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NEW ORLEANS — Blaine Kern Sr., a float builder who was often credited with helping expand New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration into a giant event known worldwide, has died.

News outlets reported that Blaine Kern Sr., known as "Mr. Mardi Gras" for his decades of work that helped boost New Orleans Carnival celebration, died Thursday. He was 93.

Kern's wife, Holly Kern, told WWL-TV that her husband loved what he did and was always eager to share the story of Mardi Gras. Kern developed an infection after a fall and died at home, she said.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Kern was "an iconic part of what makes New Orleans magical."

"What Mardi Gras is today, what our City is today, owes much to him and his imagination," she said in a statement.

The pre-Lenten celebration has been big for generations in the riverside city, but in 1947 Kern founded Kern Studios, which constructed elaborate floats that helped distinguish New Orleans' Mardi Gras festivities.

"Everybody's got a big grin on their face, everybody's smiling and shouting and having fun, so I figure I'm bringing joy and fun to millions of people," Kern said in an interview with WWL-TV in 1997.

Kern, the son of a sign painter, grew up poor on Algiers Point across the Mississippi River from the city's famed French Quarter.

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