New Orleans is hosting its first full-dress Mardi Gras since 2020

People are out to party as New Orleans’ first full-clothed Mardi Gras since 2020 kicks off Tuesday, with a day of back-to-back parades through the city

NEW ORLEANS — People are out to celebrate as New Orleans’ first full-clothed Mardi Gras since 2020 kicks off Tuesday, with a day of back-to-back parades through the city and anti-COVID-19 masks required only in indoor public spaces .

The parade routes are shorter than usual because there aren’t enough police for the normal ones, even when officers work 12-hour shifts, as they always do on Mardi Gras and the end of the Mardi Gras season before it.

But with COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers falling around the world, and 92% of the city’s adults are at least partially vaccinated, the parades are returning after a season without them.

And people are out and ready to let the good times roll.

Sunday’s crowd as the giant krewe of Bacchus paraded “was a record for us in the 10 years we’ve been open,” said Thomas Houston, bar manager of the Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar, which is located at the start of the shortened parade located route.

He expected similar crowds on Shrove Tuesday – a national holiday – if the weather is good. Not to mention Ash Wednesday, when people who follow the Catholic tradition of a meatless fasting diet crave seafood.

“Not only is it a fun time to make money, but you get to meet people who have been around for 10 years,” he said.

However, hotel occupancy is expected to be about 66%, down about 19.5% from 2020, said Kelly Schultz, spokeswoman for New Orleans & Co., the official sales and marketing organization for New Orleans’ tourism industry.

Parades were canceled last year because officials realized tightly packed crowds had created a superspreader event in 2020 that made the city an early Southern hotspot for COVID-19.

But “2020 was strange,” Houston said, because two people were hit and killed by floats the week before Mardi Gras and the mayor stopped using multiple floats tied behind a tractor.

“The coronavirus was also hovering over us,” although its presence in New Orleans was not yet known, Houston said.

As it has for years, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club will open Mardi Gras with a parade that began as a mockery of white festivities, with black-faced black wagon drivers in grass skirts.

Next are the elaborate and fantastical floats of Rex, the self-proclaimed King of Carnival, chosen by a group of high society and old-money businessmen.

After that comes the Krewe of Elks and the Krewe of Orleans, a not-quite-endless stretch of homemade floats on long flatbed trailers.

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