Floods and hurricanes aren’t enough to stop the New Orleans revelry: City officials announced Wednesday that the Mardi Gras celebration is on for February, though it will be a few days shorter than usual.
The hurricane-battered city’s plan is to allow eight days of festivities for the annual pre-Lenten party, and to consider corporate sponsorships to help defray the city’s cost, said Ernest Collins with city’s Office of Economic Development.
The city initially pitched a six-day schedule — half the normal length — because of concerns over the cost of overtime pay for police, emergency responders and sanitation crews. But parade krewes complained six days wasn’t enough.
“It’s common sense,” said Ed Muniz, captain of Endymion, a Saturday night parade that is one of the city’s biggest. “This is a city people love to visit, and this is one of the events that makes New Orleans what it is.”
The compromise, which still requires the mayor’s approval, calls for parades during the weekend of Feb. 18-19, and the following Thursday, Feb. 23, through Mardi Gras, Feb. 28, Collins said.
Overtime for police may be possible on Mardi Gras and the weekend when some of the biggest parades roll through the city, Collins said. Only eight hours of parades could roll during the rest of the truncated season.
Police Chief Warren Riley said he worries about the extra pay but is happy with the compromise.
The plan would save money for police by confining all clubs to the same parade route along St. Charles Avenue.
City to seek corporate sponsors
Traditionally, Mardi Gras parades have been kept non-commercial, but Collins said the city will also seek corporate sponsorships this year and help from the hospitality industry and parade krewes to help with the city’s costs, such as policing and cleanup.
“We don’t want overt commercialization of Mardi Gras, but at the same time there are opportunities to bring in corporate underwriters where we can intelligently incorporate their message and their brand into celebration,” Collins said.
Tourism officials said they expect about 20,000 hotel rooms to be available to visitors during Mardi Gras, down from the normal 36,000. Crowds also will likely be smaller because so many residents have been displaced.