Partyers in full force for Mardi Gras

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In the oak-lined Garden District, clarinetist Pete Fountain led his Half-Fast Walking Club on its annual march to the French Quarter.

Fountain, 82, gave a thumbs-up to start off and his band launched into “When The Saints Go Marching In” as they rounded the corner onto St. Charles Avenue shortly after 7 a.m. It was the 52nd time that Fountain’s group has paraded for Mardi Gras. This year, the group wore bright yellow suits and matching pork pie hats for its theme, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

Costumes were the order of the day, ranging from the predictable to the bizarre.

Wearing a purple wig, New Orleans resident Juli Shipley carried a gallon of booze down Bourbon Street and filled her friends’ cups when they got low. “We’re going to wander all day and people-watch,” Shipley said. “That’s the best part of Mardi Gras — the costumes. They’re amazing.”

Partygoers were dressed as Wizard of Oz characters Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, bags of popcorn, pirates, super heroes, clowns, jesters, princesses and lots of homemade costumes with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.

At New Orleans’ antebellum former city hall, Mayor Mitch Landrieu toasted Zulu’s monarchs and special guests. Among them was New Orleans native and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young who was on a float with National Urban League President Marc Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans, his wife, Michelle, and their two children.

“It’s good to be home,” Young said. And saluting the good weather of the day, he added, “God always smiles on New Orleans when it needs it.”

After Zulu, the parade of Rex, king of Carnival, made its trek down St. Charles Avenue and to the city’s business district. Along the way, parade-goers pleaded for beads and colorful aluminum coins, known as doubloons.

Small groups of families and friends had parades of their own. The Skeleton Krewe, 25 people dressed in black skeleton outfits, wandered along the parade route, heading toward St. Louis Cathedral.

Along the parade route that follows the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, die-hards had staked out prime parade-watching spots as early as Monday. Some had a Carnival-esque tailgate party under way early.

Stephanie Chapman and her family claimed their usual spot about 4 a.m. Tuesday and would be staying for the duration.

“This is a beautiful day and we’ll be here until it’s over. It won’t rain on my parade, but if it does I won’t pay any attention,” she said.

Rain stayed away and temperatures were in the 70s. As the day wore on and drinking intensified, the combination encouraged raunchy acts in the French Quarter, where women bared flesh in pleadings for beads tossed to the street by revelers on balconies.

By midafternoon, some folks were tuckered out.

Alison Scott, 35, of New Orleans, was part of a group that had a small city of tents and canopies set up at Lee Circle. She and her family had been coming to the spot for about 40 years. “Believe me, I’m always glad to get here and then I’m always glad to go home,” she said.

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