Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 3, 2008

at Mardi Gras downtown|[02/03/08]

Packing Washington Street by the thousands, Vicksburg residents lined up for the seventh year for beads, floats and a little “rumbling” Saturday afternoon.

“I came here to rumble,” said 93-year-old Vincent “Woozie” Bonelli, an enthusiastic spectator at the Seventh Annual Downtown Vicksburg Mardi Gras Parade. “Rumbling, you know? Gettin’ down and shakin’ it up.”

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Bonelli, joined by two daughters and friends and about $125 in Silly String, said he has never missed the event. When asked if the bombardment of flying beads has ever bothered him over the years, he simply pointed to the button pinned to his jacket that read, “I’ve survived damn near everything.

“I’ve just always enjoyed coming down her with the people I love and having a good time,” he said.

Bonelli was one of an estimated 10,000 people “having a good time” downtown, Vicksburg Police Sgt. Jackie Johnson said. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s, the turnout was a sharp increase from last year’s crowd of 6,000, and 2006’s 1,000 — when temperatures were low and skies were rainy.

“It was as crowded as I’ve ever seen,” Johnson said. “But even though the attendance was high, everything still went smooth. No injuries, no arrests.”

“Nobody’s vehicles had to be towed,” he said and laughed.

Rosalie Theobald, executive director of the Vicksburg Main Street Program, expressed her happiness with the turnout.

“You couldn’t have asked for things to go better,” she said. “Everyone who helped with the event and all of the participants were absolutely wonderful.”

“And when you have weather like this, it makes it that much easier,” Theobald said. The parade, which stretched the 11 blocks from Belmont to Jackson streets and featured 30 entrees, kicked off at about 2 p.m. At its conclusion about an hour later, the krewe of Danny Hearn Trucking took the top prize with a steamboat float, being recognized by the judges for effort and enthusiasm.

Mardi Gras, a literal translation of “Fat Tuesday,” ends the festival season before Lent, which marks the period of fasting before Easter.

But regardless of origins, 5-year-old Alli Kurtz said she just wanted the beads.

“I think I have about 1,000,” said the daughter of Tricia Kurtz and David Ivey, looking at the thick, colorful mass around her neck and noting that she had more in her back pack.

First-time attendee Betty Bullard of Vicksburg, who was watching five of her grandchildren chase after the strands, didn’t quite get the bead craze.

“You’d think they were solid gold the way they’re going after ’em,” she said. “But they’re having a good time, I’m having a good time, the sun’s shining. What else could you ask for?”

The parade winners were:

* Best in Show — Krewe of Danny Hearn Trucking.

* Best Nonprofit — Krewe of Galla-ators, first place, and Cotton Krewe, second place.

* Best Business — Krewe of Sheffield (Sheffield Rentals), first place, and Flooring Gallery, second place.

* Most Original — Billy Bishop Motor Company, first place, and Vicksburg Women’s Care, second place.

* Most Enthusiastic — Brewe Krewe, first place, and Krewe of Saints (Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal), second place.