NEW ORLEANS — Driving rains forced the cancellation of one traditional Mardi Gras parade Monday, but hard-core revelers still drank beer and strolled along partially flooded Bourbon street, celebrating the raucous climax of New Orleans’ Carnival season.
Parade organizers and businesses dependent on the usual influx of more than a million locals and tourists held out hope that the flooding and rains would not keep partiers from enjoying themselves and spending money.
The 112-year-old “Proteus” parade was canceled. The “Orpheus” parade, headed by singer Harry Connick Jr., did roll on its usual route down historic St. Charles Avenue. The parade is a spectacle of celebrities and masked riders aboard high-tech floats lit with fiber optics.
Connick wore a black cape and a baseball cap tossing beads to spectators who screamed, “Harry! Harry! Harry!”
Some spectators watched the parade from the comfort of restaurants and bars to avoid the damp weather.
Gaynell Pervel was one of them. She watched Orpheus pass by while enjoying turtle soup, gumbo and a seafood platter.
But for her, being indoors wasn’t as much fun. “You don’t have the intimacy, the excitement. You’re not a participant,” Pervel said.
Crowds milled among the bars, restaurants, hotels and strip joints on Bourbon Street, and crowds gathered to catch strings of beads tossed from wrought-iron balconies, even as steady winds blew sheets of rain.
“We’ve watched parades and we’ve watched crazy people. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Walter Lupson, a heating and air conditioning consultant from Washington, D.C.
“It’s been fun and fascinating. The people have been friendly and the weather’s been no problem,” Mary Johnson of Culver, Ore., said.
Beer in hand, Billy Seitz, an engineer from Newport Beach, Calif., said he was here with 14 friends for his own bachelor party. “We’re having a great time,” he said.
Still, Walter Viksne, bartender at the Ol’ Toones Saloon, was disappointed in the take.
“It’s been a little slow this year and the tips have been less. They’re a little cheap this year,” he said. He blamed an economy still in recovery and also said he believes some people remain reluctant to travel because of terrorism fears.
Carnival season begins Jan. 6 each year and ends on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, traditionally a day of revelry before the solemnity of Lent. New Orleans boasts the largest celebration while Mobile, Ala., lays claim to the oldest. While the best-known celebrations are along the Gulf Coast, other cities have been holding Mardi Gras weekend celebrations as well.
Two Carnival-related deaths have marred the New Orleans celebration this year. A woman attending a gala in the Louisiana Superdome for the Krewe of Endymion fell from a 20-foot-high platform Saturday night and died the next day.
A young woman watching the all-female Krewe of Muses parade Wednesday night was hit by a stray bullet fired when an argument among a group of youths erupted into gunfire. Four people were arrested.
Mitch Skowronksi, a banker from Chicago, said he’d heard about the shooting, but considered it an isolated incident that could have happened anywhere. The wet weather didn’t bother him much, either.
“Walking around the French Quarter is going to be a little bit of a challenge,” he said. “But we’ll just spend most of our time in bars and restaurants. I guess we’ll just be drinking and eating more than we would otherwise.”