NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A cold, gray day greeted revelers gathering Tuesday along parade routes as the Carnival season in New Orleans headed to a crest with the unabashed celebration of Mardi Gras.
The first street marching groups — including clarinetist Pete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking Club — were to begin their marches along oak-lined St. Charles Avenue and into the business district.
The Zulu parade began on schedule, led by a New Orleans police vanguard on horseback that included Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Later, the floats of Rex — the king of Carnival — and hundreds of truck trailers decorated by family and social groups would wind down St. Charles Avenue.
Rain began to fall early in the morning in New Orleans, and umbrellas and raincoats sprouted along the parade route. Sleet was expected to fall on some merrymakers in areas north and west of the city.
But revelers were still expected to gather by the tens of thousands in the French Quarter, where the bawdy side of Mardi Gras would surely be on full display.
Mark Nelson of St. Louis said he would be in the mix even in a downpour for his first Mardi Gras.
"That's why God made washing machines," Nelson said as he sipped on a daiquiri.
Along the Uptown parade route, Carol LeBlanc and husband Hov LeBlanc of New Orleans were strolling along St. Charles Avenue with friends Vicki and Duane O'Flynn from Arabi, La. The troupe was dressed as scarecrows, stuffed with grass and wearing plaid pants and tattered coveralls.
The cold weather wasn't worrying LeBlanc. "I've got my long johns on," she said.
Nearby, April Womack and her family had tents set up. Grills were fired up, and pots of crawfish were boiling. They camped overnight, a family tradition for almost two decades. "It's all about location," she said.
Her cousin, Yolanda Moton, said Mardi Gras is the opportunity for an annual family reunion, with relatives coming from as far away as Georgia. "This is the one time of the year that everyone in the family fits this in their schedule."
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