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Mr. Fountain and his clubmates were clad in garish red suits and feathered hats as they got ready to march in the Garden District.

Mr. Fountain no longer walks the route, which will take him to the French Quarter, but rides a truck-towed trolley. As he boarded, parade-goers snapped photos with camera phones.

Mr. Fountain wasn’t worried about the forecast.

“This is my life,” he said, referring to his 63rd parade with the group he founded. “We’re going to make it before it rains.”

Bob Johnson sipped on a screwdriver as he prepared to march with Mr. Fountain.

“This is a half-healthy drink,” he joked.

Mr. Johnson has done parades on floats and has been with Mr. Fountain’s street marchers for six years.

“It’s a whole different perspective than riding a float. You can get right up to people,” he said.

In the French Quarter, where the revelry almost didn’t stop overnight, crowds were expected to cruise down Bourbon Street as they pleaded for beads from revelers on balconies before heading to Canal Street for the parades.

Traditionally, the French Quarter is the scene of Mardi Gras‘ most ribald activities, while the streetcar line along St. Charles is given over to family groups who are set for a day of barbecues and parade watching.

On the Uptown parade routes, families carried on generations-old traditions of camping out overnight in tents to catch the earliest action. Many hoped to catch one of the colorfully decorated coconuts handed out by grass-skirt-clad riders on the Zulu floats.

Bryan Clark, 42, said it would take more than the threat of rain to break his family’s tradition of camping near the place where the Zulu parade turns onto St. Charles Avenue. “We stay here rain sleet or snow,” he said.

The New Orleans native said his parents hooked him on the Mardi Gras ritual, and now he does it with his wife and children.

“There is no other place in America you can do this,” he said.

Parading was planned across south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. In Louisiana’s Cajun parishes, the tradition of the Courir du Mardi Gras was set to start after dawn, as groups of maskers on horseback would ride from community to community making merry.

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