‘It’s unreal:’ COVID-19 cripples Mardi Gras bead industry

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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Orleans parades for Carnival 2021 are canceled, crippling the Mardi Gras bead industry.

Dan Kelly, Beads By The Dozen owner, says Thursday he had to make the difficult decision to lay off 15 of his 40 employees.

“Many of them had been with us for years,” Kelly said. “We are like family. This company grew so fast over the past 25 years, many of them have been with us for a long time. It was really sad, especially now with holidays coming up, Thanksgiving, Christmas. You saw their kids grow up and people that have been with us for a long time. It’s a sad day and we hope they can find jobs soon or they will be available when we are able to resume Mardi Gras activities.”

Kelly said the store will stay open, but a massive amount of product they planned to sell will be stored in their warehouse.

“We usually bring in about 8 million pounds of beads. Most of that is here already and will be stored until Mardi Gras resumes in 2022,” Kelly said.

WDSU asked Kelly how much money the bead industry will lose because of the pandemic.

“About $30 to $40 million, that’s all of the bead companies around the country,” Kelly said. “That’s not just our company, that’s all the companies that provide Mardi Gras. You just have to shake your head and wonder how is this happening. It’s unreal, I never thought I would see it. In today’s world you just never know what’s going to come next. Hopefully God will look down on us, the vaccines will start to take effect and everybody can get back to normal by May, June, July and this country can move forward again.”

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