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Will Mardi Gras 2021 be celebrated or cancelled due to covid-19 & why?

Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, New Orleans has announced that traditional Mardi Gras parades will not go ahead in 2021, but all is not lost.

Will Mardi Gras 2021 be celebrated or cancelled due to covid-19 & why?
Sean GardnerAFP

With the havoc coronavirus has wreaked on public holiday celebrations, parades and sporting events throughout 2021 and including up to the Super Bowl LV 2021 Sunday, news about the cancelation of Mardi Gras 2021 parades in New Orleans may not come as a surprise to many. That doesn't mean it's not a huge disappointment for residents, parade krewes and the thousands of visitors who normally descend on the city to enjoy the music and color-filled festivities.

Is Mardi Gras 2021 cancelled due to covid-19?

On the New Orleans city website, the Mardi Gras guidance page clearly states that the city cannot and is not cancelling Mardi Gras, because it is a religious holiday. However, due to the increased risk of spreading the coronavirus at large events, "parades of any kind will not be permitted this year."

"I want to be very clear. Mardi Gras 2021 is not canceled. It is going to look different. The mayor has been very consistent about saying that at every stage," said Beau Tidwell, communications director for Mayor LaToya Cantrell, at a press conference back in November (via CNN).

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With the huge potential for parades to act as super-spreader events, Tidwell added that “There's no way that [going ahead with parades] is responsible given what we know about the pandemic right now.”

"So while we certainly want to move forward and find ways that we can celebrate, and we can mark this occasion, we have to do it safely,” he added.

What will be celebrated for Mardi Gras 2021?

Krewes Balls:

Some Mardi Gras Krewes may be holding modified Balls following strict local covid-19 guidelines. Attendance at a Ball is by invitation only, therefore not open to the general public.

Bourbon Street: is it open?

Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street entertainment Districts are open, but subject to Local and State cover-19 guidelines at all times. Capacity and hours can be subject to change. It is highly recommended that time in the city’s entertainment districts be limited and social distancing observed with mask wearing.

Can visitors come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras?

Yes, but all visitors must adhere to local coronavirus guidelines which include wearing a mask in public and maintaining strict 6ft or more social distancing.

Are Mardi Gras private parties allowed?

You may be able to hold a private party at your home subject to local and state covid guidelines. Visit the City of New Orleans One Stop. To submit a Special Events Application, or email mardigras@nola.gov to open a dialogue and get a quick pre-screen of your plans.

Has Mardi Gras ever been canceled?

Not even Hurricane Katrina could kill the city’s resolve to host the parade 15 years ago. While Katrina had initially threatened the cancelation of Carnival in 2006, krewes decided to go ahead with parades in order to lift the city’s spirits amid the aftermath of that terrible disaster.

But this will not be the first time that a public health scare has prompted the cancelation of Mardi Gras. In fact, since 1857, it has been canceled on 13 occasions for various reasons, mainly because of war, but also due to a plague and a Police Union strike.

From 1862 to 1865, the Civil War prompted cancelation of the parade, while political upheaval during the subsequent reconstruction period also led to the cancelation of festivities in 1875. Much like in 2021, a public health emergency caused Carnival to be called off in 1879 amid the yellow fever outbreak.

While there were also no parades during the Spanish Flu Pandemic from 1918 to 1919, the real cause of the cancelation in those years was World War I, with World War II the reason activities ceased more than two decades later between 1942 and 1945. War again stopped Mardi Gras in 1951, months after the Korean War had gotten underway.

In the proceeding 60 years, Mardi Gras has only been canceled once – in 1979, when a Police Union Strike prompted cancelation of the parade.

The sad announcement made this week will mean that 2021 will mark the first time Mardi Gras has been canceled in 32 years. But with expectations that mass deployment of a coronavirus vaccine is not far off, New Orleans can look forward to Mardi Gras rolling on again in 2022.