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Mardi Gras 2022 Chewbacchus parade route shortened due to lack of volunteer officers

Savann Mok
A parade-goer at The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus on Feb. 7, 2015.

The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus will cut its Saturday parade route almost in half after not enough police officers signed up to cover the event.

Subkrewes will now assemble at Royal Street and Elysian Fields Avenue and march into the French Quarter, organizers said in a Facebook post Thursday night.

“Unfortunately, NOPD will not be able to staff our full route as originally planned,” the post said. "We will be updating maps, and potentially shifting the start time. Please stay tuned as our team works quickly to make these changes."

Most Mardi Gras parades, including Chewbacchus, have already been altered or shortened this year to address public safety concerns related to the pandemic and police staffing.

"The staffing and deployment for the parade is drawn from a pool of officers that sign up for paid details through the Office of Police Secondary Employment," an NOPD spokesperson said in an email Friday. "Paid details are not mandatory and are staffed on a volunteer basis by officers seeking to earn additional income through OPSE."

In a statement Friday afternoon, the city’s press secretary John Lawson reiterated the fact that overall police staffing was not the issue, but that enough officers did not volunteer to cover the event.

“To be abundantly clear: this is not a manpower issue at the NOPD, and there was not a shortage of officers for the Krewe of Chewbacchus,” Lawson said. “Krewe of Chewbacchus was a detail, paid for by the event organizer at a rate they selected. Paid details are not mandatory and are staffed on a volunteer basis by officers seeking to earn additional income through OPSE.”

Lawson stressed that Chewbacchus is not a “City roll,” meaning officers are not officially on the clock when covering the event. Parades staffed by active duty NOPD officers begin Feb. 18, he said.

The city’s Halloween parade Krewe of Boo was also shortened at the last minute after too few police officers signed up to work. Krewe du Vieux, which rolls on Feb. 12, announced last week that it would shorten its route for the same reason.

But some parades have managed to commence without last minute changes, including when Joan of Arc made its way through the French Quarter on Jan. 6 and last weekend’s Krewe of Nefertiti in New Orleans East.

In addition to route changes for this year’s Mardi Gras, city officials also put coronavirus protocols in place ahead of Carnival and amid an unprecedented surge in cases due to the omicron variant, which public health experts said has peaked in Louisiana. Under city guidelines, all participants must be fully vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before parading.

News of Saturday’s shortened Chewbacchus route prompted some parade goers to remind others on social media to visit businesses along the original route.

Michael Oilar, the manager of Hi-Ho Lounge, said on the krewe’s Facebook post that his bar and other businesses on St. Claude Avenue over-stocked in anticipation for the event, calling it the business’ “biggest night of the year.”

“Unlike The Quarter and Uptown/St. Charles, we only get one parade a year, and they've taken it from us, less than 48 hours before the start,” Oilar added in a message to New Orleans Public Radio.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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