It’s been a long, cold stretch since the Christmas holidays, but New Orleans’ beloved Carnival season has finally arrived, with 18 parades scheduled this weekend in a four-parish area.

The official calendar opens Friday evening with a double-header Uptown. The Krewe of Oshun kicks it off with its 18th annual parade, titled “Night Out in the Big Easy.” Oshun is one of three predominantly African-American parades in New Orleans. Grand marshals include WDSU’s Damon Singleton, Q93’s Wayne Benjamin and Chelsea Smith — Ms. Black Louisiana 2014. Oshun tosses neat items such as signature peacock bracelets and necklaces.

Following Oshun is the 41st annual Cleopatra procession, titled “Strolling Down the Avenue.” This female club moved from the West Bank last year and nearly doubled its membership to 650 riders. The ladies are known for their generosity with throws, including LED fans, head boppers, rings, key chains and wands. Look for 21 floats and nearly 70 units.

In Metairie, Family Gras kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with entertainment by Amanda Shaw, followed by Cowboy Mouth at 7 p.m.

This year’s 13th annual Excalibur procession includes 20 floats and is titled “A Knight at the Renaissance Faire.”

The maids and floats represent various events at the fair, such as arts and crafts and medieval sporting events. The signature collars and costumes, which the captain designed, are highlights of the parade. Riding as guest grand marshal is the band the Top Cats. The Budweiser Clydesdales also will participate. The club’s 275 men and women will hand out individually decorated wooden shields.

Don’t look for the Atlas procession to follow Excalibur as it always has each year. The krewe is not parading this year.

Mandeville’s parade schedule included three parades just three years ago, but with the “Original Orpheus” now officially defunct and the Krewe of Lyra having moved to Covington on Fat Tuesday, only the female Krewe of Eve remains.

The 350-member club rolls with its 28th procession, titled “Under the Big Top.” The parade offers 18 Blaine Kern Artists floats. Several out-of-state bands and marching units compete in Eve’s annual band contest. The Northshore Roller Derby Girls and Zephyr mascots Boudreaux and Clotele will make a special appearance. Eve members create unique krewe costumes by decorating sweatshirts, and their signature throws always include several apple-themed items.