What kind of season was Mardi Gras 2024? My annual survey of parading krewe captains and other Mardi Gras VIPs found both good and bad.

Most observers declared it a solid but rather ordinary season. And after the post-COVID Carnival uncertainty, ordinary was just fine, thank you.

Unlike in the past few years, we knew early on that we would definitely stage Mardi Gras and that parade routes would be fully restored, thanks to law enforcement officers from 18 jurisdictions who supplemented the New Orleans Police Department.

Their presence was noticeable. Kudos to all concerned, including New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, new Police Chief Anne Fitzpatrick, city CAO?Gilbert Montano and Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson.

It was good to be able to put a number on the economic impact of Carnival — $890 million, according to a study released by Tulane University on Twelfth Night.

Pro Bono Publico Foundation grants

James Reiss III, right, of the Pro Bono Publico Foundation announces $1.3 million in grants to schools and other education causes at the Rex den in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

Speaking of money, philanthropy continues to be embraced by more parading krewes, a welcome trend.

This was a safe Carnival season. Crowds were good, but not record-setting. More importantly, probably due to the absence of the spring break crowd (Fat Tuesday was early), they were calm and appreciative of the throws flying off the floats.

Love it or recycle it

The desire for logo merchandise, signature throws and float-specific items has escalated, to the detriment of ordinary merchandise.

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NOLA Ready collects beads and recycled materials behind the Krewe of Freret on St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. The city of New Orleans coordinated with Grounds Krewe, Glass Half Full and the Can Manufacturing Institute to bring the city's first official Mardi Gras recycling program. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

And in dealing with what was left on the ground, the city’s expanded effort at protecting the environment through its Recycle Dat initiative was impressive. In the second year of the program, more than 10 tons of material was collected.

The attention focused on the preseason, alternative krewes was deserved, as these walking clubs continue to enhance the artistry and diversity of Carnival.

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Krewe Bohéme?dances through the French Quarter in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

While not as many people costume on Fat Tuesday, there has been an explosion in the wearing of purple, gold and green clothing along the parade route.

The king cake industry has also shown significant growth.

Running into problems

This year was not without its problems, however, starting with a major snafu on opening night when a four-unit tandem Cleopatra float hit a tree, delaying not only its parade but also the Krewe of Alla that followed.

Parade float his tree limb

A tandem float in the Krewe of Cleopatra parade snagged on a tree limb at the intersection of Jefferson and Magazine streets in Uptown New Orleans on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, forcing a 30-minute delay in the procession.

The predicted heavy rain on Saturday caused some New Orleans and Metairie parades to move, others to march without bands, and several to get very wet.

In New Orleans, Fat Tuesday delays kept some truck parade riders on the route until nearly 7 p.m.

The city made good on its promise to remove items placed along parade routes more than four hours before parade time — until it didn’t, surrendering to the massive crowds on Fat Tuesday weekend when things were no different from in the past. This may be a problem without a solution.

Jefferson Parish lost the Jefferson truck parade during the summer, Little Rascals in November and Culinary Queens two weeks before it was scheduled to roll.

Then, for the third consecutive year, the new Krewe of Caerus pulled out days before parade day. Perhaps a more rigorous vetting process is needed before parades are allowed to be listed on the Jefferson Parish parade calendar.

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Members of the Young Audiences Charter School perform as the Krewe of Nandi rolls on its inaugural parade in Marrero, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (Staff photo by Scott Threlkeld, The Times-Picayune)

On the plus side, the parish gained the West Bank parades of Music and Nandi.

Things went smoothly in St. Tammany Parish except for the Krewe of Olympia, which rolled in torrential rains.

The addition of the new Krewe of Bogue Falaya on Lundi Gras and on Fat Tuesday in Covington was a big hit.

The littlest marchers

A long-standing personal crusade of mine is to see fewer underage children marching in parades. If the parents don't care enough to stop this foolishness, the city should.

I personally asked a precious little costumed, baton-carrying child her age, and she said she was 4 years old.

I overheard a visitor in the crowd saying, “making a kid march four miles for five hours would be child abuse anywhere else. You guys think this is cute?”

A krewe captain, who agrees with me, pointed out the irony in the fact that the SPCA checks all horses in the formation area to see that they are healthy, yet no official checks to see if marching units include underage kids.

Saturation point?

Mardi Gras in Orleans Parish, in its current iteration, is an embarrassment of riches — more quantity and quality than ever. But have we finally reached a saturation point?

The overriding negative of this season was the same as in several recent years: Back-to-back parades are on the street too long, some ending well after midnight, causing parade fatigue for dues-paying float riders and weary parade goers, not to mention safety concerns.

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Shriners ride as the Krewe of Okeanos parades on the Uptown route in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

Five parades included more than 100 units (one had 149). More than one-third of the krewes that parade on St. Charles Avenue ignored the ordinance which limits parades to 12 units in front of the first float—elements such as Shriners’ scooters, riding lieutenants, flambeaux, parade trackers, bands, etc. One parade had 26, another 24, another 20.

The annual post-Carnival meeting of the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council on March 20 should include an honest discussion of how the krewes can work with the city to better manage one of its most precious assets.

Meanwhile, the City Council established a new Carnival Legislative Advisory Committee to conduct a postmortem on this season, with its first public meeting set for April 10.

With Fat Tuesday falling on March 4 in 2025, we have time to find acceptable solutions.

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