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New Orleans begins subdued Mardi Gras season with plenty of cake

Revellers have been forced to adapt to pandemic restrictions but are still finding creative ways to mark the season.

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Peggy Scott Laborde and members of the Krewe of Oak toast Carnival as the Phunny Phorty Phellows start their 40th anniversary streetcar ride ushering in Carnival at the Willow Street car barn in New Orleans, (David Grunfeld/The New Orleans Advocate/AP)

Peggy Scott Laborde and members of the Krewe of Oak toast Carnival as the Phunny Phorty Phellows start their 40th anniversary streetcar ride ushering in Carnival at the Willow Street car barn in New Orleans, (David Grunfeld/The New Orleans Advocate/AP)

Peggy Scott Laborde and members of the Krewe of Oak toast Carnival as the Phunny Phorty Phellows start their 40th anniversary streetcar ride ushering in Carnival at the Willow Street car barn in New Orleans, (David Grunfeld/The New Orleans Advocate/AP)

A subdued Carnival season is under way in New Orleans after the coronavirus pandemic put an end to the crowd-heavy balls and street parades that draw thousands of people to the city every year.

The Mardi Gras season always starts on January 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), which this year falls on February 16.

The season is usually marked by extravagant balls and parades where costumed riders throw trinkets to the mobs of people packed along the parade routes.

The coronavirus has put an end to those large events.

But that has not stopped notoriously creative New Orleanians from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate.

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A confetti cannon is launched at the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc drive-through parade in Behrman Memorial Park in Algiers for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/AP)

A confetti cannon is launched at the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc drive-through parade in Behrman Memorial Park in Algiers for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/AP)

AP/PA Images

A confetti cannon is launched at the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc drive-through parade in Behrman Memorial Park in Algiers for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/AP)

The Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc is a club that annually pays homage to the fallen French hero with a parade through the French Quarter on the official start of the Carnival season.

This year, the krewe hosted a Tableaux De Jeanne d’Arc, where onlookers drove by various “tableaux”, a French term for “living pictures”, that included stations of costumed revellers sparring as knights, sharpening their swords and feasting at a grand fireplace with a pig roasting in the background.

“Life as usual is gone, so we had to look for different ways of doing things this year,” said Antoinette de Alteriis, one of the club’s captains.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows, a group that usually gathers on January 6 to mark the beginning of the season with a costumed party on a street car, also altered its plans.

Usually throngs of people gather at the facility where the street car starts its journey to see the group off, but this year people were asked to disperse along the street car route and watch from there instead.

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Float riders throw beads from a float with the theme Beastly Kingdoms, in the Krewe of Orpheus parade on Napoleon Avenue during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans last year before the effects of the pandemic were felt (Matthew Hinton/AP)

Float riders throw beads from a float with the theme Beastly Kingdoms, in the Krewe of Orpheus parade on Napoleon Avenue during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans last year before the effects of the pandemic were felt (Matthew Hinton/AP)

AP/PA Images

Float riders throw beads from a float with the theme Beastly Kingdoms, in the Krewe of Orpheus parade on Napoleon Avenue during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans last year before the effects of the pandemic were felt (Matthew Hinton/AP)

But people can still eat cake — king cake that is.

The sweet cakes, which are decorated with the official Carnival colours of purple, green and gold, are only to be eaten starting on January 6.

In Mobile, Alabama, dozens of parades, balls and other events also have been cancelled.

The city on the Gulf of Mexico calls itself the birthplace of Mardi Gras since celebrations began there a few years earlier than in New Orleans.

Coastal Alabama typically begins its observances later in January than New Orleans, meaning the current coronavirus surge could be easing by the time events were set to start.

But multiple organisations began announcing cancellations last month to protect the health of members and revellers.

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