Ian Somerhalder, Nikki Reed announced as Mardi Paws Celebrity Grand Monarchs

Newlywed actors Ian Somerhalder ("Vampire Diaries") and Nikki Reed ("Twilight") have been announced as this year's Celebrity Grand Monarchs of Mandeville's annual parade of dolled-up pooches, Mardi Paws.

As usual, the foot-and-paw march along the Mandeville Lakefront will happen several days after the close of the "official" Mardi Gras season. This year's parade is scheduled for February 14, Valentine's Day.

Both actors profess a love for animals, and Louisiana native Somerhalder maintains an active involvement with the north shore community where he was raised. He grew up in Covington and is a graduate of St. Paul's School.

Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws Captain Denise Gutnisky hopes Somerhalder's charity will someday call this popular carnival-season puppy its own. Gutnisky sees a near future where she is "passing the baton" to the "Vampire Diaries" and "Lost" actor and his Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF), which focuses on animal welfare and environmental issues.

"The parade is a perfect fit for Ian's foundation," Gutnisky said, adding that future plans of the ISF may involve bringing Mardi Paws parades to locations "around the world."

Although Gutnisky said final decisions have not been made, the canine carnival royalty of Mardi Paws being in the hands of tinseltown royalty starting in 2017 isn't much of a stretch.

"The parade's main beneficiary will be ISF, and the hope is to make it a permanent partnership to support his (Somerhalder's) vision of his sanctuary on the north shore," Gutnisky said.

In late 2014, the actor's foundation purchased 100 acres of land, situated near the Lacombe/Mandeville border. Gutnisky said Somerhalder plans to preserve just under 70 acres and use approximately 30 acres for support of "the creature population, youth, and other community needs."

The ISF website features a video of the actor walking among the cypress knees and mossy oak trees of his new property, and paddling a boat through a murky St. Tammany bayou.

Parade began in 1995

The annual Mardi Paws features hundreds of dog owners and their primped, lovable canines, who stroll alongside Lake Pontchartrain to raise money for various charities serving animals as well as humans. Gutnisky started it in 1995 as the Mystic Krewe of Bocage, a small neighborhood parade that eventually got a new name, relocated to historic Old Mandeville, and has now grown into a notable event of the St. Tammany post-carnival season.

Over the years there had been participation by notable locals, but Gutnisky amped things up in 2014 when she brought onboard Somerhalder -- wildly popular among youth -- as the krewe's Celebrity Grand Marshal. The 2014 parade drew large crowds of fans eager to see the actor in person.

The 2016 parade offers an A-list double-whammy, as Somerhalder will appear with wife Reed, best known for her role as Rosalie Hale in the "Twilight" film series. More recently, Reed co-wrote and starred in "Thirteen" and was cast as Betsy Ross in the Fox series, "Sleepy Hollow."

The engagement and wedding of Somerhalder and Reed -- which took place in April 2015 -- made headlines in gossip, fashion and entertainment magazines across the globe.

According to Gutnisky, Reed plays a supporting role on behalf of the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws and ISF. She serves as a Director for ISF and as an ambassador for the Humane Society of the United States. Gutnisky said she has volunteered for years to support animal rescue programs, wildlife and environmental groups, and mentoring programs for disadvantaged youth.

Somerhalder has been outspoken -- and the ISF has been active -- in a variety of local causes since its creation in 2010, including taking a role in the fracking debate that raged in western St. Tammany Parish throughout 2014 and 2015. The group provided a grant to the organization Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, which has unsuccessfully opposed hydraulic fracturing in the parish.

Over the years, proceeds from the parade have benefited a variety of charitable causes, and the event has attracted a range of sponsors. Official announcements of any additional 2016 beneficiaries aside from ISF, or of sponsors, have yet to be made. The Mardi Paws royalty -- usually a photogenic, four-legged court with a king, queen and associated doggie socialites -- have also not yet been announced for this year.

The parade theme will be "Mardi Gras 2016: Love is in the Hair." As usual, doggies are expected to wag tails and dispense kisses while their owners toss Mardi Gras trinkets, including signature dog-themed throws, beads, plush toys, and doubloons.

In 2014, Somerhalder led the parade and focused on tossing plastic cups while stopping to talk with and pose for photos with fans.

Those wishing to register to march in Mardi Paws may find out more by visiting he krewe's website at Mardipaws.com.