New Orleans raises regulations on ladders at Mardi Gras


Amy Ngo

Two ladders stand by the sidewalk. Due to new regulations from New Orleans City Council, ladders must be removed from the parade route.

Amy Ngo, Pack News

St. Charles Avenue was lined with colorful walls of ladders, step stools, folding chairs and tents belonging to people who were just trying to save a spot to witness what some call the “best free party in the world.” 

For some, this “party in the streets” was something they grew up with. 

“For me, it’s like a family holiday. I’ve never known a life without it,” Katherine Madigan, a New Orleans resident, said about Mardi Gras. 

Madigan hadn’t missed a single Mardi Gras in her life. She and her family scheduled her open-heart surgery around the holiday, just to be sure they could all make it. 

However, last year, when the New Orleans Police Department took to the streets before parades started rolling to take down and move personal items from the neutral ground, Madigan was shocked. 

“When we were younger, we lived right on the parade route, we just had our ladders. That’s what we did. That’s what everyone did,” Madigan said while flipping through images of her and her brother on their ladder boxes as little kids. 

New Orleans City Council passed ordinances in the Municipal Code putting regulations on Mardi Gras. Some argued the regulations were vague. So, when police and other city officials started enforcing unclear rules, residents were frustrated and wanted change. 

“I remember last year, a lot of ladders got taken down, destroyed, thrown away, lost. So, maybe we’ll be seeing a lot more people trying to replace their ladders from last year that they lost,” said Charles Torres, Mardi Gras ladder box assembler and decorator at Freret Hardware and Paint. 

This year, the Council amended the vague Mardi Gras regulations that caused that controversy. They now read: “all ladders and/or personal items left on the public right-of-way must be removed four hours or more before a parade, and at the end of the final parade that same day.” 7

Not only are the ladders not allowed in the route 4 hours before the parade begins, krewes are prohibited from throwing corrugated boxes, paper streamers or other paper products that do not biodegrade when wet, and empty single-use plastic bags are also prohibited. 

An item listed as “element” has been defined as “any marching band, military bands, dance club, walking club, riding club, or dance troupe in a Mardi Gras float parade larger than a group of fifteen participants, not including chaperones, helpers, support vehicles, and public safety vehicles.” There were also restrictions on how many people can be involved in these elements for the sake of time during parades. 

And though Madigan and Torres can appreciate the special time of year that is Carnival, they agree on one thing: “It could be a bummer, but it’s not the end of the world. The parade will go on,” Madigan said. 

“It will be business as usual,” said Torres.