By STACEY PLAISANCE / Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Pop star Kelly Clarkson will ride as celebrity grand marshal when the Krewe of Endymion parade rolls on the Saturday before Mardi Gras in 2013.
Clarkson was the first winner of the Fox reality show "American Idol" in 2002. Her hits include "A Moment Like This" and "Because of You."
The krewe said she also will perform at Endymion's ball at the Superdome after the parade.
Clarkson may be upstaged at the Feb. 9 parade by a float organizers bill as the largest and most elaborate in Carnival history.
The super float -- projected to cost several million dollars -- will be 330 feet long and carry more than 200 riders. Its design focuses on Pontchartrain Beach, the amusement park that entertained generations on the New Orleans lakefront before closing in 1983.
The float, which is still under construction, will be divided into sections so it can make turns on New Orleans streets.
Clarkson's role and renderings of the float were revealed during a news conference Thursday at Mardi Gras World, the studio operated by the Kern family. Blaine Kern Studios builds most of the floats used in Carnival parades in New Orleans.
Parade floats typically range in length to about 50 feet and can carry about 40 riders. But in 1969, the Bacchus krewe introduced larger floats, sparking a new wave of showmanship at Carnival.
Endymion has long been known for its large and glitzy floats, and for celebrity riders.
"We've even topped ourselves," said Ed Muniz, the krewe's captain who was one of its founders in 1967.
Barry Kern, president and CEO of Mardi Gras World and Blaine Kern Studios, which began building floats nearly a century ago, says the pace of float construction has stepped up because Mardi Gras falls so close to the Super Bowl. The NFL championship game will be played at the Superdome on Feb 3.
Mardi Gras is Feb. 12, but more than a dozen parades roll in the week leading up to Fat Tuesday. The big ones that feature celebrity float riders include Endymion, Orpheus, Bacchus and Muses. Dozens of other parades are set throughout the Carnival season in Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and Alabama.
Kern said more planning went into making the super float than any other in his studio's history. He said it's on target to be the most technologically advanced, with more lights and animated sculptures than any other float Kern has built.
Kern said the float will be on public display after its Endymion debut at Mardi Gras World.