SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Clyde Fant Parkway will stay quiet this year. Beads won’t hang from trees or street poles. Hundreds of thousands of people won’t await ornate floats to pass.
Yes, Mardi Gras across Northwest Louisiana just isn’t the same in 2021. Though the culprit is invisible, its presence is seen in exhausted hospitals across the ArkLaTex and around the world.
But, for Corky Bridges, the parade chairman for the Krewe of Centaur, spirits remain high - even though he has no parade to plan.
“I like to think my cup is half-full, it’s never half-empty,” he said. “Normally, I would be knee-deep in parade planning with the city, the parade task force, SPAR, city police, city fire.”
In November, the City of Shreveport announced it would not be approving any parade permits during the first quarter of 2021 due to the pandemic.
The Krewe of Centaur, an organization with 750 members, according to Bridges, should be celebrating its 30th year. But, for now, parties and gatherings are on pause for obvious reasons.
“We pride ourselves on putting on a fabulous show for the citizens of Shreveport,” Bridges said. “The members themselves believe in Centaur, it’s rooted deep in every one of them.”
However, the Krewe of Centaur is not simply pretending the events of 2020 never occurred. Instead, Bridges said his Krewe re-worked its theme to reflect the times.
“I feel blessed that my idea is what ended up being this year’s theme: ‘29 and Holding.’”
The Krewe’s 2021 poster has all of the markings of 2020, including a mask, rolls of toilet paper, and the infamous red-crowned coronavirus icon.
“I think our community is looking for something to celebrate,” Bridges explained.
There seems to be a silver lining amidst the parade-less Mardi Gras, Bridges added, explaining the circumstances have allowed Centaur to focus more on giving back to the community.
“We adopted a Catholic church cemetery down the street from us on North Market, we’ve taken on the task of beautifying that place,” Bridges said. “We donated I want to say about $4,800 to the Toys-For-Tots program this year.”
Of course, the Krewe of Centaur is not alone in mourning Mardi Gras 2021. So is the local economy.
According to a report examining the economic impact of the 2019 Mardi Gras parades, an estimated $23 million was injected into the local economy.
“Collectively, during the Mardi Gras season, the City of Shreveport and Bossier, for that matter, sees a drastic increase in revenue,” Bridges said. “Unfortunately, with the cancellations, you won’t see that this year.”
But, with over 200 thousand Louisianans having received at least a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and with vaccinations continuing into the indefinite future, Bridges is hopeful that Mardi Gras 2022 will contain two years’ worth of joy.
“We’re going to make a comeback,” he said, with a hopeful grin on his face. “I think we’re going to break records...and I think next year you’ll see a huge outpouring of love and support.”