2020 Mardi Gras fatalities in New Orleans lead to proposed changes to tandem floats


NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — After a year of no parades and millions of dollars lost, plans are underway for Carnival to make a triumphant return next year. Some floats will see some big changes.

The floats are still expected to be as exquisite as ever and parade goers likely won’t even notice the changes Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee is proposing to protect them.

“I think this is going to be one of the biggest and best Mardi Gras’ ever that the city has put on,” said James Reiss III, a member of Rex.

With hosting Mardi Gras comes a host of responsibilities. The city is refining security and crowd control plans and making sure floats are safe.

In 2020, two people died after getting caught between tandem floats during parades.

Emergency personnel work the scene after a person was run over and killed by a float in the Mystic Krewe of Nyx parade during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)

Mayor Cantrell then made crews separate the floats.

“I believe the tandem floats is what makes some of the larger crews what they are,” said Elroy James, President of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. “We’re able to bring more creative ideas with tandem floats.”

Now, the Mayor’s committee has drafted an ordinance which would require tandem floats to have a complete enclosure of the ends and corners of each unit. The proposal has to be sponsored by a city council member and voted into law.

“It shows what happens when we collaborate as crew captains and float builders to try and make sure that we preserve some of Mardi Gras’ traditions,” James said.

Mardi Gras sunset from B. Sherrer

Float builder Barry Kern has already drafted a plan to improve tandem float safety. He would like crews to start using mesh fencing, similar to what you would see at a construction site to keep people from walking between the floats.

“The ends will be connected to the floats and it will be longer than just the distance of the float when it’s going straight. It’s got to be long enough…it will have some ruffles in it so when it makes a turn, it can stretch out,” said Kern, CEO and President of Mardi Gras World and Kern Studios.

The safety netting would be interchangeable between floats. Kern believes people likely will not notice the addition.

“They’re really looking at the throws and they’re interacting,” Kern said. “This is just going to stop them from really getting caught up in the moment and walking between the sections of the floats.”

Crews are also urging their members and anyone planning to go to a parade to get vaccinated. The crews do not want Carnival to become another super spreader event.

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