NORMAN — Nighttime fog and chilly temperatures were not enough to dampen the Bon Esprit of Norman Mardi Gras Parade revelers Saturday evening.
Beads, candy, lights and even live music kept spirits high and local residents turned out in impressive numbers to be a part of the festivities.
“The convention bureau typically anticipates about 4,000 people downtown for the parade, and it is always rain or shine,” parade coordinator Aimee Rook said.
Among the prominent entries parading down Main Street were buses representing the parade’s “Saint Sponsors,” Party Galaxy and Rivermont Retirement Center — Party Galaxy sporting their blue, renovated school bus and Rivermont featuring some of its residents riding in a Mardi Gras-decorated shuttle.
Also making a memorable appearance was Norman Police Officer and parade veteran Rick Sellers, whose “Spirit of Kids” float dazzled crowds in a display of bright Christmas lights illuminating a large model airplane.
“I just love it,” Sellers said of parade participation. “My whole family participates. I start ordering beads right after Mardi Gras each year and stock up about 500 pounds for the parade.”
Sellers has had a parade entry for the past five years, winning first place for lights each year and snagging a grand prize for his dragon-themed float last year.
Norman’s Mardi Gras parade is Sellers’ festival of choice because of its family friendly atmosphere, and his family’s parade entries are always kid-centric, with Sellers dressing as Barney the Dinosaur.
“I don’t like environments like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras would be, with lots of drunk crowds,” Sellers said. “We always get beads we think the kids would like, and my grandson is the family member that accepts the lights award.”
As an avid lover of the parade and the holiday it celebrates, Sellers was among friends and an appreciative — if shivering — crowd Saturday.
“I love Mardi Gras. I’ve been building this float for a month in my front yard, I use Mardi Gras fabric, glitter, paint, of course lots of lights. It’s my Christmas,” Sellers said.
The early Norman celebration is a kickoff for Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday this week.