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GULF COAST CARNIVAL ASSOCIATION

The Gulf Coast Carnival Association celebrated 100 years of parading when it rolled through Biloxi with the Krewe of Neptune tagging along, a new tradition established after Hurricane Katrina. While parade organizers estimated 75,000 to 100,000 revelers hit the streets, police officials said the number was fewer than last year’s count of at least 75,000.

And while it was a warm and muggy afternoon, with loud music, singing, dancing and laughing, police officers stationed on the route said it was a quiet day, almost boring.

Bill Holmes, parade chairman, said the 3 1 /2-mile procession with 112 floats, bands and organizations was like a determined turtle as it “constantly crawled” for three hours down Main Street, then up and down U.S. 90 and downtown before ending at Howard Avenue and Caillavet Street.

As people spilled over barricades and jumped off curbs to grab what was flying off the floats, in came backup officers from other Coast cities, counties and the Mississippi Highway Patrol to coax them back. But some patrolmen were from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Department of Marine Resources. And while there were no fish or fishermen to corral, there were schools of children roaming everywhere.

“See what I’m trying to do? (I have to) keep the kids out from under the floats,” said one DMR officer.

Sen. Roger Wicker stood at the front of the City Hall grandstand, watching floats roll by and beads whizz past his head. He said he was on his sixth trip to the Coast in five weeks.

“It’s an important region of the state. Katrina recovery needs to stay on the national radar,” he said.

Beside him was Mayor A.J. Holloway, also dodging errant beads. He said, “You gotta be careful. I’m pretty quick with my hands and feet.” Holloway praised this year’s parade, calling it a sign that the Coast is returning to its original strength.

While there were marching bands from Coast schools and quirky floats such as the Krewe of Bowlegs pirate ship, there were also roller skates. Just before the parade began, Shannon Randazzo of the Ocean Springs-based Mississippi Rollergirls scooted around on her skates, trying to get a feel for the bumpy asphalt. A police officer cruised beside her and said, “No skates or skateboards allowed on the parade route.”

Randazzo, whose roller derby name is “L’Sassin,” said, “But officer, we’re in the parade. On skates.”

And after seeing her red tank top with an MSRG emblem, he said, “Oh. Well, in that case, you’re OK.”

Let the good times roll.

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