Carnival is in the air with Gretna celebrating its fair share of House Floats in the Old Gretna and Westbank Krewes, called subkrewes in the New Orleans citywide Krewe of House Floats.
Mayor Belinda Constant loves Mardi Gras, proven by the many times over the years that she and her family have played a significant role in various Carnival organizations’ parades and balls. The City of Gretna had to get creative to celebrate this year while following pandemic guidelines and it did just that!
The City is hosting “Parading Historic Gretna” on Sat., Feb. 13 from 6-8 p.m., a drive-by, pandemic-safe event to showcase the Gretna House Floats that will remain decorated through Mardi Gras.
Mayor Constant is requesting that all locals, especially the house float hosts wear costumes for the Parading Historic Gretna event, to give that extra flavor to the evening. She also wants to remind everyone that it is a drive-by parade only and people are not allowed to get out of their cars to walk around or receive “throws” that some of the House Floats may be offering.
The beautiful Live Oaks on Huey P. Long Avenue are lit with some of the old trees, including historic “Old Man Samuel,” embellished with stunning Mardi Gras float flowers. A huge king, queen and royal crown are on display and various houses along the Avenue are decorated as well.
Take a nice drive-by completely around the Avenue and then go off to “parade” along as you drive-by the House Floats in Old Gretna, McDonoghville and across the expressway to Garden Park and Timberlane. Many homes that are not members of the krewes are sporting Mardi Gras décor. There are decorated House Floats all over the “Bestbank!”
There will be a surprise going on during “Parading Historic Gretna” on the front porch of Mayor Constant’s residence at 720 Huey P. Long Avenue.
Enjoying the House Floats is a great way to enjoy the Carnival season, at your leisure, you pick the time convenient for you. Enjoy the drive-by in the daytime or at night since some of the homes are beautifully lit.
Amidst the House Float excitement, a true human interest situation occurred, kinda like a Hallmark moment.
Melanie Dixon, a passionate Mardi Gras fan signed up right away to captain the Old Gretna Krewe when she read about the House Float celebration that was kicking off in New Orleans. She instinctively knew that Gretna would be a great place to showcase its historic houses while enjoying a Covid-safe way for locals to celebrate Carnival.
Melanie Dixon, an IT project manager at Ochsner Health and her husband Michael, who was a prop builder and float painter in the past live in the 300 block of Newton Street with their daughter, Mia. They are all Mardi Gras costume buffs.
“This year, we will costume from our front porch!” Melanie said.
“I needed a partner with which to share the captain spot on the new krewe. A mutual friend told us about each other and Jessica Marasco Illes and I became co-captains and really good friends very soon after.
“She lives with her husband, Derek and six-month-old daughter, Scarlett and has always loved Mardi Gras, claiming that she was born in January and went to see Grela in February!”
Jessica, a financial advisor with Edward Jones was hyped and ready to roll on plans for “Yaaasss, Kween” our Old Gretna Krewe. Then, bam, disaster hit!
“Jessica and her husband, Derek developed Covid-19 symptoms the night before we were supposed to meet for coffee to start ramping up our planning for the Old Gretna Krewe,” Melanie said.
On Jan. 18, Derek got real sick quickly and a few days later, Jessica was Covid-positive as well. They both were bedridden, trying to take care of a six-month old and their two rescue dogs. They were hospitalized and their family and the community stepped up to the plate in a very big way.
“My dad drove from the Northshore at 10 o’clock at night and my neighbors, Heidi Rousselle and Anna Smith came over to help him with the baby. Unknown to us, my dad was suffering with a hernia and in a great deal of pain. We were taken to the hospital in an ambulance, not knowing if we were going to make it or not,” Jessica Illes said.
“We were diagnosed with bacterial and viral pneumonia and Derek had acute respiratory failure. We were down the hall from each other with no contact allowed. Derek’s sister, Brandee Couvillion drove down from Louisville, Kentucky to take care of Scarlett. Claire Pivach and Danny Vichot, a husband and wife veterinary team, Westside Veterinary Hospital boarded our dogs so that Brandee could take care of the baby without the burden of walking and taking care of the dogs.
“After 7 days in the hospital we came home and had to quarantine from the baby and Brandee until today, Feb. 9 which is also Derek’s birthday. He woke up this morning to a “Happy Birthday, Derek” sign in the front yard. Tonight there was a Happy Birthday drive-by in his honor.
“We cannot thank our neighbors enough for all they did. Our Christmas decorations were still up and they were kind enough to dismantle and pack up Christmas for us. Every night we’ve had a neighbor bring us dinner, like the birthday dinner we got tonight. Our neighbors not only took care of us, but of Brandee as well. Too many to name, lest I leave someone out, but all went way beyond. Moving to Old Gretna was the best decision we ever made. We have been humbled by the kindness of every single person that has reached out. We are so thrilled to be celebrating Derek’s birthday today with our daughter and our dogs. It could have easily gone the other way,” Jessica said.
Melanie, meanwhile, was concerned for another reason and said, “Jessica has not been able to decorate her house, which is sad because Mardi Gras is a huge passion for her and she is a big fan of Dolly Parton which is why she chose the theme of “Queen of Country – Dolly Parton.” She was able to keep her spirits up, however, by seeing everyone else’s decorations.
“I put a call out to our krewe for any leftover decorations that they might have and much needed help in decorating. The response was amazing. We will be decorating Jessica’s house at 314 2nd St. on Thurs., Feb. 11 from 4 – 6 p.m. if anyone else wants to help. The response that this community gave has been truly amazing. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Melanie said.
An address list of the “Yaaasss, Kween” houses is posted here and can also be found on GretnaGlance.com or on Facebook at The Old Gretna House Floats or Gretna Glance.
You can pick up a copy of the list at various Huey P. Long Avenue businesses including Gattuso’s, Roule’ Rolled Ice Cream, Common Grounds, Amore Bakery, El Gato Negro, Huey P’s Pizzeria, Thanh Thanh Restaurant, Rivershack, Gretna Depot, Gold’N Creations Jewelers, Furrytail Pet Shop and Fleurty Girl Gretna.
“WB – Warner Brothers” is the theme selected by the Westbank Krewe that has 65 official subkrewe members and counting. You’ll see fun names like Beetlejuicy, Harry Potter and more.
The krewe has specific throws including Westbank Krewe of House Floats doubloons and cups. Those throws will be given out on Mardi Gras as per instructions from the main Krewe of House Floats.
The Westbank and Old Gretna Krewes partnered to host a Food Drive ending on Feb. 15 that will benefit the Gretna Food Bank. Drop off locations are at the newly announced Winn Dixie Westbank locations including Gretna, Marrero and Algiers stores, as well as Creative Framing, Thai D’Jing, Gold N’Creations and Cafe Hope in Gretna and Bad Wolf Nerd Lair in Belle Chasse.