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Rolling With It 

Through rain and cold, Rex Duke™ was not deterred from his responsibilities as the world's first and foremost Mardi Gras parade critic. Here, he returns to bestow his honors on the very best.

Greetings, Royal Subjects!

Whether perched on ladder or standing curbside, the denizens of this fair city, joined by thousands of faithful travelers to our dreamy landscape, cheered as the majestic krewes brought forth their artistic processions once more to our streets and avenues. I, too, joined the admiring throngs, but while you reached for blinky bead or stuffed gargoyle, I took careful note of each parade's adherence to our noble Carnival traditions. Krewes earned points for theme originality, float and costume design, overall parade organization, quality and uniqueness of throws, and number and spiritedness of the marching bands. I steered my chariot past car and bike, from Uptown to downtown, from West Bank to Metairie. Herewith, as in so many years past, I present my royal rankings.

I offer a special nod to those who braved the unpredictable elements. Hail Orpheus, Cleopatra, Aladdin, Oshun, Sparta and all others who rolled -- and reigned -- in the rain! To the fair riders of Pygmalion and Zeus, forced to roll on "rain dates," I offer you my thanks for keeping spirits high. Alas, poor Proteus, the lone krewe forced to cancel -- we shall never know the splendors you had prepared for our enjoyment. We await your gallant return next year!

And now, loyal readers, before we march farther into the austerity of the holy Lenten season, let us look back one final time at the magic, mirth and magnificence of Mardi Gras 2004.

Adieu!

2004 PARADE SEASON HIGHLIGHTS:

Best Overall Parade: Rex

Best Day Parade: Mid-City

Best Night Parade: Hermes

Best Super Krewe: (tie) Rex and Bacchus

Best Suburban Parade: (tie) Alla and Caesar

Most Improved Parade: Rhea

Favorite Themes: Ancient Druids' "Druid Krewezin'"; Bacchus' "Magical Mystical Tour"; Caesar's "Meant for Each Other"; "Chaos Tells Tales of Tails"; Le Krewe D'Etat's "Malice in Wonderland"; Saturn's "It Bugs Me"; "Weekly World Muse"

Adonis 2 1/2 CROWNS

"Adonis' Childhood Memories" served as a catch-all theme for the better floats such as "Fuzzy Friends" (Little Bo Peep and her sheep) and lesser efforts such as "Kuntry Kookin'" (Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater accompanied by Three Men in a Tub and the Pied Piper. Dance teams outnumbered marching bands, but Grand Marshal Clarence "Frogman" Henry was the crowd-pleaser of the day.

Aladdin 3 CROWNS

Neither wind nor cold rain could dampen the spirits of Aladdin, which made a spirited showing with its "Aladdin Wishes" theme. The Charlie Chaplin bust on "Bringing Back the Silent Movies" stood out, as did the details on "Champagne Flight to Europe." Even in the bad weather, riders stayed masked -- even Bag-O-Donuts were in costume on the band's own float. Throws were varied and generous, with Aladdin and Jasmine dolls among the most coveted prizes.

Alla 4 CROWNS

Alla reigned over the West Bank with an exceptional parade that might have started a bit late, but made up for lost time in excellent pacing and execution. The theme "Alla's Masquerade" lent itself to Carnival-appropriate floats, with "Ivory Coast" and "Egyptian Masks" among the most lovely. Varied throws included Harry Lee magnets, Alla goblets, and medallion beads themed to individual floats. The Marine Corps Marching Band got the crowd dancing to its swinging version of "When the Saints Go Marching In"; a special nod goes to L.W. Higgins of Marrero for its presence in every West Bank parade this season. The two dozen bands in the parade were spirited as they competed in an annual band contest.

