GULFPORT -- Cooper Danzey had never been to a Mardi Gras parade before and his parents, Meta and Jason Danzey, wanted to do something to make his first experience special. So, they did what any doting parent would do -- they turned their son's wagon into a giant king cake.
"Cooper is 14 months old, so this is his first Mardi Gras," Meta Danzey said. "He's our king cake baby."
The Danzeys were among thousands who lined Dedeaux Road on Saturday afternoon as the Orange Grove Carnival Association kicked off 2016's Carnival season with South Mississippi's first Mardi Gras parade.
The theme of the parade was "Orange Grove Carnival Association Getting Groovy."
OGCA member Leon Sootin said organizers decided not to have a king and queen for Saturday's parade.
"We decided to have a parade marshal this year," he said. "Anthony Leidigh of Anthony's Sports Bar and Grill was our marshal. Leidigh and his family rode on a the king and queen's float.
Sootin said the krewe's
members also decided to do something special for some of this year's attendees.
"We had a special section roped off for area nursing homes," he said. "There was parking for them and everything. We had five nursing homes participate. We also had a section just for people with special needs. This allowed them to enjoy the parade without getting caught up the chaos of it."
Sootin said the parade, in its 26th year, rolled 14 floats, as well as several cars, trucks and dancing groups.
The parade started at Goldin Sports Complex off of Prudie Circle and then went south down Three Rivers Road before turning west on Dedeaux Road. It ended at U.S. 49 and Dedeaux Road.
Nine-year-old Brailey Saucier of Pass Christian said she was looking for a special throw at the parade.
"I hope to catch a bunch of stuffed animals -- they are my favorite," she said. "I like catching the beads but I really like the stuffed animals. I've been to this parade before and it's a good parade."