- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Wet streets, puddles and soggy ground greeted revelers who braved rainy forecasts threatening to wash out Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ biggest free show.

Freddie Zeigler, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Slidell, La., said there’s an 80 percent chance of rain Tuesday, with showers likely hitting in the pre-dawn hours along Louisiana’s coast and moving into the metro area around sunrise.

Still, lulls are predicted throughout the day.

“It’s going to be dicey though for parades, but it all depends on how fast that warm front moves to the north,” Zeigler said.


Before dawn, riders in the Zulu parade _ the first of the day’s float processions _ boarded floats staged at the city’s huge convention enter. They loaded aboard the trinkets, beads, doubloons and other throws that hundreds of thousands would be clamoring for in a matter of hours.

Zulu was scheduled to parade at 8 a.m., followed by the parade of Rex, King of carnival, two hours later. Behind them would come hundreds of trucks decorated by families and social groups.

Street marching groups would go ahead of Zulu and Rex, with clarinetist Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Marching Club leading the way shortly after dawn. Others with colorful names such as the Jefferson City Buzzards would follow, tossing beads to the crowds along stately St. Charles Avenue and winding their way into the city’s business district.

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

Fountain no longer walks the route, but rides a wheeled trolley. As he boarded under the early light peeking through overcast skies, parade-goers snapped photos with camera phones.

Fountain wasn’t worried about the rain forecast.

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

Bob Johnson sipped on a screwdriver as he prepared to march with Fountain. “This is a half-healthy drink,” he joked.

Johnson has done parades on floats and has been with 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, pleading for beads from revelers on balconies. 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 set for a day of barbecues and parade watching.

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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