Ancient Druids 3 CROWNS

With local politics getting a bit overdone as a topic for parade satire, the Druids turned to their brother and sister krewes for inspiration. The theme "Druid Krewezin'" skewered krewes with mixed results. The best included Mid-City ("MidSortaUptownCity"), wrapped in foil. "The Fatted Cows of Muses" seemed a tad cruel; "Amato's Shangri-La New Orleans Public Schools," featuring a unicorn, made no sense; and in a case of poetic justice, "Wrecks" broke down and delayed the parade. The black robes and death faces are as eerie as ever, but I'd still like to see more enthusiasm from the throwers.

Aquila 3 CROWNS

Aquila paraded to "Broadway/Show Stoppers," most memorably with the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" float, which featured a lifelike Marilyn Monroe statue complete with a white dress billowing up in the wind. Riders costumed to float themes, sporting blond wigs on the Monroe float and hippie garb on "Jesus Christ Superstar/Hair." Of the bands, Grace King played exceptionally well. A few gaps, but overall a handsome, well-organized showing.

Argus 3 CROWNS

A bust of Frank Sinatra decorated the title float, which announced this year's theme, "Sinatra and His Music." Fans of Ol' Blue Eyes weren't disappointed by floats that matched Sinatra standards. Sammy Kershaw, a country star with ties to the state, was in fine form, as were artist George Rodrigue and Sheriff Harry Lee, both on their own floats. (Blue Dog doubloons were a prize catch.) Other standouts included LSU's float and the band Zebra, with its own zebra-striped ride.

Atlas 2 1/2 CROWNS

Bravo to Atlas for braving the elements, as Mardi Gras fans were eager for the parades to begin rolling. The "Cartoon Capers" theme was kid-friendly, although the most striking float, "E.T.," was also the one most ill-fitting to the theme. With sparse crowds due to the rain, the throw-to-spectator ratio was especially high this year. The De La Salle Cavaliers horn section provided a musical highlight. Too many riders doffed their masks -- but I shall grant them a pass for this year only. After all, it was raining, and at least they kept their smiles on.

Bacchus 5 CROWNS

Bacchus took its "Magical Mystical Tour" to new heights, blessed by an inspired celebrity king in Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood. (Wood chucked handfuls of signature doubloons, while the crowd responded with "Frodo Lives" signs held up along the route.) Floats such as "Fairies and Sprites" and "Cave-dwelling Dwarfs" made for a mythical evening indeed, and newly lighted-up costumes accented the floats, making Bacchus quite a nighttime spectacle. Of the bands, the talented Rosa Fort High School from Tunica, Miss., elicited the most cheers from an already cheering crowd. Throws seemed a bit less generous than in previous years, but otherwise, a stellar night for Bacchus.

Bards of Bohemia 1 1/2 CROWN

Last year, we welcomed the 70-year-old Bards back to the streets. However, the sophomore slump overtook this krewe, which turned in the poorest showing of the season. Title cards, when they appeared at all, were hastily scrawled, some with misspellings sloppily crossed out. The already-generic theme "Have We Got a Story for You" was indecipherable, given the poor float execution and lack of title cards. Masks were the exception, and many riders seemed unenthused, spending more time drinking and chatting among themselves than giving the crowd a reason to line up streetside. Only the New Orleans VooDoo players seemed like they genuinely wanted to be there.

Caesar 4 CROWNS

Caesar paid tribute to its Valentine's Day parade with the theme "Meant for Each Other," which prompted such timeless pairings as "Mickey and Minnie Mouse" and "Peanut Butter and Jelly." Exceptional floats included "New Orleans and the Hornets" with matching costumes. Nickelodeon characters SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer delighted the kiddies, and the new 150-foot "Hydra" introduced fiber optics to Metairie parades. Archbishop Rummel High School's marching band set the tempo for a fine outing by one of the suburb's most pleasing krewes.

Carrollton 3 CROWNS

A suitably local "Streets on Parade" theme featured Louis Armstrong on "Bourbon Street" but just got by with riverboats on "River Road." Crowds were left scratching their heads on the identity of the silver-haired figure on the bust on "Tulane Avenue," which otherwise featured riders in Beagle Boys-style striped convict outfits. Hoop-skirted maids appeared as the Queen of Hearts and Cinderella -- and it was nice to see a teen escort and a maid flirting back and forth as the parade rolled. Ain't love grand? As they did last year, Covington's dapper St. Paul's Marching Wolves delighted the crowd with their repertoire, including the Dazz Band's "Let It Whip."

