Krewe decks downtown in red, white and blue

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2000

For Matthew Baker, 9, the main attraction of Friday evening’s Krewe of Phoenix Mardi Gras parade had to be the floats. Not so, said friend Ryan Comer, also 9. &uot;It’s the beads,&uot;&160;he said matter-of-factly, clutching a plastic bag to catch the beads and craning his neck to see the first glimpse of the procession.

Fortunately, there was an ample amount of both to satisfy the crowds that lined the streets of downtown Natchez to see the 18th annual parade.

The parade’s grand marshals were former Miss Mississippi and Miss America Mary Ann Mobley and her husband, actor and talk show host Gary Collins, both of whom looked to be having as much fun as anyone, smiling ear to ear and tossing handfuls of trinkets to the crowd.

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King Rex XVIII John Carl Bergeron, Queen Rosalie XVIII Mary Berryhill Lessley and a host of other krewe royalty rode aboard floats decorated to celebrate the event’s theme, &uot;Stars and Stripes Forever.&uot;

In fact, most of the dozens of floats in the parade looked like a festive cross between Mardi Gras and the Fourth of July, with floats and their occupants decked out in red, white and blue. Groups in the parade ranged from krewes to school groups to charitable organizations to one group of women proudly proclaiming themselves to be &uot;Over the Hill and On a Roll.&uot;

Children of all ages waved wildly, jumped up and down and yelled their appreciation for the hard work that went into the floats. And they were rewarded, with even small children sporting a neckful of beads at the parade’s end.

Floats or trinkets?&160;The debate was lost on Brittany Whitehead, 9, who attended the parade with family and friends. &uot;I’m just here to have fun,&uot;&160;she said.