NEW ORLEANS - 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 yesterday, 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, and signed autographs for throngs of screaming fans. Coach Sean Payton blew kisses and held the Lombardi Trophy over his head.
"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."
The parade, a week before the Fat Tuesday celebration, started outside 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!"
The floats stopped at a reviewing stand at historic Gallier Hall so elected officials, including Mayor Ray Nagin, Sen. Mary Landrieu, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, could toast the team's 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
"How's the 'Who Dat' nation feel tonight?" Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees yelled when his float stopped at the reviewing stand. "This toast goes out to you. We love you, and we won that championship for you."
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.
Shannon Cobb, 28, of Metairie said the parade was a party with a purpose.
"Everybody is here for one reason: their love for the city and their love for the Saints and to show our appreciation for what they've done for us," she said.29.95369 -90.07771 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Pro!
Only a Super Bowl victory parade could upstage Mardi Gras in New Orleans.