Centurions 4 CROWNS

Centurions celebrated its 25th anniversary with its "Everything That's Silver" theme, which featured "Silver Streak," "Silver Screen," and an especially lovely "Silver Bells." The silver theme sparkled along the route, throws were plentiful, and an illuminated anniversary mug quickly became a prize catch. The night grew chilly by parade's end, yet even those bedecked in skirts or dresses kept a warm smile throughout.

Chaos 4 1/2 CROWNS

Chaos lived up to its reputation as the heir-apparent to Momus by providing both spectacle and intelligence. "Chaos Tells Tales of Tails" took an obligatory jab at Michael Jackson ("Tale of Two Kiddies") and also took on Harrah's ("Tales You Lose") and our new governor ("Blanco Tales," making a pun en francais with an all-white float.) Jackson also appeared thanks to the Opelousas High School band, who performed the gloved one's "Leave Me Alone." Throws were skimpy, but the krewe more than compensated with a genuinely funny procession suffused with both secrecy and splendor.

Choctaw 1 1/2 CROWN

Although the theme was "Choctaw Salutes Southern Indians," there was little evidence of that happening in floats that were decorated in tropical flowers, Stonehenge-looking statues, an Egyptian head and other odd choices. Costumes fared somewhat better, especially on the "Medicine Man" float. George Washington Carver served as the only marching band, but beads were plentiful.

Cleopatra 2 1/2 CROWNS

The krewe illustrated its "I Could Have Danced All Night" theme with "Hula," "Waltz" and "Irish River Dance" floats. Braving difficult weather, the riders put on a spirited show. Organizational troubles plagued the night -- one marching band was spotted running along side the parade, presumably trying to catch up to its assigned slot. Still, one makes allowances in the cold and rain. Of the floats, the "Mexican Hat Dance" was the most striking, featuring a large cactus bedecked in a sombrero.

Endymion 3 1/2 CROWNS

Throngs of fans lined Endymion's route to welcome their conquering hero back to Mid-City. Masked riders rewarded spectators by throwing copious amounts of beads deep into the crowd. But more than any other large-scale parade this season, Endymion suffered from thinly recycled floats in its "Saturday Night at the Movies, The Sequel" showing. The "Oscars" float featured someone that looked like Burt Reynolds (who never won an Oscar) and Roxie on "Chicago" appeared to be a refurbished Marilyn Monroe. Overall, Endymion needs to better space the bands and floats. Artwork was extremely rough -- with the notable exception of the striking Shrek and Woody characters on the "Cartoons Come Alive" float. Yet it was a good year for celebrity monarchs -- Leann Rimes fulfilled her royal duties with class and charm.

Excalibur 3 1/2 CROWNS

Wonderfully designed floats illustrated the classical theme "A Knight's Tale." It was another noble outing for Excalibur, complete with riders staying masked, high-stepping bands (the Donaldsonville Marching Tigers proved exceptional) and float-specific throws. Lighted Excalibur swords were a hit with young and old, and the purple cloaks and feathered headdresses on "Merlin and Morgana" were gorgeous.

Grela 2 CROWNS

The best representation of the "Choose Your Fantasy" theme was "Snake Charmer," with two snakes in the front and riders wearing golden turbans. Riders in "Dragon Slayer" were also properly attired in dragonheads. Organizational difficulties included a late start and one float that didn't actually appear until after Choctaw, the parade that followed Grela. Marching bands were lively, especially Harper High School Marching Band from Chicago. A parade highlight: five stilt walkers who danced and spun around to the crowd's amazement.

