NEW ORLEANS -- Sunny skies and the first warm spring temperatures of the Mardi Gras season brought revelers by the thousands into the streets Saturday for nine parades as Carnival heated up to the Fat Tuesday climax.
The festive season got off to a chilly start last weekend when blustery winds dipped temperatures into the 20s and sleet and a trace of snow canceled three of the weekend's 17 parades.
This weekend, however, promised to make up for the bad weather with a forecast of near-perfect temperatures through the Fat Tuesday finale. Highs Saturday reached into the high 60s while parades snaked through the Crescent City under clear skies.
A slight chance of rain was forecast Sunday, but temperatures were expected to reach into the 70s.
The height of Saturday's parades was to roll down Canal Street to the Mississippi River shortly after sunset with the Krewe of Endymion's 38-float pageant.
The 22-year-old krewe -- which has grown into the largest Carnival parade in New Orleans -- each year hosts a celebrity king. This year's grand marshal was party pooch Spuds McKenzie, who was to ride in his own mini-float.
Other guests in the huge extravaganza, whose theme this year was 'New Orleans, This is Your Life,' were Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson and Heather Locklear.
More than 5,000 sailors spilled into the city Saturday from the USS Forrestal, the largest naval warship ever to come up the Mississippi River.
The 1,039-foot aircraft carrier dwarfed the nearby USS Austin, a 569-foot amphibious transport ship serving as a floating hotel for parade-bound military bands.
Both were docked at the Julia Street Wharf where the 1984 World's Fair had hosted the navy's oldest aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, during July 4 celebrations four years earlier.
Eleven parades were on tap for Sunday, with that day's raucous festivities winding up to the Krewe of Bacchus' 20th anniversary pageant of 27 floats led by reigning king Alan Thicke.