The Sobering Day-After
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Heavy fog shrounded littered city streets early today, the start of Lent, after weeks of Mardi Gras revelry that drew near-record and generally peaceful crowds to New Orleans.
Police said more than 1 million people turned out along the city’s parade routes and about half that many in suburban Metairie for the final day of celebration. It was perfect weather for a Fat Tuesday - temperatures in the 60s and 70s from dawn until the midnight toast by the monarchs Rex and Comus.
The parades began early with Zulu and ended late with the Krewe of Comus.
The early birds included jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain, outfitted as King Arthur at the head of his Half-Fast Marching Club at 7 a.m.
Zulu, king of the premier black krewe (crew), handed out his coveted sequined coconuts and threw black doubloons.
Next came Rex, the king of Carnival, who rode through the throng on his glittering throne. He and the mayor smashed their champagne glasses after the ritual toast at midday.
Rex this year was H. Devon Graham Jr., a 50-year-old socialite businessman. His day began with the annual Rex Royal Run with 60 others over a 1.75-mile track in Audubon Park at dawn.
There also were the neighborhood marching clubs and truck floats, some with larger followings than the traditional krewes.
Among those attending were members of a religious group from Texas.
″There are more than 1,000 out-of-town people to share what God has done,″ said the Rev. Mark Meinschein of the Soul Patrol street ministry in Dallas. ″We came to share with people a better way of life than partying.″
Most celebrants were undeterred.
″This is what I enjoy most about Mardi Gras - getting naked and walking around,″ said Charlie Turner, an Aiken, S.C., resident who was a costume contestent in the Bourbon Street Awards.
He won as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader four years ago, and this time wore a fishnet bodysuit, white cape and purple mask.
After Comus’ final parade Tuesday night down St. Charles Avenue, some who were able made for the already crowded French Quarter to carouse until dawn.
Their biggest peril came at midnight, when police cruisers chased everyone off the Quarter’s narrow streets so trash crews could begin the clean-up.
Louisiana State Police had 68 troopers assigned to assist city police, mainly in the Quarter, and preliminary arrest figures were disturbing for the place.
″The entire season has been relatively quiet this season, down from last year,″ said a spokesman for the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, the people who run the city’s jails.
″From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., we had about 100 arrests. Most of it’s been municipal and traffic arrests - drunk in public, criminal trespassing, batteries.″