Thanks to the pandemic, there won't be any Mardi Gras parades this year in New Orleans—but what there will be is the Krewe of House Floats. That's the name of the initiative created by Megan Boudreaux in November when the city announced the parades had been canceled, after she casually mentioned on Twitter that she'd be turning her Algiers Point home into a standing float, handing flowers out to neighbors, and "[drinking] all day." Her brainchild now has more than 3,000 house floats (including her own nautical-themed "USS House Float") on its official map, not only in the Big Easy, but in dozens of other states. "It's a little surreal," Boudreaux tells NPR. "What was meant to be kind of an offhand comment turned into the whole city. It turned into the whole country." She says safety is her No. 1 concern, discouraging group tours and outsiders from coming to see the floats. This is meant for locals, with virtual tours set up for those outside of New Orleans.
"It would be irresponsible of us to say, 'Yeah, please come visit New Orleans,'" she notes. "We want people to be safe." The New York Times documents some of the local artists and groups that have toiled away on this endeavor, with house float themes encompassing everything from a Candy Land board game and Little Shop of Horrors to ones incorporating musicians, well-known local groups that usually take part in the parades, and even national political figures like Stacey Abrams. "It's so New Orleans to take a bad situation and turn [it] into a positive," one local tells the paper. "We're not going to have [a] parade? OK, we'll decorate houses, and we'll find a way to employ artists and raise money for charity. This speaks to the resiliency of the people in the city." The Washington Post lists other ways to celebrate Mardi Gras this year, including watching the "Mardi Gras for All Y'all" program from home, dressing up, and chowing down on king cake. (Read more Mardi Gras stories.)