Cheré Dastugue Coen
Krewe of Porches keeps Mardi Gras alive in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Carnival parades, balls and other festive but crowded activities have been canceled in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf South due to the COVID pandemic. But one Ocean Springs, Miss., resident is not facing Ash Wednesday without a fight.
This Carnival season — which extends from Jan. 6 to Mardi Gras, Feb. 16, 2021 — Heather Denison of Ocean Springs formed the Krewe of Porches, where instead of floats parading by homes and businesses, visitors and families will parade themselves by decorated porches and storefronts. Residents and businesses in this charming Coastal Mississippi town will decorate their front porches and building facades in Mardi Gras attire and the public will walk or drive around Ocean Springs enjoying the participating “porches” as laid out on a map. The public will then select favorites by voting through social media and prizes will be awarded.
Funds raised through Krewe of Porches will support art scholarships for children through the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) and the Friends of Arts, Culture & Education (FACE) in Ocean Springs. Krewe of Porches is a partnership between the Friends of Arts, Culture & Education (FACE), Historic Ocean Springs Association (HOSA), the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Public Art Project of Ocean Springs (PAPOS), and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.
“I read an article about a creative, Covid-friendly way that Krewe of Red Beans in New Orleans was embracing the lack of parades while also supporting local artists by hiring them to decorate porches,” said Denison in a press release. “We’re so fortunate in Ocean Springs that we have strong arts and cultural entities such as WAMA and FACE. I’ve long supported both their scholarship programs and thought we could adapt this idea for Ocean Springs as a fundraiser that would benefit art for area youth while keeping the Mardi Gras spirit alive.”
“Changes in plans, like those we’ve experienced over the past year, are also opportunities for inventiveness," said Julian Rankin, director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. "We’re excited to be a part of this creative adaptation to celebrate the Mardi Gras season with our partners and community.”
For more information about the event, visit the Krewe of Porches Facebook page, or contact the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce at (228) 875-4424.
There are similar porch-front Mardi Gras celebrations happening throughout The Secret Coast. The Coastal Mississippi Mardi Gras Museum is hosting a Yardi Party Decoration Contest for residents of all three coastal counties, and Hancock House Floats is offering prizes to residents and businesses of Hancock County with the best Carnival decorations.
If you live in Gautier, Pascagoula or Moss Point, Miss., you can even send your loved ones a Mardi Gras special by ‘Rouler’-ing their front yard. Learn more here.
Looking for more coastal Carnival cravings? Here are some suggestions from Coastal Mississippi tourism:
Start your day with a Mardi Gras Latte at Jacked Up Coffee Bar in Biloxi.
Enjoy a pint of Chandeleur Island Brewing Company’s King Cake Ale in Gulfport, or savor a King Cake Martini at Half Shell Oyster House inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi.
Book a Mardi Gras picnic through Coastal Picnic & Company. Pick your preferred picnic-style from one of four options, choose your add-on options such as gourmet cupcakes or a boho lace teepee, pick your spot and let their talented team do the rest.
Ever since the Gulf Coast Carnival Association hosted Biloxi’s first parade in 1908, Mardi Gras has become an iconic part of the culture of Coastal Mississippi. Relive the excitement with a visit to the Coastal Mississippi Mardi Gras Museum in Biloxi. The museum features costumes, photographs and memorabilia from the Coast’s 113 years of Mardi Gras celebrations.
Add a trip to the Bay Saint Louis Mardi Gras Museum to your itinerary. Rated the Best Free Attraction in Mississippi by Love Exploring, the museum is located inside the Bay Saint Louis Historic L&N Train Depot and explores the history of Mardi Gras celebrations in Hancock County. Be sure to check out the beautiful display of rotating costumes from over the years, largely featuring the all- female mystic society Krewe of Nereids.
Weird, Wacky & Wild South is written by travel writer and author Cheré Coen, who adores Carnival and didn't hesitate to try on a queen's mantle at the Bay Saint Louis Mardi Gras Museum. If you love Carnival too, check out her "Carnival Confessions" romantic novella under the pen name of Cherie Claire.