Yardi Gras stories: Creative recycling on display in Lower Garden District house floats

Although Mardi Gras as we know it is back, houses are once again on parade.?The Krewe of House Floats, created in 2021 so New Orleanians could enjoy Carnival even though parades were canceled, may have taken hold.?

This year, with parades rolling again and Carnival in full swing, many people recycled their house float from last year, adding a few extra special touches to update them for the 2022 season. The Krewe of House floats continues to connect artists and homeowners to create unique and beautiful house floats that add to the festivities of the Carnival season.?

The subkrewe of Garden District and Lower Garden District does not have an exact theme for the 2022 season, but that didn’t stop the celebration. Instead, in the true spirit of “Do Whatcha Wanna,” the neighborhood came together to create looks that capture that magic of Mardi Gras and New Orleans itself. Kelli Walker Starrett’s theme is the song “They All Ask’d For You.” Her house float on Chippewa and Josephine streets depicts a second-line of local animals, including a gator, a crawfish and a pelican.

Yardi Gras stories: ‘Pure Imagination’ fuels house floats in Broadmoor and Fontainebleau

 

Last year ago, the unimaginable happened: February passed in New Orleans with no Carnival parades. With parades cancelled due to Covid, there were no massive floats rolling the street, no masses of revelers standing elbow-to-elbow and hollering to have some beads thrown their way.?

So New Orleanians had to use their own imagination and come up with a safer way to celebrate. What they came up with was Yardi Gras: a new tradition where revelers decorated their own homes as elaborate floats. This year, Mardi Gras is back — but Yardi Gras survives as well, along with the spirit of imagination and ingenuity it represents. While there are fewer homes participating in the Krewe of House Floats this year, there’s still plenty of creativity on display, as seen in the neighborhoods of Broadmoor and Fontainebleau.

Yardi Gras stories: University area house floats celebrate ‘Les Bons Temps’

 

When three smaller subkrewes of the Krewe of House Floats —University, Freret and St. Charles Avenue — melded into one, an anything-goes theme evolved, which in turn became “Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler,” said subkrewe captain Jenna Rockett. With no constraints to follow, krewe members improvised their individual whims. The Bergers of State Street decided to lean into their name by turning their house into a burger joint. The family’s “State Street Soda Shoppe” house float serves up a giant balcony burger, fries, a milkshake and an ice cream sundae. It’s a theme that delights the Bergers’ two young daughters, Lillian and Grace.

Yardi Gras stories: Audubon-Riverside neighborhood has a sense of déjà vu

In its second year, the Audubon-Riverside subkrewe of House Floats selected the theme “Déjà Vu in 2022.” It has a double meaning. First, it’s here we are again — still with the pandemic. The Krewe of House Floats’ overall theme for the 2022 Carnival season, “Vaccinate, Decorate, Celebrate,” is also a nod to the enduring pandemic.?

Audubon-Riverside’s theme has a second meaning, recognizing that many residents plan to re-use most or all of their house float decorations from last year. One such resident is?Sarena Teng, whose house float on Laurel Street at Napoleon has its own Instagram account (@queenofbouncehouse).?Her Queen of Bounce House uses the same Big Freedia figure from 2021, but added a twist, based on the KoHF theme “Vaccinate, Decorate, Celebrate.”

“It is still and always will be the Queen of Bounce House, but this year, it’s ‘Big Freedia Saves the World’ against viral invaders,” Teng said.?

Playing off the popular 1980s “Space Invaders” video game, she made coronavirus germs out of lime green paper lanterns with hot-glued red glittery pompoms to look like spike proteins. Her Big Freedia has a giant vaccine syringe with a light-up laser gun that shoots down the germs. Nighttime viewers can see the vaccine explode in a fireball of green flashing lights.

Dolly Parton tribute and a king cake cartoon grace Magazine Street businesses

Scriptura and Parcels & Post have both installed storefront floats to bring the Carnival spirit to Magazine Street. And together they represent some popular images in the house float craze: oversized flowers, king cakes, alligators and Dolly Parton.?

Scriptura has a 25-year history at 5423 Magazine St. It started in just the front room, and gradually grew into the owners buying the building and taking over every square inch. They have their letterpress studio in the back, retail in the front and offices on the second floor.?

Scriptura’s storefront “house float”?is dedicated to the country music star because of the inspiration she provided during the difficulties of last year. The year 2020 was full of personal loss for the owners of Scriptura.

New storefront floats in full bloom on Magazine Street

 

The New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and Sosusu Boutique on Magazine Street have storefront floats that add to the Carnival spirit on Magazine Street. Both of these professional creations light up at night.?

In more than 40 years of being in the same building at 5256 Magazine St., never did the nonprofit New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts imagine that they would be turned into a house float. The school located on the route of many Uptown parades usually has a viewing stand. This year, school officials had planned to turn it into a fundraising event for the institution and charge admission.?

But the pandemic and canceled parades changed all that. “We wanted to have our installation look like a real float,” said school President Dian Winingder about the creation entitled “Gogh Mardi Gras.”

It is of course an homage to Vincent Van Gogh (they call the tractor driver “Vincent”) and, Winingder said, his imagery is easy to recognize and simple enough to make into float props and decorations.