Hermes 4 1/2 CROWNS

Hermes executed its "Pandora's Box" theme with some of the most striking floats of the entire Carnival season. Dark and brooding depictions of death, pestilence and madness loomed down the street, as marching bands thundered in the distance. In "Zeus Seeks Revenge," modern technology met classical imagery as a neon lightning bolt shattered a Parthenon-like structure. Throws were a bit scarce, and the ending of the parade, an odd procession of Louisiana Purchase floats, was puzzling -- but even these quibbles can't take away from the splendor of one of this year's finest parades.

Iris 3 1/2 CROWNS

The ladies of Iris did not disappoint their many fans, once again proving to be among the most generous (and accurate) throwers of beads, toys and stuffed animals of Carnival. The "A Touch of Class" theme was a bit stretched by inclusions such as "Bass Masters Classics," and car enthusiasts bristled when the "Grand Prix" float featured NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s no. 8 car rather than a Formula One car. The krewe did exceptionally well with its costuming, featuring pith helmets and leopard print outfits on "African Safari" and white tuxes and top hats for "Puttin' on the Ritz."

Isis 2 1/2 CROWNS

Isis illustrated its "Sweet Stuff" theme with sugary floats such as "Dinner Mints" and "Peppermints," which featured Santa Claus. A well-organized outing, Isis excelled once again with its costuming -- the headdresses worn by royalty were breathtaking. The vision of the back maid on Float 11, all orange feathers and a sun in the costume's center, stays with me. Clappers and maracas were popular throws, along with the krewe's signature (and useful) fly swatters.

King Arthur 2 1/2 CROWNS

King Arthur receives bonus points for identifying author Charles Perrault in the title float for "Mother Goose 2004." Floats were vivid if a bit cluttered -- the tri-titled "Pat A Cake/Muffin Man/Old Mother Hubbard" was a bit much to decipher as it rolled by. Live music on floats is always a treat, and it was great to see and hear the Paulin Brass Band on "Hickory Dickory Dock." Unfortunately, too many gaps and an overall lack of masking damaged the otherwise fine presentation. Also, the sight of a maid talking on a cell phone doesn't really put one in that Carnival frame of mind.

Knights of Babylon 3 1/2 CROWNS

Once again, the stage proved to be Babylon's muse. After last year's "Sauntering Through Sondheim," the Knights unveiled "Pirates of Penzance" to fine effect. Signature floats such as "Jester Jazz" and "Paradox" (complete with giant astrolabe) rode well, and float-specific costuming, especially the silver wizard outfits on "Paradox," enhanced the presentation, as did flambeaux and other old-line elements.

Knights of Jason 2 1/2 CROWNS

Welcome Knights of Jason from dormancy. This krewe is back after a 30-year hiatus. Jason made a respectable showing with a "Walkin' Through New Orleans" theme that represented different streets in the city. There was one major delay, during which the Marshall High School band and dancers sat it out on the street, which deflated the mood a bit. Throws weren't copious, but the dragon dolls and stuffed knights instantly became prize catches. The group of clowns handing out twisty animal balloons also proved a hit with kids and parents, and we look forward to the Knights returning to the streets again next year.

Le Krewe D'Etat 4 1/2 CROWNS

Another stellar showing by D'Etat, whose parade is one of the most highly anticipated of the season. "Malice in Wonderland" provided an opportunity for striking riffs on Lewis Carroll's themes and John Tenniel's illustrations. Some jokes were a bit dated -- such as J. Edgar Hoover's cross-dressing -- but it's forgivable when the results are so handsome. Welcome touches included parade bulletins, which newsboys distributed at the start of the procession. Throws seemed less plentiful than in years past, but the white-eyed, pale-blue gargoyles might just be the most distinguished stuffed animal in Mardi Gras history. One stern admonishment: more than one rider tossed LSU-colored Confederate flag beads into the crowd. The dictator should better control his subjects.

Mercury 1 1/2 CROWNS

Mercury, more than most, exhibited one of the more disheartening trends of modern Carnival parades: riders with cell phones. Several riders throughout this procession could be spotted either talking to each other, checking voice mail or stock quotes, or doing whatever else took precedent over greeting their spectators. Equally disturbing were the large numbers of riders who were unmasked. Otherwise, Mercury illustrated its "Mercury's Fantasy Island" theme with attractive floats such as "Sailing to Hawaii" and "Dreams of Shangri-La."

