi Gras parades that roll through Lafayette, including the following:

  • Children's Parade
  • Krewe of Bonaparte Parade
  • Monday Night Parade Honoring Queen Evangeline
  • King Gabriel's Parade
  • Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Parade
  • Independent Parade

The association's announcement is the latest in a string of COVID-19 cancellations of other major Mardi Gras celebrations in Acadiana and Louisiana.

The Krewe of Rio announced last week that it would cancel its annual Mardi Gras Parade, which was set to roll in Lafayette on Feb. 6. That announcement came with the promise of a Jan. 18 Mardi Gras surprise.

The 60th annual Church Point Mardi Gras courir and parade were also canceled last week, according to a statement from The Saddle Tramp Riders Club that organizes the events.

Some of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the state, including those in New Orleans, were banned long ago by city leaders as coronavirus cases spiked for the third time in Louisiana.

Lafayette's elected leaders have not banned or issued guidance on Mardi Gras parades, balls or other events, instead leaving it up to individual organizations to make the decision.

"We have no intention of canceling Mardi Gras," Jamie Angelle, spokesperson for Mayor-President Josh Guillory, said recently. "Lafayette Consolidated Government doesn't put on Mardi Gras, the various associations do. So we're giving them the opportunity to make that decision for their various organizations. If they decide to move forward, they'll have to do so with whatever state restrictions are in place."

Under current guidelines, outdoor events of more than 150 people are prohibited unless strict six-foot distancing is maintained. Gov. John Bel Edwards' current order also mandates that all fairs, festivals, carnivals and amusement rides be closed.

The governor's current order expires on Wednesday.

It "does not directly address parades," Ashley Rodrigue, director of public affairs, State Fire Marshal's Office, said recently. "Therefore, no guidelines exist to advise on how to safely host parades."

The section of the order that limits gatherings to 150 people refers to "a single outdoor space," Rodrigue said. "The governor's proclamation has not given direct mention of parades, so we don't have any guidelines to provide."

Other Acadiana Mardi Gras events that have been canceled include: 

  • Youngsville Parade
  • Carencro Parade
  • Scott Parade
  • Krewe des Chien Parade
  • Sunset Mardi Gras Parade
  • St. Martinville's Newcomers Club Parade
  • Franklin Mardi Gras Parade
  • Krewe of Hephaestus Parade
  • Carnival D'Acadie 
  • Rayne Mardi Gras Parade and Celebration
  • Loreauville Parade and Festivities
  • New Iberia Parade

The Krewe de Canailles, Lafayette's first and only walking parade, announced in October that it would host a modified parade format designed for safe participation for its 2021 parade: "Oh, The Places We Didn't Go!" The krewe will host a drive-by parade where participants can visit sub krewes at designated locations to see decorated lawns, porches and people.

Most of Lafayette's Mardi Gras krewes have canceled balls. Some have decided to have much smaller events, while others will forego any gathering this year.

The annual Washington Mardi Gras, which happens in the nation's capital over a weekend during Carnival season, has also been canceled by the Mystick Krewe of Louisianans

Parades, balls and other Mardi Gras events typically bring thousands of visitors and their dollars to Acadiana.

A 2010 study commissioned by the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission and the Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association found that local krewes and family members spent nearly $10 million preparing for and celebrating Mardi Gras. Visitors brought more than $110 million to Lafayette Parish, with parade attendees spending almost $400 per person while visiting.

Managing Editor Kristin Askelson contributed to this report.

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