Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Covington Mardi Gras tamer

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Celebrants went easy on the booze, bare breasts and bawdy behavior at the weekend MainStrasse Village Association Mardi Gras.

Covington Police made 25 arrests for the weekend, including 20 on Friday night and five on Saturday night, said Lt. Col. Mike Kraft of the Covington Police Department. That's down from last year's 59 arrests and an improvement over the rowdy Mardi Gras of 2000 that prompted Covington officials to cancel the outdoor event in 2001.

"I thought it went spectacularly well," said Jimmy Gilliece, owner of Chez Nora restaurant, and a member of the MainStrasse Village Association. "There were plenty of port-a-lets and parade barriers, and the police were everywhere. It seemed like there were good crowds both nights."

Neither police nor the MainStrasse Village Association had received any complaints from residents about this year's Mardi Gras by Monday afternoon, despite a special phone line set up for MainStrasse residents' complaints.

Covington police estimated as many as 13,000 people attended the weekend celebration. About 3,000 to 4,000 people attended Friday night's Mardi Gras and another 9,000 attended Saturday's festivities.

This year's attendance was a big drop from the 2000 Mardi Gras celebration when unseasonably warm weather drew a record 60,000 celebrants. That year, residents complained about underage drinking, and dozens of celebrants who exposed themselves, urinated in yards, and vandalized property.

About 50 police in uniform and plainclothes patrolled this year's Mardi Gras, Kraft said. Those included officers on horseback and on foot.

"I think the increased police presence and the colder weather helped this year,'' Kraft said. "We weren't going to allow it to get out of hand."

Kraft also said promotion of the event also has changed from three years ago, when a radio station invited people to engage in the type of rowdy behavior that could get them arrested.

Fourteen of this year's arrests were for disorderly conduct, Kraft said. Eight people were charged with alcohol intoxication, and the rest were for indecent exposure.

"Two men attempted to steal a barricade in front of a uniformed officer," Kraft said. He added another celebrant dropped his pants in front of a uniformed female police officer.

"All of the indecent exposure (charges) were men,'' Kraft said. "There were a lot fewer females attempting to flash their chest this year."

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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