Mid-City 4 1/2 CROWNS

Once a venerable Mid-City tradition, this distinguished procession has kept all its glitter even through its relocation Uptown. Thanks to a sunny day, the foil floats sparkled, and the theme, "The Things We Do For Love," included one of the most impressive floats of the season, "Showered With Gifts," displaying shiny white packages with red bows. Once again, Mid-City's band competition brought out the best, especially Memphis' Northside High School. Signature throws included signature Zapp's potato chips, the stuffed "Mid-City Man" and Kermit the Frog.

Morpheus 2 CROWNS

The theme "Royal Dreams" featured world leaders' "Dreams of Conquest" and "Dreams of Riches," but most of these floats were looking a bit worn after a couple rounds in other parades. Overall, the middle school bands didn't seem very enthusiastic -- the kids might have tired themselves out in previous processions. But riders tossed beads, doubloons and cups with enthusiasm, royalty was elaborately costumed, and we look forward to Morpheus bringing perhaps a few more surprises into next year's outing.

Muses 4 1/2 CROWNS

The witty "Weekly World Muse" theme featured plenty of insider jokes about Chris Owens, Britney Spears and some mysterious Times-Picayune journalist, and the new Shoe Float was one of the most transcendent spectacles of Carnival: a fiber-optic red pump with Coolbone in traditional brass band caps and white shirts at the toe, and Becky Allen at the heel. What more could one want? Costumes and masks matched float themes, and throws were constantly surprising -- you never knew what you were going to catch next. Oddities such as Les Pussyfooters, the Ninth Ward Marching Band, and scootering Elvises abounded. Nobody brings whimsy to Mardi Gras like the ladies in Muses.

Napoleon 4 CROWNS

Napoleon rode with style, illustrating its "Legends and Lore" theme with "Ghosts" and "Cheshire Cat" floats. Napoleon's signatures are especially noteworthy: the court rides in horse-drawn carriages, and the Waterloo float features a huge, confetti-shooting cannon. Riders stayed masked and throws were copious, and the inclusion of a series of jazz bands kept things musical.

NOMTOC 3 1/2 CROWNS

An attractive, literate parade highlighted NOMTOC's procession. "NOMTOC's Book of Fairy Tales" diverged from actual fairy tales, but held true to the spirit of kids' books with a particularly attractive "The Wild Things" float and a lovely "Heidi." Costumes matched each float's theme, with riders in "Hansel and Gretel" dressed as witches, chefs and maidens. Louisiana Leadership Institute and O. Perry Walker were among the top marching bands, and NOMTOC was among the season's most generous parades, offering the widest variety of toys and the largest stuffed animals.

Okeanos 2 CROWNS

Okeanos saluted real and imagined figures in its "Heroes and Villains" theme, including "St. George the Dragon Slayer," "Wonder Woman" and "King Kong" -- who is more of a monster than a villain. Float painting was a mixed bag and the parade suffered from several extended gaps. Still, riders were spirited and generous with cups, beads and stuffed fish that honor the parade's watery god. Arnie's Jazz Gents livened the end of the parade with classic Mardi Gras tunes like "Hey, Pocky Way."

Orpheus 4 CROWNS

Oh, Orpheus, it looked like you might have had a year to rival the best. Your floats looked lovely even in the downpour, decorated to the "Serenade of the Seasons" theme. Specialty throws matched each float, the Trojan Horse housed musicians instead of warriors, and Harry Connick Jr. clearly was making the best of things on Carnival's stormiest night. Some bands were pulled out and the floats speeded up on account of rain, but I hail your undimmed spirit and anticipate a future night when you can reveal your true splendor.

