NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Scattered showers didn't keep revelers away Monday as thousands flocked to the French Quarter and along the Mississippi riverfront for Lundi Gras festivities.
Despite the sporadic rains, Fat Monday parades proceeded: the Krewe of Orpheus, the star-studded group led by entertainer Harry Connick Jr., and the Krewe of Proteus, the Carnival season's second-oldest krewe founded in 1882 and named for an early Greek sea god.
Despite the gray skies and ominous clouds, the riverfront was jamming with music as revelers awaited the arrival of the King of Zulu, who toasts the King of Rex. A festival has sprung from the event, with food and drink booths and music throughout the day. Among the acts that performed Monday were the Rebirth Brass Band, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and Cajun singer and fiddler Amanda Shaw.
As local brass bands played on stages set up along the river, revelers in masks and jester hats caught beads being tossed from French Quarter balconies.
"It's crazy, all these people with no inhibitions," said Robin Danford, of Arlington, Texas, as she walked Bourbon Street, where many already had drinks in hand and women baring their breasts were pelted with beads.
The National Weather Service has forecast rain for much of Fat Tuesday, when traditionally as many as 1 million people revel in the streets, but so far officials have not canceled parade plans.
Wars abroad and even a police strike at home have prevented Fat Tuesday parades from rolling several times, but only once — in 1933 — has foul weather led to the cancellation of the Rex parade, according to Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardy. Rex's parading history dates back to 1872.
"It's not looking good, but we're still hoping," Hardy said of Tuesday's forecast. "Winds are much more damaging than rain. That's the ultimate concern."
Hardy said it would be a "mighty sad day" if stormy weather nixed the big Mardi Gras parades this year.
City officials have the ultimate authority to decide whether a parade will roll.
"But it's always done in cooperation with the (krewe's) captain," he added.
If parades on Tuesday are canceled, they would not be rescheduled. Lent begins on Wednesday. Mardi Gras is the festival that leads to the solemn season.
The inclement weather and a shooting Saturday night on Bourbon Street didn't appear to dampen the spirits of visitors.
Lisa Preston, of Charlotte, N.C., said she was determined to enjoy her first Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
"I'm having a blast," she said, sporting a purple top hat and neck full of beads. "After the shooting, I'm keeping my eyes open, but Mardi Gras has really been a lot of fun, and the food. Oh my goodness, the gumbo here is out of this world."
The Lundi Gras festivities, which also included Mayor Mitch Landrieu's salute to the kings of Zulu and Rex before giving Rex symbolic control of the city, concluded with a fireworks presentation that went off despite a steady rain shower.
Earlier Monday, the Proteus parade rolled on its traditional Uptown route about 45 minutes earlier than usual in an effort to beat the rain. Orpheus followed, with celebrity riders Connick, actor Gary Sinise and New Orleans musician Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews.
Others who rode in Orpheus were Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress Mariska Hargitay, the Imagination Movers, a New Orleans-based rock band for kids, and Animal Planet's Tillman the skateboarding bulldog.
Orpheus marked its 20th anniversary and included more than 30 ornately-decorated floats, some designed to reflect parade themes of the past. The krewe was co-founded in 1993 by Connick and Sonny Borey, captain of the 1,200-member organization.
At the ball that follows the parade, Borey said Connick would perform an original song he wrote for the anniversary, called "Smokey Mary Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train." The song is on Connick's new album of Carnival music, titled "Smokey Mary," which was released this month.
Sinise, who stars in the CBS crime drama "CSI: NY," was scheduled to perform at the ball with his Lt. Dan Band — named after the character he played in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump," which also starred Tom Hanks.