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Asheville Mardi Gras Parade draws crowd

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2/12/2013 - Asheville Mardi Gras Parade draws crowd
by Sabian Warren - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Wildly dressed characters wearing peacock tail feathers, wigs, tophats and masks of all sorts, led by a king and queen in royal garb, took center stage in the downtown today for city's funky annual Mardi Gras Parade.

"This is Asheville," parade organizer Michael Parker said of the colorful assemblage.

 He estimated about 400 people participated in the festive 3 p.m. event.

 Several thousand spectators turned out for the parade, which kicked off on Wall Street and wound along several downtown blocks.

 "It's the best thing going on in February - besides my birthday," said participant Maria Hileman of Asheville, who was sporting blue leotards and peacock tail feathers.

 "I wanted to do it big this year," she said of her costume. "I just wanted to feather it up."

 Briana Michaels and Dior Andrews, dressed in fancy long gowns and part of a crew from Scandals nightclub, said the parade was a unifying event for the city.

 "I think it's great that we can all just get together and have a good time and come together as a community," Michaels said.

 "I think it would be great to have more events like this in the city," Andrews said.

 Parade Queen Sheila Thibodeaux, who grew up in Louisiana, always wanted to be Mardi Gras queen.

 "I have waited my whole life for this experience," said Thibodeaux, who was dressed in a royal blue gown. "Asheville has a more family-friendly, creative and artistic slant on Mardi Gras."

 "It's a lot of hard work," said parade King Matt Evanoff, who was dressed in a pink robe and wearing a gold crown. "But you get to hang out with a bunch of awesome people and have a good time."

 Many revelers planned to attend the Queen's Ball at Pack's Tavern following the parade.

 Spectator Luis Guerra of Asheville said the parade was great for people watching.

 "You could take a lot of good pictures here," said Guerra, who was attending with his girlfriend, Amy Williams, and her son, Jacob Jennings. "You see a lot of good costumes. It's another freedom of expression and a good way to have fun."

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