NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Their hair wrapped in side buns, wielding lightsabers and dressed as everything from Wookiees to stormtroopers, thousands of people turned out to honor Carrie Fisher, the actress famous for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" movies.
Fisher, whose tough-talking princess defied Empire generals while tossing off one-liners like "into the garbage chute, flyboy," died Tuesday.
In New Orleans, where death is marked by both mourning and merriment, the Mardi Gras group called the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus on Friday organized a parade in honor of the woman they consider royalty.
"This is a public demonstration of our love for Princess Leia," said Brooke Ethridge, one of the founders of the Leijorettes, a dancing group made up of fans who dress like Princess Leia. "Our first instinct was to hit the streets and parade and celebrate Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher."
Chewbacchus is dedicated to all things sci-fi and fantasy related and has always drawn inspiration from the "Star Wars" movies. The group's logo features the head of Chewbacca, the furry Wookiee who was Han Solo's close friend and co-pilot.
Fisher had been hospitalized since Dec. 23 after falling ill aboard a flight and being treated by paramedics at the Los Angeles airport. One day after Fisher's death, her actress mother, 84-year-old Debbie Reynolds, died as well. A joint funeral for the two women has been announced.
The parade was led by the Leijorettes, followed by a brass band playing the "Star Wars" theme as hundreds of people — many in costume or carrying light sabers — walked behind them. Fans lined the road, taking photos.
"I didn't know her. But as an iconic character and as a person, a writer and a smart funny fantastic woman and role model, I was heartbroken and devastated," Dale Hrebrik said.
But even in a crowd where Fisher's Princess Leia role was front and center, many pointed out the contributions Fisher had made even after her "Star Wars" acting wound down. One marcher in the crowd held a sign calling Fisher, who spoke openly about her struggles with bipolar disease, a mental health advocate.
Jacquelyn Ryan came with her husband and two children. Her hair was wrapped in the two side buns Fisher wore in the first movie, but Ryan said she was more impressed with Fisher's other contributions.
"Probably my first introduction to her was 'Star Wars,' but she as a person was really important. Her activism, her mental health awareness, her activism for women, her unapologetic attitude about youth and beauty in Hollywood really spoke to me," Ryan said.
Follow Rebecca Santana on Twitter @ruskygal.