New Orleans walking krewes struggle to afford carnival security

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 11:26 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that Mardi Gras krewes could prepare to roll down traditional routes with the security they need, smaller krewes say they’re struggling.

Traditionally, parades that don’t roll out in the two weeks leading up to and on Fat Tuesday have to pay or provide their own security, sanitation and EMS. Pre-COVID, walking krewes say the cost was usually reasonable, with their membership fees quickly covering the expense.

But for Carnival 2023, the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus and other groups say finalizing their plans were pricey and last-minute.

“We’re paying twice as much for security this year. Half of our cost is going to NOPD and we have private security that we had to hire at the request of NOPD,” krewe Overlord Aryanna Gamble said. “For a bottom line, it’s a lot of anxiety to make sure we do it but for us, it’s important to keep the Marigny in our route. Those businesses along St. Claude, Chewbacchus is their biggest night of the year.”

While Chewbacchus was able to get their plans in place in the weeks before their parade rolls out on Jan. 28, other small krewes say it’s been a challenge to get their routes and security worked out with the city.

Just this week, the Krewe of ‘tit Rəx got their final invoice from the Office of Secondary Employment and noticed some glaring issues.

“We’re sitting here dealing with all these massive bills, clerical errors,” co-captain Janine Hayes said. “It’s always like this for us. We seem to get slighted. We seem to get treated like the step-children when we are a loved krewe. People love us.”

The invoice listed them as a krewe of 1,000 members with 35 floats. As a result, they were billed $3,067.16 for police services and other parade-related expenses. The invoice listed 18 officers for the 2.5-hour parade, which has traditionally only needed two or three. It was an eye-opener for just under 100 people who pulled around shoe-box-sized “floats” down the street.

“By now, we’ve been parading for 15 years; they should know what our parade is,” Hayes said. “It’s $2,000 more than what we paid last year and we’re parading for a half hour less than last year. We’re very confused about that.”

While the krewe has reached out to city officials to try and fix the clerical errors before their Feb. 4 parade date, other krewes of similar size say planning for Carnival 2023 has caused headache after headache.

“It’s just hard to get real facts but what’s undeniable is that the new regulations that are being imposed on them are arduous and coming really late in the game,” Arthur Hardy, Mardi Gras Guide publisher, said.


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FOX 8 spoke with the leader of krewedelusion, who says it is also getting billed higher than anticipated from the city. The official did not want to be identified, but he said he received his final invoice Thursday afternoon and it lists $15,000 for NOPD officers and Orleans Parish deputies for the parade. He says it’s all for an additional 20 security personnel that the city is calling for after only paying $4,500 in 2022.

In addition, krewedelusion has to pay $1,900 for EMS and find its own sanitation company for clean-up after the procession.

The krewedelusion leader says the high bill worries and frustrates him, considering that NOPD moved the parade from its traditional Saturday route to Sunday, Feb. 5. In response, some members have dropped out of the parade and opted for refunds, leaving the krewe in more financial strain.

“Some of these krewes simply can’t afford it. This could be the death now for them. It will be a loss for carnival,” Hardy said. “I think something has to be done and maybe it getting this bad, this late will get everyone at the table.”

Hardy suggests that the smaller parades should have a representative at the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee since they are culturally and financially crucial to carnival and involve around 8,000 members.

He thinks that walking krewes and parades that don’t fall under the Mardi Gras Ordinance will have more say in the season as a whole.

“We seem to get slighted and treated like stepchildren. People love us. Our parades are some of the people’s favorite parades,” Hayes said.

We contacted Mayor Cantrell’s administration and the NOPD for answers about why krewes are being charged so much for security and other expenses. We have not heard back.

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