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Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING. Photo shot on 2-2-08 00010689a SpanishTown King's Float, from Capitol Grocery. Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008 in Baton Rouge, La.

City-parish officials and organizers behind some of Baton Rouge's most popular Mardi Gras krewes are cautiously optimistic parades will roll in 2022 as they keep an eye on the new coronavirus variant flaring up around the world.

"We're very hopeful to see everything move forward," said Mark Armstrong, spokesman for Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. "We've already issued half of the permits for Mardi Gras parades. But we're going to watch the data and talk to local healthcare partners."

"If we see a resurgence of our hospital capacity being put in danger like we saw with the delta variant, there's always the chance we could make adjustments," he added. 

Mardi Gras celebrations throughout the region were largely canceled this year since the state was still under stricter social-distancing and mask mandates Gov. John Bel Edwards issued to mitigate spread of the virus and relieve overwhelmed hospitals. 

Though the pandemic rages on, most of the mandates have been relaxed as hospital numbers dipped and vaccination rates slowly increased.   

Armstrong said getting more folks vaccinated continues to be the overarching focus as the state heads into Mardi Gras season while a new strain of the virus, the omicron variant, makes its way to the country. 

The first U.S. case of the latest variant was reported in California Wednesday in someone who had just returned from South Africa where the variant was first identified and has been more widespread. The person was vaccinated and only showing mild symptoms from the strain, according to healthcare officials. 

With New Orleans parades set to roll, many Baton Rouge organizers are planning to "let the good times roll" too in the capital city next year. Although some are scaling things back a bit. 

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"It's easier to cancel a parade than to try and schedule one, so we're rolling forward as normal," said Robert King, president of the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana, which is the organizing force behind the Spanish Town Mardi Gras festivities. "We've sent out our parade information to all our krewes."

King said Spanish Town Ball is set for Feb. 5 with the parade to follow Feb. 26. 

There are currently no plans to implement any special protocols or restrictions to either event, King said. 

"If someone feels comfortable wearing a mask, they can — but we're not going to require it," he said. 

Bryon Washington, with the North Baton Rouge-focused parade Krewe of Oshun, said they're going forward as normal as well with their festivities Feb. 19.  

Twanda Lewis, board president of Mid-City Gras, said they intend to hold their parade on Feb. 20, but won't be hosting a ball this year out of an abundance of caution. 

"We didn't want to take the risk — ensuring we had a large enough venue where we could adequately space everyone out," Lewis said. "(But) we've been informed we can start the process of applying for permits for the parade so we're in that phase of planning right now."

Lewis said Mid-City Gras will enforce any necessary protocols to ensure its krewes are safely participating in their festivities. 

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