Some Mardi Gras festivities go on; weather threatens, postpones others

Revelers have turned out for the events, but some shop owners were skeptical.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A healthy crowd lined St. Charles Avenue on Saturday for two of the day's Mardi Gras parades, but a threat of showers postponed one of the city's biggest and glitziest processions on the last big weekend of Carnival.
Rain held off during the morning as the Krewe of Iris headed down St. Charles, with the Krewe of Tucks behind them.
However, the celebrity-studded Krewe of Endymion's parade on elaborate floats through the Uptown area, relatively unscathed by Hurricane Katrina's floods, was put off until today because of the threat of evening thunderstorms. It will roll after the Krewe of Bacchus, another "super krewe," police said.
In suburban Metairie, the Krewe of Isis also put off its evening parade until today, which was expected to be sunny and breezy.
Determined krewe members
But in the flood-ravaged Gentilly neighborhood, about 50 members of the ragtag Krewe of Dreux set out on their 34th annual parade. They gathered in the neighborhood's Bacchus Lounge, a shell of its former self because it had to be gutted after Katrina flooded it to the ceiling.
Nearly all the Krewe of Dreux members are living somewhere else in Louisiana or another state because of the storm. Several were costumed with blue tarp, like the tarpaulins that cover damaged roofs, and their route went past piles of debris and dead trees and shrubs.
One woman at the Bacchus Lounge, Patty Shore, wearing a black cape emblazoned with a giant hurricane icon, said she used to live in Gentilly and wasn't going to let Katrina's aftermath prevent her annual return.
"I think it's more important than ever," she said. "This is who we are, and this is our home."
This is the last big weekend of the annual Carnival season, culminating on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, with parades and street parties in and around the city. Before Katrina, dozens of parades staged by private clubs, called krewes, were held for nearly two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. This year's parade schedule has been abbreviated and the routes consolidated.
Hoping for help
Still, tourism officials and merchants hope this year's event will help an economy reeling since Katrina hit Aug. 29, flooding 80 percent of the city and dispersing more than two thirds of the population.
There were promising signs Friday in the French Quarter, as the streets began filling with revelers, many in costumes -- white Elvis jumpsuits, sexy bustiers, T-shirts with obscene slogans taking aim at government officials.
"We're already starting to pack them in," said a jubilant Lisa Linscott, bartender at the Old Absinthe House bar.
But the crowds appeared to be smaller than a typical pre-Mardi Gras on Friday and some shops were still waiting to benefit.
"It's dead. Not slow, dead," said Dennis Booth, working at a souvenir shop and bar.
Visitors are often estimated at more than 1 million for Mardi Gras. Authorities expected fewer this year but were uncertain of how many. A shortage of hotel rooms was one problem, the gloomy weather was another.
Better weather was expected for the final three days of Carnival.

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