Good Times: Keeping our heads above water at Mardi Gras and beyond

“Temporary layoffs,

Scratchin’ and surviving,’

Keepin’ your head above water,

Making a wave when you can.”

— excerpts from “Good Times” theme song

By the time Shiloh Moates and Michael Hunley finished, blue “waves” of coronavirus lapped across the small front yard and porch of their Covington business, threatening to wipe out the good times.

The waves also want to swamp a line of nearby human caricatures — all wearing masks and created by Shiloh to represent family members — but, don’t worry. The waves won’t get them. Instead, the figures will keep their heads above water to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

And that’s the message the couple want to send with their “house float” titled “Good Times.” The community will not be defeated by COVID-19.

“Mardi Gras, over the years, has been in and out of all kinds of situations, but Mardi Gras is always a celebration,” Moates said. “You can laugh or cry in bad times, and down here, I think we choose to laugh.”

Since the contagious coronavirus has stopped traditional parades from rolling this season, Moates and Hunley are among thousands of die-hard fans in southeast Louisiana who decided to bring Mardi Gras to their neighborhoods and communities by creating outdoor house floats.

As a result, just like loading up the kids and family dog to drive around to see Christmas lights, the outdoor Carnival displays are all visible from the street so passersby can see and enjoy them.

The Covington group named its home float initiative “Rollin on the 3 Rivers,” and Moates, one of the co-founders, commissioned an eponymous wooden throw to commemorate the occasion. And to make public viewing easier, the city and Covington Business Association created a locator map that pinpoints all 47 addresses of house floats that were registered by Jan. 15.

“I’ve had people tell me since (the deadline) that they also want to do one, and I tell them, ‘Just do it’ … That’s the point,” Moates said. Just have fun. That’s what Mardi Gras is. Fun.”

The floats, in front of homes or businesses, will remain up through Fat Tuesday. Some can be appreciated better by day, others by night, depending on how lighting is used in each display.

Moates decided to make all elements of the “Good Times” diorama she and Hunley installed outside their MSH Architects office, rather than commissioning pieces from regional Mardi Gras artisans.

“I like making stuff,” said Moates, a member of the DIVA walking club whose members aren’t getting to dress up and parade this year. Instead, Moates poured her creativity into “Good Times.”

She began by designing, cutting out and sealing large flower blossoms — familiar to any observer of Mardi Gras — while her husband assembled. (Shiloh’s mother also helped on the flower detail.) Hunley and Moates then used a hot knife to cut out foam board waves that range from 2 to 8 feet tall. She also sketched and printed out the caricatures on their oversized architectural printer.

And finally, selected lyrics from the theme song “Good Times,” a popular 1970s TV sitcom series, were added on banners in big, upstairs windows and illustrated with more flourishes of whimsy — an unemployment chart, a food line, loaves of bread, a giant cocktail. And on Fat Tuesday, the catchy “Good Times” music will be broadcast over the site.

“We’re doing it to have fun, and because we need Mardi Gras over here,” said Moates, who jumped aboard “Rollin’ on the Three Rivers” when friend Billie Stanga came to her with the idea. “We can’t just sit around and do nothing.”