GULFPORT -- Floats from all over the Gulf Coast stormed the streets of downtown on Fat Tuesday for the 47th annual Krewe of Gemini parade.
The 53 floats began to let the good times roll at 5:30 with disregard of the 53-degree temperature.
Parade captain Brian Lord said crowds upward of 20,000 were expected, and that was evident throughout the parade route.
The parade theme, Storm of the Swords, was apropos because the man who ushered in the start of the parade was Grand Marshal Col. Adam Bearden with the Keesler Medical Unit.
"Honored to represent Keesler's Medical Unit," Bearden said excitedly. "I went to college at Loyola. This is my first time in a Mardi Gras parade though."
Bearden said it's nice to be stationed in a place that values traditions such as Mardi Gras.
The Krewe of Gemini established the Gulfport parade in 1969, when gas cost 35 cents per gallon. At the start of the parade, the cheapest gas nearby was $1.36 cents a gallon.
Beads, moon pies, stuffed animals, cups, plastic light-up swords and more beads flew in every direction during the parade, delighting onlookers hoping for riders to throw them something.
Keeping with the military ties, King Jupiter XLVII Joe Powell of Pass Christian is retired from the civil service.
"This organization gives back in so many ways," said Powell, a 10-year member of the krewe. "Whether it's the Christmas party for children with parents whom are incarcerated, or the scholarships we give to local high school graduates. We give back to the local communities."
His wife, Queen Leda XLVII Nancy Powell, noted this was the first year most of the court members were married couples with military ties. That seems right considering this year's Fat Tuesday falls on the same week as Valentine's Day.
"Saturday was crazy," Nancy said. "The size of the massive crowds was amazing and we'd love to see it again on a day with beautiful weather."
Lord said winners of the float contest, which was judged by local military, were: Best overall, Krewe of Sippin Away; best theme, Krewe of Lafitte; best marching unit, Girl Scouts; parade captain selection, Krewe of Legacy.