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NEW ORLEANS — Bathed in spring-like warmth and showered with trinkets, beads and music, New Orleans reveled in the excesses of Fat Tuesday.
A seemingly endless stream of costumed marching groups and ornately-decorated float parades led by make-believe royalty poured out of the Garden District, while the French Quarter filled up with thrill seekers expecting to see debauchery.
And they did.
Some in the Quarter had a sleepless night after Monday’s Lundi Gras prequel party. The drinking was in full swing again shortly after dawn, and with it came outrageous costumes and flesh-flashing that would continue until police make their annual attempt to break up the merrymaking at midnight, when Lent begins.
Tom White, 46, clad in a pink tutu, bicycled with his wife, Allison, to the French Quarter. “I’m the pink fairy this year,” he said. “Costuming is the real fun of Mardi Gras. I’m not too creative but when you weigh 200 pounds and put on a tutu people still take your picture.”
His wife was not in costume. “He’s disgraced the family enough,” she said.
Brittany Davies struggled with her friends through the morning, feeling the effects of heavy drinking from the night before.
“They’re torturing me,” the Denver woman joked. “But I’ll be OK after a bloody mary.”
Indeed, the theme of the day was party hard and often.
Wearing a bright orange wig, a purple mask and green shoes, New Orleans resident Charlotte Hamrick walked along Canal Street to meet friends.
“I’ll be in the French Quarter all day,” Hamrick said. “I don’t even go to the parades. I love to take pictures of all the costumes and just be with my friends. It’s so fun.”
Police reported no major incidents along the parade route.
Across the globe, people dressed up in elaborate costumes and partied the day away. In Rio de Janeiro, an estimated 850,000 tourists joined the city’s massive five-day blowout. Meanwhile, the Portuguese, who have suffered deeply in Europe’s debt crisis, defied a government appeal to keep working.
In New Orleans, the streets filled with hundreds of thousands of people.
The predominantly African-American Zulu krewe was the first major parade to hit the streets, shortly after 8 a.m. Most krewe members were in the traditional black-face makeup and the Afro wigs Zulu riders have sported for decades. They handed out the organization’s coveted decorated coconuts and other sought-after trinkets.
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