After a few solid years of excellent Mardi Gras events, COVID-19 has put the kibosh on the Bayou Mardi Gras Association’s festivities for 2021. But that doesn’t mean the Mardi Gras spirit is dead in New iberia.
Local artist and educator Paul Schexnayder is back up to his community organizer tricks, cheerleading an effort to have residents bring the season alive at home with their own “Yardi Gras” displays to fill out a virtual drive-by parade through the city.
Schexnayder said he lifted the idea from social media groups that were planning to create routes of “house floats” for revelers to visit in a safe, social distanced way since parades were being cancelled.
“I saw it in New Orleans, then saw Lafayette starting one, so I thought, ‘That would be cool,’” Schexnayder said. “Then I thought about what I could do on my porch and came up with some ideas.”
Aside from the flags and bunting around the house and yard, Schexnayder painted famous masks that are displayed along the front of his house on Main Street.
“They didn’t handle the rain well,” he laughed. “The only color that seems to have stuck was the white.”
Next door to Schexanayder, the poster children for Main Street decorations have already decked out their home. Jason Bayard and his wife, Helen, have created a tableau that incorporates Mardi Gras costumes in every window of their home.
“My wife started it last year,” Jason Bayard said. “For Christmas, she did a tree in every window. So when Mardi Gras came around, she put an outfit in every window.”
He said that the effort seems to be catching on.
“People have been decorating more,” Bayard said. “So when Paul said ‘Let’s do Yardi Gras,’ we tied in to a ‘New Iberia Decorated’ page we created on Facebook.”
Schexnayder realized that the Yardi Gras effort could be run the same way that last year’s “Drive-By Art Walk” did, with those wanting to decorate submitting their locations so a master map could be built.
“If they still want to participate, they can reach out to me on Facebook,” Schexnayder said. “When it is done, we are going to give a copy of the map to the Iberia Parish Tourism Office.”
So far, he said there have been about a dozen houses added to the list. Those wanting to participate have to have their decorations up no later than Jan. 28 to be included on the map.
For those who are decorating junkies like the Bayards, Jason Bayard said that they should reach out through the “New Iberia Decorates” Facebook page.
“We do Halloween, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July,” he rattled off. “We’re going to use that page to let everyone know when decorations are going up.”