Oshun 2 1/2 CROWNS

Oshun continued to improve as it returned to a musical theme. Floats illustrated "Let's Dance" with such moves as "The Twist" and "The Electric Slide," although the former featured a likeness that more closely resembled Ray Charles than Chubby Checker, and the latter seemed to display the bust of Bazooka Joe. Still, the riders did a good job staying both masked and spirited in bad weather. St. Aug's "Stand By Me" was a musical highlight, and Stephanie's Steppin' Steppers proved themselves to be the season's most unique dance troupe by kicking it old-school with Afros and Kool Moe Dee's "I Go to Work."

Pegasus 2 1/2 CROWNS

The eternal question "What's Love Got to Do With It?" was more unanswerable than usual, with several floats seemingly disconnected from the theme ("All's Fair in Love and War" featuring Civil War soldiers?). Organizational problems included a number of gaps in the procession, and a few bands seemed dispirited. Yet seeing Grand Marshal Allan Toussaint atop a tall double-decker float was an even better treat than obtaining a signature wooden horseshoe.

Pontchartrain 2 1/2 CROWNS

This krewe gets extra credit for braving the elements -- Pontchartrain kept things rolling, even in a downpour. The "Who Loves Ya, Baby" theme paid homage to the convergence of Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day, with couples both renowned (Lois Lane and Superman) and a bit more obscure (John and Annie Glenn). The New Edition Marching Band from Baltimore was noteworthy for its male-female dance team.

Pygmalion 2 1/2 CROWNS

Pygmalion made the most of its rescheduled parade with its "Pygmalion Salutes Monarchs Through Time" theme. Alcee Fortier's and Clark's bands provided musical highlights, although it seemed a few other bands might have been missing due to the rain date. Maids displayed large, richly colored dresses and headdresses -- one shared the design and color scheme of a dart board. Riders should be encouraged to keep their masks on, however.

Rex 5 CROWNS

Spectators should be forgiven if they scurried to their encyclopedias to look up some of the lesser known mythological creatures in the ornate and intelligent theme "The Winged World." Float after float proved more stunning than the one preceding it -- the colors were vivid even in gloomy and overcast weather. The "Phoenix" rose from the ashes with splendor, while the glory of the "Peacock" was truly breathtaking. The equally mythological LSU marching band -- the Golden Band from Tigerland -- brought both chills and Sugar Bowl memories to all who heard it. Although Rex is not known for the quantity or variety of its throws, the jester doll is quickly becoming a fun catch. In all, a grand day for a grand parade.

Rhea 2 1/2 CROWNS

Rhea improved greatly on past years with its "City Lights" theme illustrated by floats such as "Elvis' Memphis" and "New York Liberty." New York riders dressed as Statues of Liberty and the Memphis riders donned Elvis wigs and sunglasses. The drum line of Grace King High School's band set the tempo, and varied throws included hairbrush/mirror sets. My congratulations, Rhea.

Saturn 4 1/2 CROWNS

The "It Bugs Me" insect theme proved a clever vehicle for this parade's annual satirical romp. Topics were edgier than most, with "Praying Mantis" skewering the Catholic church. More tried-and-true subjects included Michael Jackson in "Bedbugs." But "Sandflies" was no joke -- the float featured family members of soldiers in Iraq. Unique throws were abundant, including blinky beads, stuffed Saturn figures and key chains. Overall, Saturn threw a great moveable party this year.

Shangri-La 2 1/2 CROWNS

The theme "Vamps and Vixens" led to some interesting philosophical debates: Which one was represented in the Maria Von Trapp float? Likenesses of Marilyn Monroe and Dolly Parton were skillfully rendered and less enigmatic. The weather seemed to affect the organization -- one marching band even pulled an Animal House and veered left from the route onto a side street and quit. The pink medallion bead was striking, as were the royal floats guarded by blue ceremonial lions.

Sparta 3 CROWNS

Despite the misspelling on the first word on Sparta's title float, "Starry Starry Knight" was a lovely and well-executed theme, with Taurus and Cancer being particularly impressive (Taurus riders looked resplendent in their matador suits). An extensive array of marching bands -- including St. Augustine -- blasted into the night. Four costumed mules at the parade's beginning set the classic mood early, and it never let up.

