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Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade canceled; board hoping to reschedule

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BATON ROUGE - Amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns, the 2021 Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade won't roll through downtown on Feb. 13, after the city-parish did not approve plans, board president Robert King tells WBRZ.


While officials hope to reschedule the 41st installment of the pink parade later in the year, it's unclear when that would be. 


As other Baton Rouge Mardi Gras krewes, like Orion and Southdowns, previously nixed plans for their 2021 parades, Spanish Town officials had been holding out hope. 


Earlier this month, King requested a meeting with Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome to discuss holding an altered parade or event. In turn, he was told Spanish Town organizers needed to turn in a written plan for safer alternatives. 


For Spanish Town, that parade plan included lengthening the route to allow revelers to spread out, cutting the number of floats in half, and requiring float riders to wear masks and gloves. 


Should a parade not be possible, King also recommended a second option: a non-parade, public event in Spanish Town that included Mardi Gras themed house decorations, similar to plans by Mid City Gras to hold a 'reverse parade,' an idea that had been discussed with the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association. 


King envisioned a festival-like atmosphere, with food trucks lining portions of the route. 


Those suggestions, once submitted, were given to the mayor's medical advisory board, which consists of representatives from capital area hospitals, for review. 


Tuesday's announcement comes as Krewe officials were nearing a self-imposed deadline. In November, King told WBRZ, parade officials would need a decision on the parade's status by Wednesday, Dec. 30. 


"If we have at least 45 days, I think we can put a parade together," King said. 


The Spanish Town Mardi Gras Ball, set for late January, was canceled in November due to restrictions on crowd sizes and alcohol service, among other things. 


As talk of Mardi Gras 2021's fate heated up in November, the mayor's office held a conference call with Baton Rouge krewes and medical experts to discuss options for carnival celebrations and possible alternatives.


Following that meeting, Broome said it was too early for any decisions to be made, but expressed competing concerns: impacts on the capital city's economy and public health.


"I welcome our parade organizers to propose events where participants can stay socially distanced and safe," a Nov. 20 statement read.


In the months leading up to Tuesday's decision to cancel the upcoming parade, King acknowledged a parade in 2021 might not be in the cards with so many competing factors, from liability to safety to logistics. 


At the same time, he and board members had remained cautiously optimistic, saying the city needed the celebration.


"This has been a bad year for a lot of people," King told WBRZ in October. "We need to put the smiles out there and make people laugh. That's something that's missing right now."

Other Mardi Gras celebrations around the state have also been canceled or scaled back, including in Pointe Coupee Parish and New Orleans.

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