NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The light extravaganza tradition called Celebration in the Oaks that is held yearly in City Park has turned into a drive-thru experience as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of visitors usually go to the park every holiday season to see the elaborate light show. It features various scenes and characters made out of lights interspersed throughout the park's trees and landscapes. A scene depicting the retelling of a Cajun Christmas story is a particular favorite of visitors.
In recent years, visitors would buy a ticket and walk through a section of the park where the lights are arranged. But this year the coronavirus pandemic has meant some changes. Instead of walking, visitors will buy tickets and drive through the park to see the lights.
“During COVID right now, this is a safe thing to do,” Amanda Frentz, director of public relations for New Orleans City Park, told WDSU News. “You drive up through this tent and you put your mask on just to be able to scan your ticket, and after that, you’re in your little pod and with your people. You’re able to move through and have a great holiday experience.”
In some ways it's a return to the way things used to be done, Frentz told The Associated Press. Before 2005's Hurricane Katrina, visitors could buy tickets for a walking or driving tour, she said. But the hurricane damaged the park's infrastructure so much that it became strictly a walking tour, she said.
Park workers have erected the light creations along the park's roads. Visitors buy tickets ahead of time through the park's website. The event is the park's largest fundraiser.