Music and laughter still emanated from the front porches of Spanish Town homes Saturday despite the cancellation of the annual Mardi Gras parade because of the coronavirus.
Instead of floats, a parade of cars wound through the historic neighborhood’s streets to view the many homes decorated with pink balloons, pink beads and pink flamingos — the traditional color for the parade.
Small groups of residents wearing pink clothing braved temperatures in the 30s and waved from their porches to the countless cars passing through.
“I think we found a way to make it even more intimate than it would have been otherwise,” said Heath Lanier, who’s been a resident of Spanish Town for four years. “We’re being safe and distant, but we still have people coming by that we can wish a happy Mardi Gras to.”
Lanier, whose pink hair and makeup was complemented by his pink skirt and sparkly shoes, wasn’t alone in wishing passersby a cheerful Carnival season.
“We’re not going to have a house full of 150 people like we’ve had in the past, and that’s fine” Spanish Town resident Jeff Gober said. “There’s a lot of people up and down the street, and it’s a great celebration.”
Wearing a pink suit jacket, Gober sat around a fire with his wife, Jamie Gober, on the front stoop of their home, which was decorated for the neighborhood’s house decorating contest. The home is covered with pink beads and flamingos year-round, but Gober said they spent a few days sprucing it up and adding new beads ahead of Saturday.
More than two dozen homes entered the house decorating contest, said Mary Jane Marcantel, chair of the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association.
Using the theme "Pretty in Pink," the contest awarded $100 to the best decorated house, $75 for second place and $50 for third place. Separately, the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana, which oversees the annual parade, rewarded the three houses it deemed best with a coveted wooden pink flamingo, Marcantel said.
Lauren Zweifel, admin of the 225 Duck Duck Jeep group, joined dozens of other Jeep enthusiasts in a parade of the neighborhood to view the decorated homes.
“It’s a fun time, an excuse to get together and know that everyone is going through a rough time but wants to still have a good time,” Zweifel said. “It’s great to just get out and make a great experience with the limited opportunities we have.”
Marcantel came up with the idea to give the neighborhood a fun competition to mark the holiday while maintaining precautions that prevent the spread of the coronavirus, she said. Marcantel said she planned to spend her day cooking gumbo, decorating king cake and keeping an eye out for anyone violating coronavirus safety protocols.
“I know it sounds like I’m a b----, but I didn’t do this to spread COVID,” Marcantel said. “I did this to stop there from being COVID and people to still have a good time.”
After the 2020 Mardi Gras became a super-spreader of COVID-19 in the region, Spanish Town resident Jay Cudd said he was happy to sit around a fire pit in his front yard and celebrate with a small group of neighbors.
“I think everyone has slowly gotten the point that this is what we have to do,” Cudd said. “We just have to grow up and do what has to be done, but we can still have a good time.”
Marcantel said she was thrilled the neighborhood was still able to celebrate Mardi Gras and make the most of the holiday amid a pandemic.
“Everyone is just having a ball with it,” Marcantel said. “When you get lemons, you make lemonade. We just made pink lemonade with the neighborhood.”