Thousands turn out downtown for Mardi Gras, Butler, beads

Published 10:39 pm Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sitting in her lawn chair at the corner of Crawford and Washington streets and wearing a No. 21 New England Patriots Jersey with “Malcolm Butler” printed across the back, Lulu Mau McDaniel had staked out her spot for Vicksburg’s annual Mardi Gras parade.
“This is my first time to come the parade and I came here to see Malcolm Butler,” she said. “Malcolm Butler’s the man today.”
McDaniel was one of the many early arrivals for the parade, as people enjoyed the sunny but cool weather as they made their way along both sides of Washington Street looking for the perfect spot to watch the parade and have the least competition for the beads that would be tossed from the floats and other entries as they passed by.
Pat Humphries was also waiting to see someone. “Jimmy Turner is the king, and he’s our neighbor; I’m here to see him.”
Like McDaniel, some of the people lining the barricades along Washington Street were first-timers.
Shirlene DeForest of Bastrop, La., came to Vicksburg for other reasons.
“I came here for a flea market and to shop, and now we’re going to a Mardi Gras parade,” she said as she clutched a wrapped package. “I have a friend who’s having a birthday, so I got her a present,” she said.
Karen Weaver came from Virginia to visit her son and daughter-in-law, Brooke Stevens, who moved to Vicksburg from Virginia in August.
“We just thought it would be a good thing to do,” Stevens said. “The weather was nice. This is our first Mardi Gras.”
As people mingled along the sidewalks looking for their spot, music from different sources along Washington Street helped set the party atmosphere.
And some people didn’t wait for the parade to start collecting beads, as riders on some entries tossed beads to the early crowds as they made their way down Washington to form up. In one area north of Clay Street, people stood on the roofs of buildings and tossed beads down to the waiting crowds.
On the south end of Washington Street, members of Girl Scout Troop 3315 set up shop hoping to take advantage of the crowds and sell some of their inventory of Girl Scout cookies.
“I thought with all the people, we’d be able to sell a lot of cookies,” said Scout Baylie Townsend, “but it looks like I made a mistake.” The girls, however, were still able to sell a few boxes.
The parade made its way down Washington to the sound of sirens and recorded music with Turner and Margie Heltzel, the king and queen of the first River Revelers Masked Ball, leading the leading the procession, featuring the Vicksburg High School Band and Warren Central High Big Blue Band, classic cars and floats and the NRoute Trolley, which held local officials who tossed beads to the crowd.
Malcolm Butler, the parade’s grand marshal, decked out in his No. 21 New England Patriots jersey and riding atop a Corvette convertible, waved to the crowd and caused a major stir when he stood up holding a rolled Patriots jersey he later threw into the crowd.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had two floats, and the Danny Hearn Trucking float, which won the best in show award, featured a Star Wars theme with Chewbacca leading the way and Darth Vader tossing beads from the top of the float.
“All of the floats were very creative this year,” said Vicksburg Main Street director Kim Hopkins. “We enjoyed having the Vicksburg High School Band and cheerleaders and the Warren Central High School Band participate in the parade, and it was great having Malcolm Butler home for the parade, too.”
The crowd, Hopkins said, was enthusiastic, “And everyone looked like they were having fun as we came down the parade route, and we had a wide variety of throws this year. We also had Dogs for Dolphins from Atlanta participating this year.”
Besides Danny Hearn Trucking, other entries winning awards included Sheffield Rentals, best in business; U.S. Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District, best nonprofit; Elks Lodge No. 95, best throws; Bluff Rehab & Health, most original; WES Castle Club, most enthusiastic, Vicksburg Cruisers Car Club, best recreational; and Team Scooter, best civic club.

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About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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