By Mark Waller, The Times-Picayune
November 11, 2009, 7:20PM

Not wanting to compete with the biggest game in football, and potentially the biggest game in New Orleans Saints history, Metairie’s Krewe of Rhea has canceled its 2010 Carnival parade on Feb. 7, Super Bowl Sunday.

Rhea captain Anna Marie Soto said Wednesday that krewe members concluded turnout would be low, whether the now 8-0 Saints are in the game or not. They expect turnout to be zero if the Saints are indeed playing.

“That would’ve affected our riders and people coming in the street,” Soto said. “If the Saints get in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, we wouldn’t have anybody out there.”

Rhea normally rolls in the early afternoon two Sundays before Mardi Gras and has been parading on Veterans Memorial Boulevard since 1969. Soto said she worked with Jefferson Parish officials to find another date in 2010, but the only options were evening time slots that didn’t appeal to krewe members because the parade attracts entire families with children.

“We really just have to sit out this year,” Soto said, adding that members didn’t want to risk spending the money to produce the parade only to find the streets and floats sparsely occupied.

Another Metairie krewe that has long paraded immediately after Rhea, the Krewe of Centurians, anticipated the Super Bowl conflict and switched its 2010 date a year ago, said captain Norman Bourgeois Jr. Centurians moved forward five days to Friday, Feb. 12, partly because of the game and partly because the krewe was already interested in making the move, Bourgeois said.

By parading on Friday night of Carnival’s final weekend instead of the preceding weekend, he said, the krewe hopes to increase member participation and crowd sizes and boost that day’s Friday’s Carnival activities in Metairie, which Bourgeois described as inconsistent in recent years.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a really good parade on Friday,” to compete with the offerings in New Orleans, he said.

New Orleans officials have not heard any concerns from krewes scheduled for Feb. 7 about competing with the Super Bowl, said James Ross, spokesman for Mayor Ray Nagin.

While the Super Bowl was part of the decision for Centurions, Bourgeois said, krewe officials had no idea at the time they sought their date change that the Saints would be making an historic run.

But the team’s bright prospects halfway through the regular season seem to validate the decision, he said.

“I don’t think anybody would want to miss that opportunity” to watch the Saints’ first Super Bowl, Bourgeois said. “We’ve got to dream.”

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