High school bands performed, costumed marching groups danced, and float riders threw Moon Pies to the thousands who turned out Saturday for New Orleans’ first big parade since the outbreak of coronavirus caused the city’s trademark brand of frivolity to be halted.

Lacey Sanders, a member the Pussyfooters marching group, said that “it’s better than Christmas.” “I’ve been waiting since April 2020 for this.”

After more than a year in which the coronavirus had largely ended parades, the streets were filled with tourists and residents who came to see the Krewe of Boo parade, the first float parade since Mardi Gras 2020.

Krewe of Boo, a Halloween-themed parade, runs from the Marigny neighborhood of the city, through the French Quarter, and into the Warehouse District. The float riders dress in Halloween costumes and hand out trinkets or beads to the crowds.

Streets were lined with people wearing glittery or sequined costumes. Children in costumes were carried by parents on their shoulders. The Rolling Elvi, an Elvis tribute group that rides scooters, took photographs with one another. While students from Lafayette Academy practiced their moves, dancers and marching bands warmed up.

These would all have been regular sites in a normal year. However, many people are aware of how long it has been since such an event occurred.

“This is one the most wonderful feelings I have ever experienced in a very long period of time. It’s just beautiful,” Jordan Philebar, a New Orleans resident, said as she rode a floating float with four family members. It’s wonderful to feel slightly normal again.

Mardi Gras 2020 is largely credited for helping to make the city a hot spot for coronavirus. Parades and music festivals were cancelled as the severity of the pandemic became clear.

The city should be able to pull off the Halloween-themed Krewe of Boo parade without an increase in COVID-19 infection. This will help Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s tentative plans to bring back the extravagant Mardi Gras procesions that fill the streets of the city during the annual preLenten celebration.

Cantrell stated in a tweet that “this is a step toward the return of Mardi Gras Next Spring” after announcing in September the Krewe of Boo parade could continue. “What we do now will determine what happens next!” 

Friday’s mayor stated that Mardi Gras would continue next year unless COVID numbers take a dramatic turn for the worse. Her strongest remarks yet were that the huge parades that are part of the annual celebration would be back.

Melanie Smith, a New Orleans resident, walked along Elysian Fields Avenue with her granddaughter on Saturday. She took photos of some very good costumes and participated in something she had not been able do for more than a year.

It is something we miss. She said that the locals miss it greatly and are glad to be back. She expressed hope that the parade would not lead to more coronavirus cases, despite the city’s increasing vaccination rates.

Riders and members of marching groups had to be vaccinated or prove negative in COVID-19 tests as part of Saturday’s safety precautions for Krewe of Boo.

Health officials also conducted a study on coronavirus spread to large groups during the parade. Around 40 volunteers and health workers were expected to be on the parade route to help people complete the survey and give out goody bags to all who took part. The 40 participants dressed up in Halloween costumes as Dr. Anthony Fauci (White House adviser and face to the federal pandemic response).

Last year, Krewe of Boo was disbanded and this year’s Mardi Gras featured a more subdued affair with no parades and a largely empty French Quarter. As the spread of vaccinations increased and infections fell, the city relaxed restrictions on restaurants and music venues that were limited in capacity. Officials announced that they would accept applications for second-line parades and parades in the final stages of loosening restrictions.

Parades were questioned after the rise of the delta variety, which flooded hospitals throughout the state this summer. In September, Cantrell declared that Krewe of Boo would now be permitted to parade. She acknowledged the efforts of residents to slow down the spread of the delta variant.

Stephen Hawkins, a New Orleans resident, watched the parade along with his family. However, as a Krewe de Lune member, he also knows what it is like to parade. Hawkins said that the krewe’s dancers were trained throughout the pandemic, both outside and from afar, but had no one to perform for. Their time had come.

He stated that everyone in their krewe had been vaccinated, but it was impossible to do the same for the thousands of people who crowded the parade route. He expressed his hope that Saturday would be the start of Mardi Gras next season.

“We look forward to Mardi Gras 2020. He said, “This is the dry run.”