As we head into the first weekend of Carnival parades, I'm reminded of the woman whose job it was to make sure Canal Street looked its best for the season — the city's longtime official decorator, Betty Finnin. She held the job — believed to be one of the only positions of its kind in the country — from 1939 until 1970. In a 1940 profile in The Times-Picayune, Finnin said she had been decorating and designing "as far back as I can remember." Her work decorating for the 1938 Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans caught the eye of Mayor Robert Maestri, who named her the city's official decorator.
In that capacity, Finnin was responsible for outdoor decorations on Canal Street during Carnival and Christmas. She proudly explained her 1940 Carnival decorations: 26 clown masks in purple, green and gold, which were affixed to light poles and included "waterproofed cellophane bodies that fly with the wind and eyes that follow you." She also designed for the Krewe of Mid-City and children's parades at Carnival and Christmas. Finnin left City Hall when her job wasn't funded in the 1970 city budget. She died in 1988.
See Betty Finnin at work in these photos from the New Orleans Public Library’s “City Decorator Photograph Collection."