Rain or shine, N.O. loves Mardi Gras

It takes a lot to cancel a celebration in this city, and the mere threat of rain that lingered like the low-hanging clouds on the skyline Tuesday was not enough to stop Mardi Gras Day 2013.

“We wouldn’t think of missing it,” said Madeline Schwarner, who sat among friends on the St. Charles route near Jackson Avenue. The New Orleanian of two years, who moved here from Jonesboro, Ark., came prepared with an umbrella that wasn’t needed for more than a few minutes. “Rain happens a lot. This happens one day every year. I’ll take my chances.”

Krewe officials Monday said they would monitor weather forecasts and only call off the parades if riders’ safety would be at risk.

From Tremé , to Uptown, to the Central Business District, to the French Quarter and Fabourg Marigny, others seemed to share Schwarner’s view of the impending weather and filled the city’s streets like there was nothing to worry about.

That carefree attitude permeated the day.

When a Zulu float broke down on St. Charles Avenue just before Terpsichore Street, a dance party broke out on the avenue.

“Have fun, y’all! It could be raining,” said the DJ on the neutral ground, urging the crowd to make the most of the day that seemed last week to be at risk.

While there was a light mist throughout most of the morning, a moderate rain began to fall as Rex began its roll in the early afternoon. While Bourbon Street’s party moved indoors to the barrooms and clubs, those on the parade route braved the elements. A short time later the rain let up, the only blemish on the day.

Earlier in the morning, Derrick Gibbens, of Metairie, staked out a spot near Lee Circle where he fired up a small grill as Zulu passed.

“You need to do this right,” he said as hamburgers and hot dogs sizzled. “Food and family and fun. That’s what today’s about.”

Fun, though, was the main order of the day.

Lydia Jefferson and her three grandchildren — Larry, 6 ; David, 4; and Lindsey, 2 — were busy building a small mountain of throws they collected.

“They love it,” Jefferson said. “They absolutely love it.”

Jefferson, a Central City resident, said she enjoys the parade of costumed revelers that passed her. As usual, people dressed up in everything from the tame, such as angels, to the more risqué , like the man who wore a chef’s hat on his head and a plate of pasta with two meatballs and a sausage placed at a strategic location.

Bill Higgins, of New Orleans, carried a daiquiri in his hand as he made his way through the Central Business District in a simple costume: a black garbage bag draped over his torso with a Saints hat on his head.

“I’m the Superdome during the Super Bowl,” he said. “You need to dress up for Mardi Gras, but no one said you had to spend a lot of time on it.”

It’s the thought and the spirit that count, he said.

At Gallier Hall, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who wore a Batman mask at times, was in the spirit as he did the Wobble dance.

He also presided over the traditional toast of Carnival’s royalty, King Zulu and Rex, King of Carnival.

Cedric Givens, King Zulu 2013, thanked the residents of New Orleans for their support of his organization.

Rex 2013, William H. Hines, who ruled over the city for the day after Landrieu ceded authority to him on Lundi Gras, declared New Orleans the “Kingdom of Culture and Creativity and Entrepreneurship” during the toast.

“I think that’s our next phase,” Hines said. “Wonderful things are happening here. May you never cease to love, New Orleans.”