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Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021

Mardi Gras 2021

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A new wrinkle for carnival season

In New Orleans, scores of houses across the city will be draped in masses of beads during Carnival season; they will resemble floats. Shreveport, too, will join the list of cities that will be worth watching despite the attempt to slow the spread of Covid by nixing the parades.

“Decorate your house – and win a prize,” said Matthew Linn of the Krewe of Highland (KOH), aiming his clarion call at the creative people in Highland.

“And decorating can be done inexpensively,” said Mardi Gras mask guru Dennis Beckman.

LaToya Cantrell, mayor of New Orleans, is chanting the same mantra: “Mardi Gras can be creative, innovative and interactive,” she says.

Exemplars of Highland’s can-do vibe are Chad and Brandi Alexander on Creswell Avenue, a few blocks north of Kings Highway. “We’ve got LED floodlights that light the front of the house each year as Christmas lights. With a color change via the remote controller, they become purple, green and gold for Mardi Gras season.” Their purple bungalow has a Mardi Gras flag at the peak of the front porch. The porch columns are wrapped in tulle fabric, Brandi said.

“At $2 a yard, tulle is inexpensive and can be used to make wreaths, garlands and bows. You can easily outline your doors in tulle,” Brandi adds. Also recommended: “Self-adhesive metallic foil, which is more expensive.” The house will soon have a plywood emblem: “A Krewe of Highland alligator that’s emerging from a king cake,” said Chad.

“Your house becomes your float,” noted Darras Lattier, a Krewe of Highland board member. As a member of the leadership group, he is expected to participate and to judge but will not be eligible to win a prize in the house contest. Lattier said, “We’re making lemonade out of lemons by decorating houses instead of floats.” While his decorating plan is not yet complete, he wants to see everything in purple and gold. “We are making a bright Christmas-like event in February (Fat Tuesday is Feb. 16; the Highland parade would have been on Sunday, Feb. 14, or St. Valentine’s Day.) We’re making a trail of lights.”

Like many, Lattier is a believer in the talent of the residents of Highland. “There are tons of artists in Highland. There are plenty of eccentric people. The range of expression in this area is way off the chart.”

Sydni Smith, captain of the krewe, noted that the theme is “Hindsight is 20-20.” She plans to festoon the roof of her house on Dalzell Street with a “nice pair of butt cheeks with cutouts and eyeballs.” Her plan is to add lights that change color and flash to the music. Smith’s block will have an unusual number of decoration displays. “Five of my neighbors are decorating,” she says.

Smith sees larger issues being addressed by the decoration contest. “I hope people who come to see the lights will see and realize the value of Highland.”

The Krewe of Highland entrance monies are largely returned to the neighborhood, says Smith. “Fees are paid to the police, and a contribution is made to the Byrd High School Marching Band. This year we added lights to Columbia Park and a bicycle pump to the park.”

Krewe of Highland membership fees begin at $35. At $65, the price includes a ticket to the coronation event and the storied Krewe of Highland Bal Masque. That package for a couple is $120. Sponsorships enable businesses to connect with Highland.

At the Enchanted Garden, Deb Cockerell’s emporium at 2429 Line Avenue, there are wreaths, giant medallions and flags for house decorating. Better yet, there are the ideas and deep background that come from Dennis Beckman, mask-maker extraordinaire. Beckman’s masks have been featured in a one-person art show at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum. He is a fount of decorating knowledge and is generous and thoughtful in his responses. For example, a few nails around a door frame allow a decorator to add a surrounding fabric swag to the front of a house.

Ideas from downtown mural artist Will James, who created the giant Ruth Bader Ginsberg portrait on Texas Avenue near the Aseana Park, center around music. Like many Louisianians, his Christmas tree becomes a Mardi Gras tree on Twelfth Night, the traditional beginning of Carnival season across the Bayou State. Because he is an auditory person, emanating from his tree, his house and wherever he is working are an eclectic assortment of melodies. “The songs of Mardi Gras are more varied than we sometimes realize.” His sound mix includes African-influenced music from the Caribbean: Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba and Colombia. “People don’t necessarily know that Mardi Gras often called Carnaval in Europe and other continents is a global celebration. There’s the French music and Spanish music; there’s the jazz and Zulu music of New Orleans.”

The contest is aimed at people whose houses are on the parade route or close to it, says Matthew Linn.

1. Enter the contest by posting a photo of your home on our Facebook page.

2. Contest ends at midnight Feb. 13, with the winner being announced at Marilynn’s Place on Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m. The point scale: 10-5 points for on parade route, 7 points for one block off the parade route, 5 points for within three blocks of the parade route.

10-1 point sliding scale in reference for which home is over-the-top gaudy. 10-1 point sliding scale with the home with the brightest purple, gold and green lighting. As measured by a lumen meter, 10 points for the brightest array. 10-1 point on Closest to KOH Mardi Gras theme. Automatic 10 points for recycling/reuse of Christmas lights.

From 30 - 10 points from the People’s Choice Awards.

The prizes? First prize is $1,000 for KOH members and $500 for nonmembers. Second prize is $750 for KOH members, $375 for non-members. Third prize is $500 for KOH members, $250 for non-members.

House photos and rules clarifications will be updated regularly at https://www.facebook.com/kreweofhighland.

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