Mardi Gras Crowds Refuse to Let Rain Soak Their Spirits
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Rain each day since Feb. 20 has made Carnival a soggy parade of costumed kings and queens, but bedraggled crowds are hoping it won’t rain on the biggest pageant of all: Mardi Gras.
″We’ll make our own sunshine,″ said Sylvia Forrester, 72, one of the thousands of revelers who have refused to let the rain dampen their spirits. ″We’re going to put on our boots, open our umbrellas and go.″
Rain has forced cancellation or postponement of at least five parades, while others braved the wet.
On Thursday night, skies were threatening, but the Knights of Momus paraded anyway and people lined up five to 10 deep, begging masked float riders to toss the traditional bead necklaces and trinkets.
Momus is the third oldest Carnival organization and its monarch represents the Greek god of mockery. There was no rain during the parade.
″It was a pretty good crowd despite the weather,″ New Orleans police spokesman John Marie said.
Skies were cloudy again today, and more rain was expected. However, the National Weather Service extended some hope for Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday. It is the frenzied finish of the parade season, which culminates March 2 this year.
The extended forecast released Thursday predicts that skies may clear by Fat Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorolgist David Smith said.
The weather system dumping rain on New Orleans was moving slowly eastward and is expected to be gone by Saturday or early Sunday, he said.
″From our satellite view of the earth, it looks like the next system that could threaten us is a week away,″ Smith said.
Rain developed as a stronger-than-normal jet stream pushed warm air from over the eastern Pacific Ocean into relative cool air above west Texas and the Mississippi Valley.
Marie said while crowds are down a bit, there also are 250 fewer police officers on the force than in 1976.
But he said, ″Everything is going fine, this Mardi Gras. Everything is well prepared, we’ve allocated a lot of overtime, we’re covering Mardi Gras with sufficient police despite being down from where were were 10 years ago.
″What we’ve done is try to police the city a little smarter. We’re using as many uniformed officers as possible for crowd control and plainclothes men behind the crowds, to watch for pickpockets and other characters.″
Carnival season begins in January when clubs known as krewes put on their fancy dress balls and black tie society affairs.
The parades, with their papier mache floats carrying costumed riders, traditionally begin rolling two weeks before Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras, always the day before Ash Wednesday, is known as Fat Tuesday because of the overindulgence in food, drink and merriment that precedes the austere religious season of Lent.