West Coast delays could leave some La. Mardi Gras parades short of throws

Parade-goers may want to hold on to their beads a little tighter this year, because some carnival krewes are running low on the goods.

Some Mardi Gras shipments from China are stuck in the Pacific Ocean, where they are sitting on ships that cannot be unloaded because of ongoing labor strife involving longshoremen who work the docks in the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Dan Kelly, president of Beads by the Dozen, one of the largest Mardi Gras supply distributors based in New Orleans, says checking the status of his shipments is the first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he does before he goes to sleep.

“The day after Christmas, I woke up and everything was on schedule,” Kelly says. “The day after New Year’s is when it all started to fall apart.”

Kelly, who is also president of the superkrewe Endymion, says some of its throws have been delayed. “It is not a lot,” he says. “But it is enough to affect some numbers.” Besides beads, the sluggish shipments are carrying plush animals, toys and other popular throws.

With some krewes still waiting on roughly 25% of their trinkets to arrive, distributors and Mardi Gras riders may find themselves in uncharted territory when it comes down to who absorbs the cost of loot that’s too late for the celebration.

Nelson Maddox, owner of Party Starts Here in Baton Rouge, says the only impact he has felt from what he considers to be only a rumored bead shortage is that it’s driving customers to his store early to stock up.

The Pacific Maritime Association notes that while the unloading delays don’t involve a full-blown strike or lockout, efficiency at the ports has been reduced by an average of 40% to 60% over the past few months. A strike could cost the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion a day.

The current congestion affects not only Mardi Gras, but also every product traveling between China and the United States. According to the National Retail Federation, that includes exports of Idaho potatoes, product deliveries by Canada-based Lululemon (which has a location on Highland Road) and Christmas tree growers in the state of Washington unable to ship containers to Asia. —Gabrielle Braud


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