Covid kills Mardi Gras, MLK Jr. celebrations in Lafayette

Lafayette Mardi Gras 2020 Image courtesy The Acadiana Advocate

The gist: A different kind of war has canceled Mardi Gras parades and festivities this year. 

It’s been some seven decades since this disruption has happened in Lafayette, when parades were called off during World War II and several years later during the Korean War. This year, it’s a war against a deadly virus — one that has already claimed 191 people in Lafayette and 7,498 in the state and is stressing hospitals and their staffs — that’s to blame for canceling the biggest celebration of the year. 

“It was a very difficult call,” says attorney John Chappuis, a board member and judge advocate for the Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association. Chappuis says the group held roughly three dozen meetings in recent months to try to figure out a way to keep events going while staying in compliance with the state’s Covid restrictions. Potentially complicating the effort to make Lafayette’s parades safe and family-friendly was the likelihood that people from other communities would flock to the city after their own parades had been canceled by their mayors. 

Guillory refused to cancel parades. Content to let organizers themselves make the decision, Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s administration made it clear that it had no intention of canceling Mardi Gras. “He was a champion of us trying to do this,” Chappuis says, noting Guillory hoped they could come up with a safe solution. The mayor-president was under increasing pressure to call off public celebrations but did not relent. 

Most krewes had already scrapped their balls, and Washington Mardi Gras was nixed in June. Greater Southwest and the Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Association, which runs the fair that fuels Greater Southwest’s budget, both announced today that all remaining Mardi Gras events would be canceled. The fair is held on university grounds, and the university would not guarantee the space unless the governor’s Covid order could be followed, Chappuis says. 

The Krewe of Rio, which is not under Greater Southwest’s umbrella, confirmed Friday that it had called off its parade. Both Rio and Greater Southwest hinted that they will soon announce alternative ways to celebrate.

“[W]hile parades will not roll, rest assured that Greater Southwest is working with member Krewes to provide safe alternatives to our traditional Mardi Gras festivities. Stay tuned for details to follow,” the group said in today’s press release.

In related news, state Sen. Gerald Boudreaux announced early this afternoon that all MLK Day celebrations would be canceled as well. For the past 35 years, a local organizing committee, which Boudreaux now chairs, has coordinated a weekend of activities, programs and events in conjunction with the federal holiday honoring the life and legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.