NEW ORLEANS – Families camped out from the early morning to catch beads and stuffed animals tossed from float riders. Revelers took to the streets in elaborate or funny costumes evoking Marie-Antoinette, President Donald Trump and the glamorous vampires. Amused onlookers took in the chaotic scene of chairs.
Carnival season began Jan. 6 and he came to an end, Fat Tuesday festivities in New Orleans. Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a period of reflection and sobriety after the days of parades, parties and celebrations.
Throngs of people were at the median for the last day of the Mardi Gras, cook until the crawfish and red beans and rice. Others had set up ladders for their children to sit on and catch beads and throws from the passing of Zulu parade, one of the two main parades that take to the streets on Fat Tuesday.
Joseph Rhyans moved to Houston in 2002, but is trying to come back every year. This time he’d brought two of his children, one of whom was on a ladder to catch lumps of the passing of Zulu parade.
“It’s a family thing down here. That is what Mardi Gras is all about. Children learn and they come back every year,” he said.
Families usually pack up and go home after the parades are over, but the celebrations in the French Quarter to expand in the late evening.
The costumes are a big part of the Mardi Gras celebration in the French Quarter, Tuesday’s designs did not disappoint. The French Quarter is the most famous street, Bourbon Street, and parallel to Royal Street were crowded with costumed tourists and the local population, many of them stop with each other for photos. A group dressed as pink flamingos. Two men, both dressed as Trump, greeted each other in the crowd.
Other costumes included Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, and an angel of death with black wings and halo.
Shannon Abraham of Reno, Nevada, said she spent dozens of hours designing and its extensive silver sequin dress. She wore a large silver wig curls piled on top of curls and a pair of silver teeth to complete her look as a “Glampire Extraordinaire.”
“We love New Orleans. There is nowhere else in the world like it,” she said. Speaking of people dressed up in the French Quarter, and she said: “The effort that they have poured into this celebration and their costumes is extraordinary. And I am happy to be a part of. I want to make a contribution.”
On Royal Street, JoAnn Lemoine, of marrero, Louisiana, sat in a lawn chair on the sidewalk to watch the ebb and flow of revelers in the streets. For her the fun was in the people watching.
“We love it. We come here every year. This is what we do every year, and to look at the people on the street and all the costumes and this is a good year because of all the costumes because the weather is so good,” she said.
Carnival season attracts approximately 1 million visitors and pumping about $840 million in the economy of the city, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. It also means two weeks of 12 hour days, no holiday shifts for the police force of the city, which will be enhanced by 165 state troopers and officials, and representatives from a half dozen nearby areas.
The day of the festivities were marred by shootings in New Orleans, some in the vicinity of the parades.
In one incident, police said a man was shot in the head and a young boy was shot in the leg.
Police said a second shooting happened when a fight broke out. Agents who work along the parade route heard gunfire and ran to find a man shot. He was rushed to the hospital, but later died of his injuries.
In the third incident, police spokeswoman Ambria Washington said five people were shot while inside a car, and then drove to a gas station in the Lower 9th Ward. Two of them died of their injuries. Dozens of bystanders stood on the median on the opposite side of the gas station, many still wearing the festive Mardi Gras attire.
The violence happened in the direction of the end of a day full of fun. The day started with neighborhood organizations, such as the St. Anne’s parade, a colourful parade walk and the North Side Skull and Bones Gang, which wakes people up and tells the kids to behave.
The Half-Fast Walking Club, organized by the late clarinetist Peter Fountain, sandwiches and walks to the Quarter of the Commander’s Palace restaurant.
Then comes the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a historic African-American group that parades in blackface and grass skirts. After Zulu is Rex, which is followed by two “truck parades” with floats built on flatbed trailers and decorated by the families, neighborhood groups and other organizations riding in them.
Although many people associate Mardi Gras, women flash their breasts for plastic beads necklaces, bawdiness occurs mostly along Bourbon Street.
Neighbors, Christine Stephens and Tracy Thomas said she will remain on the traditional parade route, outside of the French Quarter.
“Mardi Gras should be for everyone from 8 months to 88 years old,” Stephens said.
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