NEW ORLEANS | Gray skies couldn't dampen the spirit as Mardi Gras revelers partied on Fat Tuesday in waves of parading, costuming, drinking — and political commentary.
Some bared flesh and threw beads on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, while others wore costumes lampooning the BP oil spill or other headline-grabbing events. Overall, this year's Carnival season has been among the most raucous since Hurricane Katrina, partly because it overlaps with many colleges' spring breaks.
Clarinetist Pete Fountain kicked off street parading shortly after dawn with his marching group. The traditionally black Krewe of Zulu and the parade of Rex, King of Carnival, followed. Mayor Mitch Landrieu led Zulu on horseback before dismounting at the antebellum-columned Gallier Hall for champagne toasts with Mardi Gras royalty.
The party would go on until midnight, when Carnival is replaced by the Christian season of Lent. For many, the fun came in watching costumed partyers, and their themes.
A troupe of black-clad skeletons known as a Bone Gang paraded through the streets in a tradition dating from the 1800s that has voodoo overtones.
"The idea is it's kind of a warning for people in the neighborhoods, for the children in particular, to live right because we're all going to die," said Michael Crutcher, a Bone Gang member and college instructor.
Other costumed groups added political barbs to their revelry.
In Bywater, walking clubs gathered for the annual saunter to the Quarter known as the St. Anne's parade.
"This is what Mardi Gras is all about, lampooning," said Pat Kent, a retired hospital executive clad as a gun-toting priest. He and a friend were going as the "krewe of guns in church."
"Today, I'm packing for Jesus," he said. He said his costume was in protest of a new Louisiana law allowing people to carry weapons in church.
Nearby, the occasional clown, a Moammar Gadhafi look-alike, women in flowing dresses and a Roman soldier gathered.
In the French Quarter, satire was in bloom as maskers took aim at last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Allen Logue, 58, was clad as a one-man oil spill clean-up crew. The oil field consultant from Barataria, La., didn't have to do much shopping to build his costume. He already had a hard-hat helmet and BP-branded sweat shirt from work he did for the company in Alaska.
"The only thing I had to shop for was the Jim Beam and that was to ease the pain of the oil spill," he said.
Mr. Logue also carried superabsorbent kitchen napkins to clean any mess he might encounter, though the most likely spill on Bourbon Street would be beer and not crude oil.