Mardi Gras ball first Superdome event since blackout

A black tie ball was the first event at the New Orleans Superdome since the Super Bowl blackout — and this time, the lights stayed on.

NEW ORLEANS — This time, the lights stayed on in the Superdome.

The glitzy Mardi Gras Krewe of Endymion rolled its parade and super float through the Superdome on Saturday night and Kelly Clarkson performed amid purple, green and gold lights in the first major event at the venue since the Super Bowl blackout.

While the black tie ball was nowhere near the size of the championship game a week ago, it was a test for dome officials and the stadium's electricity provider, Entergy, which has come under scrutiny since the lights went dark for more than 30 minutes.

The bright stadium lights were dimmed for the ball, but there were no signs of any electrical problems.

Darin Coker and his wife, Jeannine, wondered whether the ball would be affected in any way after the outage.

"I got my dress six months ago," she said. "I was hoping they would get it fixed before tonight, and I was glad to hear they did."

The couple, both former New Orleans residents, drove in for the weekend from their home in Ruston, La., to attend the ball and catch other parades with friends and family. Darin Coker said he loved the sight of the dome's exterior, all aglow in purple, green and gold lights — traditional colors of Mardi Gras — and hoped outsiders wouldn't see the blackout as a black eye for a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

"I was watching the game from home, and I was like, oh no, we were doing so good. The city looked so good," he said. "The city has come so far, and I hate to hear people say, 'Oh look at them, they just can't get it together.'"

Entergy said the blackout appeared to have been caused by a problem with a device the company installed to prevent power outages. It's still unclear whether the device had a design flaw or a manufacturing defect, causing an outage to about half of the stadium during the NFL's championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

Entergy removed the equipment that failed, "and we're looking forward to hosting the Endymion ball," said Eric Eagan, spokesman for the Superdome.

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The dome looked much different than a week ago, set up for a crowd of more than 30,000. The turf was covered with a floor and tables were set up where the field usually is.

The only hiccup Saturday occurred when the Endymion float had trouble negotiating a turn along its parade route on the way to the dome. The 330-foot float — the largest-ever for Mardi Gras — had to be separated and then re-attached to resume its journey.

The parade has 25 floats that roll through the dome, as revelers aboard them toss beads and trinkets to ball attendees gathered at tables and lower-level stadium seats.

Clarkson, the first winner of TV's "American Idol," was the parade's celebrity grand marshal. Her hits include "Because of You" and "Since You've Been Gone." She is one of several stars serving as celebrity riders in this year's Carnival parades.

On Sunday, actor G.W. Bailey of TNT's "Major Crimes" and the "Police Academy" movies is scheduled to reign as the king of the Bacchus parade.

On Monday, actor Gary Sinise and New Orleans musicians Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Harry Connick Jr. will ride in the Krewe of Orpheus parade with Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress Mariska Hargitay.

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