I don't know what they think they're looking at.. or where they're looking. Because, from my point of view.. and I've been all over.. the crowds have seemed surprisingly light so far. But, OK, Barry Kern says differently.
Float builder Barry Kern says so far, the crowds have been larger than he's ever seen.I haven't been, you know, counting every person every night so I'm not privy to the sensitive statistical information housed in the Kern Command Center. But I have seen enough Carnival crowds to know when one is too thick for its own good and these have not been like that at all.
“I think Saturday, Sunday and into Mardi Gras day are going to be a blockbuster,” said Kern, president of Kern Studios.
New Orleans police are indeed expecting record crowds, and want to make sure everyone is safe. With the number of officers at a historic low, they have brought in more state troopers than ever to help.
I just flipped through my photos this year to see if I could offer you some visual evidence of the easygoing manageable parade crowds I've stood with but it turns out I have taken very few deliberate crowd shots this season. One big reason for that is the crowds haven't been anything to write home about.
I don't know what explains that. For a while I thought the weather was holding things back a bit. This was probably the case on Wednesday, in fact, when everybody thought it was going to rain as well as freeze and many just didn't bother risking it. But it didn't rain which left anyone willing to stand out in the cold a great view of Druids as well as what is easily the best Nyx parade thus far.
Nyx wasn't a spectacular parade. They used floats we'd already seen in Pontchartrain. Their theme was generic; one of several food-based themes this year. But they were a very solid parade which looked good, carried a lot of riders, and threw generous amounts of specialized and/or hand-made throws.
And since the crowd was so light, there were plenty of those throws to go around. Here's a typical scene from Nyx's ride.
When you're that visible to so many enthusiastic riders, you're gonna catch a lot of neat stuff.
The point is, folks did well out there that night because there weren't too many folks out there. But it was Wednesday and the threat of shitty weather was lingering over the evening.
Friday night should have been different. It was the first night of the long weekend. The weather was perfect. There were three parades on the schedule, two of those being among the year's most anticipated. And, yeah, people turned out but not in the numbers.. or at least the density.. we've come to expect for that night.
Like I said, my pictures are more of the action than they are of the crowds but, take my word for it, usually I can't get this close up to Hermes without having to duck and slide through a bank of ladders and chairs before elbowing several angry Uptown Ladies out of the way.
Which leads us to the new carnival ordinances. Are the (not really) new rules having an impact? We've always theorized that better adherence city ordinances and just general politeness could make a large crowd seem less oppressive to the people trying to get along among it. Maybe this is what's happening.
It's certainly true that a lot of people are making an effort to comply with the rules this year. Here are some ladders placed the required six feet away from the curb Saturday morning. These are not the exceptions that they once were. Most people are doing this right.
Sure there are still some tents and structures and things that clearly aren't allowed out there. But there are fewer of these and, in most cases, they are being deployed with some consideration for the surrounding participants.
Still, I don't think that's what explains my perceived difference in the size of this year's parade crowds. They seem a bit smaller to me. Now maybe that's about to change tomorrow morning. We'll find out. I'll get a good look at everybody from the parade's point of view.