Bill and Sophary Frazer have lived in Aiken for 25 years, but became Mardi Gras experts while they lived in Louisiana – close to the Mardi Gras party site in New Orleans.

The couple, their daughter and grandchildren attended Aiken's second Mardi Gras parade on Saturday. The family sported a countless number of beads in The Alley which Sophary said are all “original” beads, meaning they were earned in former Mardi Gras contests.

“They throw beads and other things off the floats and you have to compete to get them,” Sophary explained. “And we never buy our beads; these are all original beads from New Orleans that we earned and that we'll share here in Aiken's parade.”

The parade was put together by the Downtown Development Association in Aiken. Participants marched down The Alley and up Laurens Street where shoppers and other residents could see the festivities.

After the parade, participants circled back to The Alley for the king cake ceremony, for which local bakery La Dolce donated a cake.

During the parade, toddler Luke Wilson – son of Jennifer Wilson – stood on the sidelines and cheered the marchers on as they passed by. Sophary required viewers to dance if they wished to get beads and Luke and Jennifer won a memento to take back home.

“The energy that the children and adults are bringing to celebrate Mardi Gras is really great,” Jennifer said. “This was a great way to get out of the house for a while and do something as a family, so I'm glad we came.”

In addition to local residents, out-of-towners also made their way to downtown Aiken to participate.

Pelzer resident Dawn Maynard said she heard about the parade on Facebook and traveled 96 miles with her daughters and their friends to walk in the parade.

“We came this morning to walk in the parade and felt like it would be a cool thing for the kids to do,” Maynard said. “They've really enjoy dressing up and getting to ride to Aiken to have a fun day outside.”

While many made plans and travel preparations to attend, others accidentally stumbled upon the festivities. Augusta resident Liz Reese said she and her friends crossed the river to shop at some of Aiken's antique stores and were pleasantly surprised to see the children walk by in colorful attire.

“I danced a little bit to earn the beads and it was really fun,” she said. “I didn't know this was going on today so it was a really nice surprise to see everyone having so much fun.”

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard.