When Carnival first-timers Bijna Kim and Jesus Terciado walked out onto Canal Street early on Ash Wednesday to catch a streetcar to their guided tour — after hours of revelry the night before — they were amazed at the sight.
The red and yellow streetcars were trundling up and down the neutral ground. Motorists were on their way to work. Pedestrians were milling about in front of stores.
And the entire palm-tree-lined stretch was nearly spotless.
"We were really impressed," said Kim, who is from the Canary Islands. "It was totally clean, and it's not the same place as it was yesterday."
For that you can credit the more than 500 workers who descended upon the Uptown parade route and the French Quarter late Tuesday and early Wednesday to commence the final "parade" of the season: the cleanup of what regularly tops more than 1,300 tons of Mardi Gras refuse.
Cold weather didn’t seem to stop anyone from donning their elaborate costumes Tuesday in the French Quarter, Marigny and Treme, where thousand…
At least 608 tons of beer cans and booze bottles, Popeyes chicken containers, broken strands of beads and other debris had been picked up since the start of Carnival season, a spokeswoman for Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Wednesday. That number is expected to grow as crews continue cataloging the waste.
The work began even before the partying ended Tuesday, with work crews finishing around 1:25 a.m. and resuming their work at 6 a.m. Wednesday. This year, they used roughly 120 pieces of equipment.
The crews include city workers, employees of contractors Ramelli Services and Empire Janitorial Sales and Services, participants in the city's JOB 1 program and Downtown Development District employees.
They could be seen all along the parade route and in the French Quarter on Wednesday, sweeping debris into pans, flushing the streets with hoses, emptying trash cans and tossing containers into bins.
Not to be left out was the flurry of activity along North Claiborne Avenue between St. Bernard and Orleans avenues, where many hundreds gathered to watch those who "mask Indian" and strut as Baby Dolls. Litter from those events was widespread Tuesday night but was largely gone by mid-morning Wednesday.
Rex royalty took an extended pause in front of the charred carcass of a St. Charles Avenue mansion Tuesday, carrying on a tradition that began…
Lee Wrage, floor manager at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street, agreed that it was "surprising" how clean the street in front of the restaurant was when he came to work Wednesday.
"We've always cleaned our own sidewalks, but the street was completely clear by the time I got here," he said.
Ken Caron, president of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents & Associates organization, also marveled at how clear of trash the French Quarter and Marigny had become by Wednesday afternoon.
Though the streets were messy that morning, "I still think they have done better in the past few years than they used to do years ago," he said, adding that it used to take a week or more before the streets were completely clean after Carnival.
During Terciado and Kim's early morning streetcar ride to St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street, they spotted trash along the avenue that had not yet been picked up, Terciado said.
But the only remnants of Carnival in the area by about 10 a.m. were the toilet paper and beads hanging from the branches of live oak trees.
Normally, Brett Simms and Jack Daniels get their Mardi Gras started at about 7 a.m., to ensure a seat at the very front of the sidewalk on St.…
The massive effort is not yet complete. The city will continue to send crews to clean and re-clean areas over the next few days, said City Hall spokeswoman LaTonya Norton. They include employees from the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, who will focus on playgrounds and parks next to parade routes.
Parks and Parkways Department employees will also focus on corridors and parks near the routes, while Ramelli's workers will clear select other streets.
This year, in keeping with Cantrell's "Clean Up NOLA" initiative, the city stepped up its requests that residents bring their own bags to hold food waste and other trash. Doing so reduces the volume of windblown and food debris that can attract rodents and birds and enter storm drains, Norton said.
She added that Clean Up NOLA "is front and center in everything we do."
Residents are encouraged to bring their unwanted Mardi Gras beads to Arc of Greater New Orleans on LaBarre Road in Metairie or the city's Recycling Drop Off Center on Elysian Fields Avenue. The city's facility collects beads on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month; the next event is this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Young Leadership Council and the all-volunteer Ground Krewe also worked during parades to collect beads along the routes and send them to ArcGNO — work the city supports, Norton said.