Video: The party starts before the parade
PASS CHRISTIAN -- An estimated 50,000 revelers turned out Sunday as the St. Paul Carnival Association rolled out with 90 units, its largest number since Hurricane Katrina.
The Mardi Gras parade is typically one of the largest in South Mississippi leading up to Fat Tuesday celebrations.
Longtime Pass parade revelers joined newcomers under sunny skies and mild temperatures to view this year's event, with a theme of "Toga! Where it All Began."
Bridget Howse and Bailey Howse of Laurel knew the drill. They'd grown up watching the parade. They enjoyed their first Pass parade as gone-and-grown adults with their mother, Beverly Howse of Gulfport.
"We love the beads!" The sisters said. And with that, they left the comfort of their portable chairs and moved to the edge of the street, arms uplifted for throws.
It was a first Pass parade for Deana Marmolejo, who has moved to Long Beach from California.
"You guys like to party!" Marmolejo said. "I thought Mardi Gras was just a New Orleans thing."
Jeremy Wheeler of Pascagoula wore a fuzzy, wide-brim purple hat as he grilled burgers for friends and family in a business parking lot on the parade route.
"I'm from the Bay (St. Louis) originally," Wheeler said. "We know how to do this."
It was a first Pass parade for Bill and Cindy Pierce of Saucier.
"We did it for them," Bill Pierce said, pointing to his two great-great-nephews, ages 10 and 12. The boys sat alongside a collapsible cart filled with bottles of water.
King Christian 86th, Bennie L. French III, and Queen Christiana, Joann Hanson York, welcomed revelers from their floats. Other floats followed with different types of music pumping up the crowd.
Float riders tossed out the ever popular beads, cups, moon pies, spears, large sunglasses and even boxes of Angry Bird Valentine's Day cards.
One float, by the Krewe of Sixessss, was made from a FEMA trailer frame. Seal said they plan to add more modifications next year, but they enjoyed transforming the FEMA frame because of "the nostalgia factor."
James Ault of Gulfport had brought his dog, a chocolate lab. They stood behind a crowd. He soon caught a rubber football and tossed it to his dog, Ally Mae.
Another parade rolls in Bay St. Louis on Monday and three more across South Mississippi on Fat Tuesday.