To say that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is resilient and full of spirit and culture is an immense understatement, especially as we have seen in recent months. The untypical year, caused by the spread of COVID, has made a tremendous impact on how events and how society has adapted to them. This Carnival season is no different. The Gulf Coast is determined to celebrate the season despite the spread of the virus but has devised a safe plan in action to do so. The cancellation of parades and other activities surrounding Mardi Gras will not dampen the spirit and joy of this special season for the Gulf Coast.
“This has been an unusual and trying Mardi Gras season for everyone,” Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Carnival Association Jennifer Schmidt said. “The Gulf Coast Carnival Association not being able to conduct a normal Mardi Gras for 2-21, designed a theme to keep the Carnival spirit alive.”
Dubbed “For the Love of Mardi Gras,” activities and parades have been canceled or adjusted for the safety of everyone. The GCCA has been celebrating Mardi Gras virtually by making daily social media posts of Mardi Gras celebrations of years past, and the organization has encouraged others to do the same.
“If we are not able to fill the streets with purple, green, and gold to celebrate the season, then let’s flood social media with festive Mardi Gras colors and memories,” Jennifer said.
Putting the concern and safety of the community foremost, the GCCA has opted not to hold a majority of its annual celebrations but is continuing with a few festivities that they feel will be safe for the community to take part in. No large gatherings are being held, such as annual galas and huge parties, but it is continuing to move forward with certain events that allow for safety, such as the 9th Annual 5K Run for the Beads which will be held Saturday, February 6, 2021, in downtown Biloxi. They are still making plans for hosting their annual golf tournament on May 22, 2021.
“All these events are conducted outside where everyone can practice safe social distancing,” Jennifer said.
Although it seems odd to not have parades and galas for the Mardi Gras season, this is not the first time that many festivities have been canceled. The GCCA has celebrated Mardi Gras since 1908, but during times of war or the Great Depression, parades and Carnival celebrations were also canceled. However, that did not hold down the spirit of the Mississippi Gulf Coast as they returned to the festivities as soon as the time was appropriate and safe, and this shall be no different. As soon as it is safe for the communities, the parades and galas will return. You can’t keep the spirit of the Gulf Coast down.
Schmidt encourages visitors and citizens to “keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive” by urging everyone to tour the Coastal MS Mardi Gras Museum to learn the history of the carnival season on the Gulf Coast, and the GCCA has come up with a unique and fun way to still celebrate in a safe manner.
“We invite the three coastal counties to participate in the Yardi Party contest and keep posting Mardi Gras memories of years past,” Jennifer said.
Many homes and businesses are encouraged to decorate their yards and homes to resemble Mardi Gras floats as a way for citizens to participate in the season and to keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive in visitors. What a sight to see as you drive down the Mississippi coastline—homes and businesses resembling floats and decked out to bring that carefree sense of celebration at a time that we need it more than ever.
“We encourage everyone to remain positive and are looking forward to an awe-inspiring 2022!!” Schmidt said.
And just like in years past, there is no doubt that the Carnival season will arise even grander and greater in years to come. If you’re feeling down, take a drive down the coastline and enjoy the beautifully decorated Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Mardi Gras celebrations will return because the spirit of the Gulf Coast and its citizens can never be held down. Even though we might be celebrating the season in a different manner, still enjoy the fun and excitement of the season as we look to a brighter future. So break out that purple, green, and gold, and help keep the resilient spirit of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Carnival Association. The celebrations will return and be even more spectacular than ever.