Florida Krewe Celebrates Mardi Gras In Gulfport

A DJ revved up his audience.

"It's time to party," he told his friends.

Suddenly the Mardi Gras theme blared, and Jody Villar led an entourage in a second line dance around a Gulfport hotel pool.

"When you come here, you're just able to go back to a place and time when everything was fun," he said.

Villar could use a few days of fun. The 50th re-enactor of Jean Lafitte spent the last five months dancing around debris left behind by Hurricane Ivan.

"Yes. I lost everything that I owned in Pensacola," he said.

So did a handful of other members of this Florida based krewe. Yet here they were -- in Gulfport -- on the eve of Fat Tuesday.

After months of heartache, the Floridians needed a chance to celebrate. A weekend road trip to Mardi Gras parades in Pensacola, Mobile, Biloxi and Gulfport seemed to be doing the trick.

Charlie Merritt is president of the Krewe of Lafitte.

"We went through a lot of disappointment with the storm," he remembered, "and 27 of our members out of a 250 member crew had their homes displaced. And six or seven others washed out. So we've all pulled together."

The visit to Gulfport is an annual tradition for this Pensacola krewe. The group spends the day before Mardi Gras decorating their hotel room windows with Mardi Gras trinkets, barbecuing food, and celebrating the good things in life. After surviving Ivan, this group deserves to celebrate.

"What it does for everybody is it kind of like you have a new beginning," said Villar. "And now that we have since gotten past the storm, everything has become a good time and a lot of fun."

And that fun will be evident on Fat Tuesday when Villar leads Pensacola's Krewe of Lafitte in Biloxi's day parade, and Gulfport's night parade.