Only a Super Bowl victory parade could upstage Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Carnival floats carrying Saints players, coaches and team owner Tom Benson rolled past tens of thousands of jubilant fans in downtown New Orleans on Tuesday, two days after the 43-year-old franchise won its first NFL championship.
Players, wearing team jerseys instead of traditional Carnival masks and costumes, tossed beads into the crowd and signed autographs for throngs of screaming fans. Benson shouted “Who Dat!” into a microphone from his perch atop a float. Head coach Sean Payton blew kisses and held the Lombardi Trophy over his head.
“Here’s to the best Mardi Gras week in the history of this city,” Payton said, raising a glass of champagne during a toast outside the city’s historic Gallier Hall.
The parade, a week before the city’s signature Fat Tuesday celebration, started outside their home turf at the Louisiana Superdome. Black, gold and white confetti floated over the crowd and a man wearing a Saints jacket held aloft a sign that read, “Happy Lombardi Gras!”
Ten Carnival krewes lent floats for the team to ride. More than a dozen marching bands joined the team on its route, which passed by the edge of the French Quarter and ended at the city’s convention center.
“This is wilder than Mardi Gras,” said Frank V. Smith, 55, a lifelong New Orleans resident who shot photographs of players from the rear of a pickup truck. “I’ve never seen so many people out here like this. This is beautiful, man.”
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