Revelers pack city for Latin Carnivale

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 14, 2010

Latin Carnivale brought a sizzle to an otherwise chilly Saturday afternoon in downtown Vicksburg as thousands flocked to catch beads and baubles thrown from passing floats in the 9th-annual Mardi Gras parade.

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Sponsored by Vicksburg Main Street Program, the parade featuring a Latin theme drew nearly 4,000 people who lined Washington Street from Belmont to Jackson streets.

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Revelers braved 35-degree temperatures and cloudy skies to see a row of floats decked in purple, green and yellow that began rolling in at 2 p.m.

“It’s good Mardi Gras weather,” said Pat Sullivan, who has attended every Mardi Gras parade in Vicksburg with her family, including her two children, Johnathan, 9, and Kristen, 7.  “We’re regulars.”

“They throw beads and you can catch them,” Johnathan said referring to what he liked most about being at the parade. Lee Sullivan is their father.

Paige Morgan, who said her family are parade regulars, watch the festivities with her family of 11.

“We’ve been to every one,” Morgan said. “It’s too much fun to worry about the cold.”

Newcomers to Vicksburg’s celebration were former North Louisiana couple Cheryl and Jim Stevens.

“I was pleased with the turnout,” said Cheryl Stevens, whose 2-year-old grandson, Keegan Blount, was draped in a heap of colorful beads. Keegan is the son of Dustin and Samantha Blount of Vicksburg.

Organizers said turnout was not exactly what they had hoped for and cited the cold weather and the remnants of a rare snowstorm that dumped 6.5 inches of the white stuff on Vicksburg on Friday.

“The weather did hurt us a little bit,” Main Street Executive Director Kim Hopkins said. “But everybody had a good time, and it was a good turnout.”

Vicksburg police traffic investigator Eric Paymon said the crowd was orderly and “everything went without incident.”

“Mardi Gras is normally one of the biggest, but due to the weather, we didn’t get as many people out,” Paymon said.

Downtown Vicksburg has seen as many as 16,000 parade revelers in years past.

This year’s parade was a first to have a theme. Hopkins said Latin Carnivale was chosen to celebrate the Latin cultures in Vicksburg.

As part of the celebration, Krewe El Sombrero took part in the parade for the first time.

“I had more fun than anybody,” said Luis Angel, El Sombrero Restaurant owner. “We didn’t care that it was cold.”

“We were so excited,” said 18-year-old Yesenia Aguirre, who was dressed in a traditional Jalisco frock and rode on the float. “It makes us proud to represent Mexico.”

She is the daughter of Lourdes and Ruben Aguirre. Their float, followed by the 17-member band Banda Tromba de Guanajuato of Atlanta, took home the Best in Show award.

Twenty-nine floats participated in the parade, down from 32 last year, Hopkins said.

Foot-traffic downtown was a boon for merchants along Washington Street.

“I was glad the parade wasn’t canceled,” said Alice Hebler, owner of Paper Plus. “I was pleased with the turnout. We sold everything that was throw-able.”

Hebler’s neighbors at Art & Soul of the South and Duff’s Tavern & Grille agree.

“A parade does bring more traffic downtown,” said Art & Soul owner Regina Gailani. “It gives exposure for the shops.”

Duff’s co-owner Ron Sanders said, “It was a good turnout.”

Other winners were:

• Krewe of Danny Hearn Trucking for Best Business.

• Cotton Krewe of Rolling Fork for best non-profit.

• Flower Power Krewe of the Flower Center for Most Original

• Krewe of the Galla-Ators won Most Enthusiastic.

The winning Krewes will receive a trophy to be presented at the next city board meeting.

The annual Mardi Gras ball at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center closed out the festivities. The ball was sponsored by the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.

Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at