Mardi Gras returns to New Orleans after year of shutdowns: ‘Let the good times roll!’

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The coronavirus shut down Mardi Gras parades and Carnivals in cities across the globe last year, but the tradition is now making a comeback. 

City officials in New Orleans have been preparing for months to make sure celebrations could resume this year. In August, Mayor LaToya Cantrell introduced a vaccine or negative test mandate to enter all bars and restaurants.

As of Feb. 1, all public school students are required to be vaccinated as well. 

NEW ORLEANS WILL REQUIRE PROOF OF COVID-19 VACCINATION OR NEGATIVE TEST FOR BARS, GYMS, CONCERTS 

About 1 million people are expected to visit New Orleans over the next several days, leading up to Fat Tuesday on March 1.

Parades are rolling once again in New Orleans.

Parades are rolling once again in New Orleans.

“It was like the soul was drained out of the city, not being able to celebrate Mardi Gras,” said New Orleanian Dominique Dilling-Francis. “It was awful.” 

Dilling-Francis is the executive director of the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the city. The museum is home to a collection of Mardi Gras and Carnival costumes that date back decades. It also celebrates the historic traditions of “black parading” and second-lines. 

“People come to New Orleans to figure out and learn about the different layers of our history and our culture,” Dilling-Francis said. “If we don’t continue to perform and show up and show out, history will go without being said and it needs to be said.” 

HISTORY OF MARDI GRAS: LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE ANNUAL CELEBRATION 

Mardi Gras in New Orleans dates back to the early 1700s. For decades, African Americans were banned from celebrating with mainstream Mardi Gras Krewes. Instead, they held their own celebrations known as Carnival. This created the subculture of Mardi Gras known as the Mardi Gras Indians. Men, women and children dress in lavish, colorful suits to pay homage to the Native Americans who helped protect runaway slaves. 

“Now that we have the freedom to celebrate with everyone, it’s even more important to come out and pay our respects to our ancestors,” Dilling-Francis said. 

Horace Anderson plans to donate his son's old suit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum. 

Horace Anderson plans to donate his son’s old suit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum. 

CARNIVAL SEASON KICKS OFF IN NEW ORLEANS

“This is the way of life for us; this is what we do,” said New Orleanian Horace Anderson. 

Like Dilling-Francis, Anderson was also raised in Mardi Gras tradition. In the black community, they’re known as “culture kids.” 

Zulu Tramps march in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club's 2018 Zulu Parade on Feb. 13, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Zulu Tramps march in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s 2018 Zulu Parade on Feb. 13, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

“Without this, I’d probably be shot up dead in the streets a long time ago,” Anderson said. “This culture saved me from that and that’s what I want for my kids.” 

Mardi Gras Indians will spend months, sometimes years sewing the costumes they reveal on Fat Tuesday. 

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“I’m excited to be back parading this year, but I can’t get too excited yet because I have about 9 months worth of work to do in 15 days to finish my suit,” Anderson said. 

Even with all the fun, officials are still keeping COVID-19 in mind. All parade participants must follow the vaccine card or negative test mandate. 



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