BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - City leaders and Mardi Gras krewes across the coast have been closely watching Mississippi’s COVID-19 case numbers for months now. Wednesday, Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich pulled the plug on parade hopes for 2021.
″With much consideration given to the status of the coronavirus today in our community. It should be no surprise that we announce the cancellation of the parades scheduled for February 2021,” said Mayor Gilich.
It is a decision that both the Gulf Coast Carnival Association and the Krewe of Neptune understand.
“Not running the parades this year is just a prudent thing to do. The numbers are not in our favor,” said Gulf Coast Carnival Chairman Kenny Holloway.
The mayor stressed that while the parades are huge economic drivers for the city, community safety is more important. The Neptune and Gulf Coast Carnival parades typically draw 150,000 people to Biloxi each year.
“We’re not going to try and accommodate anything because of the dollar amount related to cancelling these parades. Life safety is the main issue. But it is a multi million dollar impact to our economy,” said Mayor Gilich.
The decision to cancel will also keep first responders safe.
“We would probably bring in somewhere between 50 and 60 additional officers and that’s kind of a loan program that we have with other cities,” said Biloxi Chief of Police John Miller.
With many cities cancelling their parades, there was doubt the department would be able to get enough help from the surrounding area.
The mayor’s decision comes on the same day Mississippi set a new one-day record high with 3,023 new COVID-19 cases.
“I will end by saying, since 1908, over the last 112 years, carnival has been interrupted during times of war and the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Be assured that this too shall pass and we will say again ‘laissez les bons temps rouler,’” Mayor Gilich promised.
“There is light at the end of this tunnel with COVID-19 vaccinations taking place as we speak. But we have not seen the peak of this virus yet,” Mayor Gilich said. “It’s still critical to protect everyone - wash your hands, wear a mask and keep your distance from others.”
While the parades have been cancelled, many krewes are working to create socially distanced events to keep the spirit of the season alive.