Mardi Gras World reopens less than a week after barge collision

NEW ORLEANS – Less than one week after barges slammed into the riverside warehouse just before Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s inaugural ball, Mardi Gras World is back in business.

Admission has been waved for all tours on May 11 as the regular tour schedule resumed.

Mardi Gras World president Barry Kern said about 7,000 square feet of the over 200,000 square foot warehouse was damaged by the collision.

Kern said a tugboat pushing six barges rammed into the Prop Shop, where artists were hard at work creating custom pieces that will be used in Mardi Gras parades next year.

A large section of the floor in the Prop Shop fell into the river after the supporting pilings were wiped out in the collision.

No one was hurt in the collision, the cause of which is still under investigation.

Despite the damage to the building, Kern said Mardi Gras World can’t afford to be closed for long.

“Basically, what we’ve done is we’ve taken about a 7,000 square foot section of our building and we’ve literally created walls within it,” he said. “We’ll have to actually take this piece of the building and remove it and rebuild it. It’s going to be quite an extensive job.”

The Mississippi River’s higher than usual water level is complicating repair efforts, Kern said.

He credits the sturdy construction of the nearly 100-year-old building for containing the damage.

Workers moved what could be salvaged from the Prop Shop, and a new workspace was created.

Mardi Gras World was able to host a 4,000 person event just two days after the collision, Kern said, and regular tours reopened today.

“We’re back open,” he said. “We’ve had to make some changes to the way things flow, some changes to our production that will affect our production somewhat, but in the scheme of things, the date of Mardi Gras was not moving, and we know that, so we basically had to jump right back into it.”