(Feb. 4) Not even a pandemic can contain the whimsically celebratory spirit of Mardi Gras.

In Mobile, Alabama, where Mardi Gras in North America was born, and in New Orleans and nearby Louisiana communities where it mushroomed into a world-renowned extravaganza, the corona-cancellation of parades and masquerade balls has spawned a new iteration of Carnival.

Instead of Mardi Gras, it’s Yardi Gras. Instead of floats on wheels, there now are “porch parades.”

All over scenic neighborhoods in Mobile and Louisiana, creative residents this year are festooning porches and yards with elaborate decorations, often with large, papier-mache figures of the sort that ordinarily would adorn floats. Thus, even though masses of people can’t gather to watch parades to roll by, at least anyone with a yen for Carnival can drive through town at their own leisure in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras and smile at the colorful displays.

Maybe there’s some organizational thought behind it, but to a visitor, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the location and subject matter of the pageantry — all of which makes it even more fun. Drive through the old Oakleigh Garden District or Church Street East neighborhoods in Mobile, and you’ll see one house with a massive comic-strip tiger Hobbes pushing a large Calvin down the front-porch steps in a wheelbarrow. You might go another block or two and see almost no Carnival-themed arrays, only then to encounter three or four houses in a single block decked out in full force.

Here’s the top half of late Grateful Dead maestro Jerry Garcia on a front lawn. There is the sea god Poseidon. Yonder are the Three Little Pigs of fairy-tale fame, and next door are a centipede and a muppet….

[For the rest of this description of our wonderful porch parades, go here.]



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