The Gulf Coast Carnival Association's royalty for 2016, the organization's 108th year: King d'Iberville is James W. "Jim" Hardaman, and Queen Ixolib is Kimberley Nicole Rushton.
Gulfport native James M. "Jim" Hardaman can't remember specifics about his first Mardi Gras parade, but he's pretty sure he enjoyed it.
"It probably dates back to when my parents would take us to New Orleans. I remember going to the parades there, the smaller ones," he said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
A 1969 graduate of Gulfport High School, he graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing and finance.
After graduation, he said, he had an opportunity "to travel a good bit" before putting his degree to work. He is a financial adviser and branch manager at Raymond James Financial Services in Gulfport. He is a graduate of the Institute of Investment Managing Consulting and a member of the Financial Services Institute.
Parading is an interest that didn't leave him. Hardaman also is a co-founder, board member and past president of Christmas on the Bayou, the annual event that encourages boat owners to festively decorate their craft and sail along Bayou Bernard in Gulfport.
"It was about 15 years ago," he said. "A friend and I were having drinks together and we said we needed to do a lighted parade, so that's how it started. He just followed through more than I did. We started with about three or four boats, and last year, I think it was about 70 that participated. It's almost like Mardi Gras, an opportunity to do something the whole community can enjoy."
Water plays a big part in Hardaman's off-the-clock fun. He's a member of the Gulfport Yacht Club and the Big Game Fishing Club.
"Mainly marsh fishing, speckled trout, that sort of thing," he said with a laugh. "I mostly support the (Big Game Fishing) club."
However, he and friend Woody Bailey are planning a big excursion for later this year.
"I enjoy boating, and we've just been planning a trip to the Bahamas, around the end of May. We'll take the boat there, stay a bit there and come back, ahead of the storm season," he said.
Hardaman, who currently is on the board of directors of GCCA, joined the organization about 15
years ago. Being involved and serving as king this year is exciting, he said, but the biggest thrill is giving others an opportunity to enjoy themselves.
"Mardi Gras, for me, is more about doing something for the community. It's about enjoyment, but not just for us.
"When you're riding in the parade and look out on this virtual sea of people -- moms and dads, grandmothers, children, brothers and sisters, with big smiles on their faces -- you know you're doing something good for the community," he said.
Kimberley Nicole Rushton now lives in Birmingham, Ala., but she's definitely a Coast girl.
She is operating partner at I Love Juice Bar in Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham, with plans to open several more locations in the Birmingham area. The chain features vegetarian juices and smoothies. Her father, Gerald Edison "Rusty" Rushton Jr., advised her to look into the company after she graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in mass communication with concentration in advertising. She had gotten a glimpse of working in the food industry when she worked at Stalla a few years ago.
"It's a happy, healthy, feel-good business," she said of the company.
When she's not focused on a Mean Greens juice blend or a Blue Chocolotta smoothie, Rushton might be found drawing, delving into typography, playing tennis or cooking.
"Cooking, for sure, but I do it so much, I don't think of it as a hobby," she said. She's especially drawn to Asian cuisine, plus curry and noodle dishes.
"I watch a lot of cooking shows -- 'Chef's Table,' 'The Mind of a Chef,'" she added.
She appreciates microbrewed beers, too, and this year, both Queen Ixolib and King d'Iberville have their own brews created by Coast microbrewery Crooked Letter.
"Mine is a blonde, and Jim Hardaman's is a blend of malts and hops," she said.
Travel also appeals to her.
"Last summer I went all different places -- France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Amsterdam," she said.
Carnival has long been a part of her life.
"I've been going to parades since I was a toddler," she said. "It's always been a part of my life, and I love it. I went to LSU, so you had Mardi Gras there, too, and my aunt lives in New Orleans.
"I was probably about 12 when I first rode on a float, in Gemini. It was a Bayou Bluff (Tennis Club) float," she recalled.
Summer camp groups at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi decorated the favors for the Queen's Luncheon.
"They painted pottery crowns, and each one is one of a kind," Rushton said.
Speaking of one of a kind, the queen's gown has a history that starts in New York City.
The family was in the city for the graduation of the queen's sister, Kate Rushton, so Kate led the women to the Garment District.
"It was the first store we went into in the Garment District. We were looking for material for the ball, and it was a lace place," said Andi Oustalet, the queen's mother. "They pulled out this fabric -- a French lace that's beaded -- and we all went, 'Whoa, that is beautiful!'
"She basically designed her own gown, and Sheila (Gray) had a vision for it," Oustalet said. "She wanted it to be a simple, elegant style."
"It's more ballgown regal," Rushton said. "It's definitely me."
Her crown also is simple and elegant, and she is looking forward to wearing it, but Queen Ixolib also has a witty side.
"I wanted a Queen Elizabeth crown -- you know, the huge gold one with the velvet," she said, laughing. "Of course, I wouldn't have worn it, but it's just so big. So they (her maids) gave me one."