Scores of thousands of revelers braved temperatures in the 40s and wind chills sometimes in the 30s to flock to parade routes across the New Orleans area on Tuesday, as the region ended a Carnival season that brought joy to many but was blemished by the deaths of two bicyclists Saturday in New Orleans.
Although the cold had many shivering as they raised their hands and screamed for coconuts, beads and stuffed animals, Tuesday's celebrations were not marred by a similar tragedy as Zulu and Rex traveled along their traditional Uptown routes and Argus rolled in Metairie.
Police had to deal with a man who barricaded himself in a 7th Ward home and fired a gun Tuesday afternoon, but apparently no one was hurt and the man was eventually taken into custody.
There were spots of warmth to be found as the sun rose higher in the sky, as Brett Simms and Jack Daniels learned while standing far back from the barricades at St. Charles Avenue and Julia Street.
Simms, 44, knew he was out of bead-throwing range. But "I'm trying to stand as much as I can, and as long as I can, in the sun," Simms said, holding a Bloody Mary in one hand and a leash for Jack Daniels in the other.
The mahogany greyhound, a retired race dog, seemed as content to lounge in the heat as was his owner.
Not far away, Banetta Cole had on four pairs of leggings, three pairs of socks, two sweaters, a scarf and a coat. Peeking out of the fluffy blanket she had draped around her arms, she explained her ensemble in a few words: "You just don't get used to cold."
But she planned to endure it anyhow, "because of the atmosphere, and the excitement," she said. "Everyone is coming together and getting along, and I like that."
Excitement abounded on routes where dozens of marching bands blared out Carnival favorites like the Rebirth Brass Band's "Do Whatcha Wanna," and dance and majorette teams stepped and swayed in time with the music.
The cold didn’t seem to stop many folks from donning their elaborate costumes Tuesday in the French Quarter, Marigny and Treme, where thousands packed the streets starting in the early morning to celebrate the final day of Carnival.
“We just love celebrating New Orleans,” said Toddy Wobbema, who founded the Uptown-Bucktown Social Aid and Pleasure Club 18 years ago.
Her group, which all wore purple for its theme “Purple Reign,” was one of dozens making their way through the French Quarter in the morning, showing what Wobbema said is the true spirit of Mardi Gras — “costuming, dancing, singing in the streets.”
The most decorative of those costumers found their way to St. Ann Street in the afternoon for the annual Bourbon Street Awards, where everything from a phoenix to a human UFO lined up to show off their elaborate, mostly R-rated costumes — which generally appeared not to have been planned with the cold in mind.
Fatsy Cline, a drag performer who worked on her 1960s UFO-themed “Abduction of Venus” costume for three months, conceded that the garb was intensely uncomfortable.
But her efforts would prove to be worth it: Cline would leave the awards with her third consecutive win in the “best drag” category, a victory she said she wasn't surprised by.
Also no stranger to costuming is Rex, King of Carnival, who took an extended pause in front of the charred carcass of a St. Charles Avenue mansion Tuesday as he carried on a 112-year-old tradition.
Clad in an elaborate crown, gold jacket and shoes, this year's monarch, Robert S. Boh, took a hearty gulp from a new chalice and raised it to the cheering crowd.
It was the first time since 1907 that a new cup has been used for the annual toast, as the original silver chalice with antlers was presumed burned, along with most of the Montgomery-Grace Mansion, in a seven-alarm fire two weeks ago.
Spirits remained high at the house Tuesday, however. Billy Grace, a former Rex, was nursing a milk punch in a plastic cup, while his wife Anne Grace said she was sticking with whiskey sours.
“I’m feeling terrific,” said Anne Grace, bedecked in purple, green and gold from the top of her head on down. “It’s overwhelmingly humbling. The Rex Organization has been so magnanimous.”
Before the toast, Rex royalty hung a 1907 Rex flag above the sidewalk — a gift to the family, which lost several flags among the untold items, including cherished photographs, that burned up in the fire.
Along the sidewalk was a large sign reading, “We’re ready for Ash Wednesday!”
Much later in the day, Boh would take part in another tradition: toasting Comus during the meeting of the two venerable organizations' courts which officially brings Carnival to its close — aside from the police sweep at midnight to clear the densely packed hordes off Bourbon Street.
The Mistick Krewe of Comus, founded in 1856, is the oldest Carnival organization in New Orleans. It no longer parades.
In Jefferson Parish, merriment was also in heavy supply as the Krewe of Argus rode down the Metairie route it has traveled since 1974. King Larry Gibbs waved to thousands of locals and visitors.
Over in Covington, the Covington Lions Club and Krewe of Covington rolled Tuesday morning.
In New Orleans, there were no reports as of late afternoon of the type of disaster that left nine injured and two dead Saturday night after police said 32-year-old motorist Tashonty Toney careened his vehicle into a bike lane on Esplanade Avenue and struck numerous cyclists.
A newlywed lawyer, 31-year-old David Hynes, and a nonprofit executive director, 27-year-old Sharree Walls, died on the scene after being hit by Toney's black Camaro.
Toney remained in jail Tuesday in lieu of $510,000 bail. He could spend years in prison if he is convicted.
On Tuesday, however, such matters were far from the minds of most of the day's revelers as they enjoyed the glittering floats and decorated trucks, the bands, the throws, their fellow celebrants' often imaginative costumes, and the day off from work or school.
If only it had not been so cold.