The Baton Rouge Carnival season calendar took two more hits on Monday.
The Krewe of Artemis is canceling all its 2021 Carnival events, including what would have been its 20th anniversary parade on Feb. 5, Krewe Captain Joanne Harvey announced. And the Mid City Gras parade, scheduled for Feb. 7 on North Boulevard, is converting to a reverse parade in which parade-goers will drive to view decorated yards in lieu of floats.
The all-female Artemis krewe canceled its Jan. 16 soiree, and Mid City Gras has canceled its Twelfth Night celebration and its annual ball. They join the Krewe of Spanish Town and the Krewe of Tucumcari in canceling parties that such organizations depend on to fund operations. The restrictions on attendance amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the difficulty finding venues able to host the events played a part in the decision, said Corey Shircliff, board member with Mid City Gras.
“We as a board decided that is not the product that we have given to our members and their families, our royalty and the community of Baton Rouge, and we want to preserve the integrity of what we’ve done in years past,” Harvey said. "We would rather save it and enjoy all the festivities in 2022 than put out a product that isn’t what we’re known for.”
Baton Rouge krewes met Nov. 20 with Mayor Sharon Weston Broome to discuss options for Carnival activities during the pandemic, which is peaking for the third time in Louisiana and much of the nation. City officials discouraged traditional parades that draw large crowds and suggested an alternative— “parked parades” in which the floats are stationary and visitors can drive by to view and receive throws.
That met with a tepid response, especially since those on the floats would be required to maintain social distance from each other, Harvey said. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to move the state’s pandemic recover status from Phase 3 to Phase 2 helped the Mid City Gras commit to the reverse parade concept.
“We were already thinking that way just because folks on our board were concerned about having a super-spreader event or some other event that would harm the people that we are trying to serve with our parade, as well as the participants,” Shircliff said.
Any residence or business in the Mid City area is invited to participate in the reverse parade by registering online at midcitygras.org. There is a $15 registration fee, and those approved will receive a colorful yard sign in early January and will have about a month to plan yard décor in keeping with the Mid City Gras theme, MASK(p)arade.
Judges will evaluate the best decorations and prizes, which will include gift cards from Mid City businesses and hand-crafted trophies, will go to the winners. The judges will drive by each location on Feb. 7, and maps will be made available to the public to follow the judges’ route and view the decorations.
“We didn’t want to let the day just pass us by,” Shircliff said. “Mid City Gras is a fairly new parade. We’ve had three years so far, and as much as we wanted to have a parade this year … we really thought there was a different way to celebrate this year.”
Although the pandemic may be less severe in February, Harvey said Artemis couldn’t take that chance.
“It’s an entire year-long process to plan these events,” Harvey said. “We have planned as much as we could for them going on.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has cancelled Carnival parades in her city. Broome has not made a ruling for Baton Rouge, and several local krewes have not announced whether they plan to continue their scheduled parades.