Carnival krewe wants compensation from NFL
New Orleans, La. -- Crews unloaded equipment outside Gallier Hall Wednesday afternoon to begin setting up parade viewing stands.
This year the Carnival season begins early in New Orleans because of where Easter falls on the lunar schedule, and because of the Super Bowl which the city is hosting.
Fat Tuesday, the culmination of the Carnival season falls on February 12 this year, and the first full weekend of parades will roll a week early to accommodate the Super Bowl. Parades will roll for a week, then stop for the big game, and resume afterward.
Not everyone is happy about the change in the parade schedule. The leader of one Carnival krewe said they should be compensated for the inconvenience and expenses associated with parading early.
At Mardi Gras World on the riverfront, company executive and float maker Barry Kern is always immersed in float building for Carnival. This year he is also focusing on the Super Bowl.
"It requires a lot more logistics and a lot more planning, but it's pretty much the same as we always do," Kern said.
The first parade of the season rolls on January 19.
"I think it's really sort of fun where you have your first week of parades, then all of a sudden you stop and you have a Super Bowl which is a lot of fun activity, and then all of a sudden it's Mardi Gras," said Mardi Gras historian Errol Laborde.
Laborde said it is really Carnival history repeating itself. "It happened once before, it happened in 2002," he said.
That was after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the NFL's postponement of some football games, Laborde said.
"It backed up the Super Bowl which happened to be in New Orleans that year," said Laborde. "Mardi Gras is so tradition-bound, it seemed like a really outrageous thing. But I think that that happening in 2002 kind of created the template for this time around," LaBorde continued.
Some parading organizations say the change comes at a big cost. "There's a major impact on the Mardi Gras clubs, in my estimation, anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000," said Sam Scandaliato, captain of the Krewe of Pontchartrain.
Scandaliato's krewe is set to roll on January 26. And he said having to roll so soon after the holidays has some out-of-town float riders skipping this year. He said participation this year is down about 10 percent.
"I think the clubs on that first weekend should be compensated in some degree by the NFL," said Scandaliato.
"I think everybody in New Orleans understands what an opportunity to have the Super Bowl here, even though it's not convenient or typical to what we normally do for Carnival. I think it's the right thing to do because this is important and we're going to be seen all over the country and all over the world," said Kern.
Laborde said early Carnival seasons affects tourism somewhat. "Because the feeling is, the closer you are to Christmas, the more difficult it is to get your money together," he said.
But Kern said parades in surrounding parishes will roll on Super Bowl Sunday and he thinks some Super Bowl visitors will arrive early and stay late to witness parades in the city.