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COVID-19 is destroying my best time of the year

One of my favorite times of the year is being altered — or eliminated — this year because of COVID-19.

With the exception of possibly rural and small-town events, Mardi Gras will be here this year in spirit only.

New Orleans and Baton Rouge, for the most part, have canceled their parades and our own celebration with the parade and the gumbo cookoff will take a hiatus this year. C’est dommage! What a pity!

I’ve always seen Mardi Gras as a special time when I could forget about my problems and get out of character for a while. Growing up there was always that family trip to New Orleans the Sunday before Mardi Gras Day when the crowds on Canal Street were not as large to watch parades. I saw the first Bacchus parade when Bob Hope was Bacchus.

Years later when my wife and I were dating I went with her family to watch the Zulu and Rex parades on St. Charles Street on Mardi Gras Day. When I worked on the coast, I took a vacation day every year to go to the Biloxi parades on Mardi Gras Day for therapy — no one knew me and for a few hours I could loosen up and not be myself.

And one of the things I’ve loved since I’ve been at The Post is covering the Mardi Gras festivities in Vicksburg because they give me the opportunity to work and have a good time talking with people, watch the parade and enjoy good gumbo at the annual gumbo cookoff. There are not many things in this business that are so enjoyable and that I look forward to doing each year.

But this year there’s no parade and no gumbo cookoff, and that puts a damper on what is always a beautiful and enjoyable time of the year, and I know I’ll be hitting a few low spots.

Mardi Gras has always been that last big opportunity for people to have one big fling before the coming of Lent. While some people may criticize the time for its excesses, I’ve always found Mardi Gras to be a time to shake off the doldrums of winter and take a break from the serious world I live in for most of the year.

And, for the most part, I’ve found that joy not in the big events like New Orleans but in smaller celebrations like those in Addis, La., Church Point, La., Pascagoula, Biloxi and Vicksburg.

It seems that now I’ll have to use my imagination to find substitutes for the joy I get from Mardi Gras, and that will come with Cajun music and Dixieland jazz and several bowls of gumbo and red beans and rice.

Will I suffer withdrawal? I don’t know. But I do know that like a lot of things affected by COVID-19, I’ll have to adjust to the circumstances and make it through to Ash Wednesday.

Until then, laissez les bon temps roulers mes amis!

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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