Thor 3 CROWNS

Thor celebrated the moneyed set in "Lifestyles of the Rich," with floats such as the tiger-bedecked "On Safari in Africa" and Eiffel Tower-decorated "Champagne Flight to Europe" being the most memorable. Riders stayed masked; throws were plentiful, with inflatable swords among the more coveted items for kids. The Art Ryder Jazz Band provided a musical highlight in a solid outing for Thor.

Thoth 3 1/2 CROWNS

Thoth provided a history lesson of sorts in "Animators and Illustrators," commemorating milestones in cartooning, such as the debut of "Felix the Cat" in 1919 and "Popeye" in 1933. But the theme got a little dodgy with floats such as "Ghostbusters" (which did make it as a Saturday morning cartoon) and "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Chuckie." Still, spirits were high and throws were plentiful, with the special Thoth football in demand. And if the parade got delayed, you could always gaze at the Pink Slip lead singer, hanging out of the band's parade car, ferociously making out with an unidentified man en route.

Tucks 3 1/2 CROWNS

Tucks, you bad boys of Carnival, parading behind the giant toilet with your masks tossed to the floor of your float, taunting the Carnival traditions. The satiric theme "New Orleans' Politics: A Mardi Gras Fairy Tale" was the most lukewarm of the many takes on local politics this year. But Tucks really redeemed itself with its throws, which often matched the floats. "Funky Tucks" beads featured a Tuck in an Afro, tossed from the "Funky Tucks Runs for Mayor" float as James Brown music played. A ducky float threw ducky beads, a froggy float threw froggy beads, the sun shone and kids on the neutral ground played keep-away with their newly acquired spears and footballs. A great day, sure, but how about those masks?

Zeus 2 1/2 CROWNS

After being forced to cancel Monday night's roll, Zeus proved to be in good spirits on Fat Tuesday, rolling out its "Animation in the Cinema" theme with floats honoring luminaries such as Roger Rabbit and SpongeBob SquarePants, who isn't really in the cinema but was a kid-pleaser nonetheless. A few too many riders doffed their masks and the marching bands couldn't make the rescheduled parade, but throws were generous and Zeus proceeded with spunk.

Zulu 4 1/2 CROWNS

This shall always be remembered as the year Zulu rolled 10 minutes early! With bad weather threatening but never commencing, Zulu gathered up its grass skirts and bags of coconuts and made an exceptional showing. Coconuts seemed more in abundance this year than ever before, along with umbrellas, spears, and the numerous other signature throws. Other parades have riders on horseback, but at Zulu they danced on top of the horses. All the signature characters were in fine form, along with Batman and Cat in the Hat and anyone else who could fit in the general theme "Zulu and All the Characters We Know." A few too many riders wielded video cameras and cell phones instead of beads and cups, but otherwise a fine and well-organized showing by Zulu.

click to enlarge The ladies of Iris again proved to be among the most - generous and accurate throwers of beads and toys. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • The ladies of Iris again proved to be among the most generous and accurate throwers of beads and toys.
click to enlarge Rex ruled over a parade that was stunning even in - gloomy weather. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Rex ruled over a parade that was stunning even in gloomy weather.
click to enlarge New Orleans public schools superintendent Anthony - Amato was one of many public figures skewered by - Chaos and other satirical krewes. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • New Orleans public schools superintendent Anthony Amato was one of many public figures skewered by Chaos and other satirical krewes.
click to enlarge Bacchus XXXVI, Elijah Wood, threw handfuls of - doubloons as signs reading "Frodo Lives" sprouted along - the parade route. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Bacchus XXXVI, Elijah Wood, threw handfuls of doubloons as signs reading "Frodo Lives" sprouted along the parade route.
click to enlarge Hermes executed its "Pandora's Box" theme with some of - the season's most striking floats. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Hermes executed its "Pandora's Box" theme with some of the season's most striking floats.
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