NEW ORLEANS (AP) —During Mardi Gras, the streets of New Orleans are filled with costumed revelers, parades featuring floats with kings and queens,and people of all ages screaming for trinkets and beads.
Today is known as “Fat Tuesday” –a direct translation of the French –marking the culmination of the Carnival season, which started Jan. 6. The word “carnival” comes from the Latin words meaning “farewell to flesh,” and was originally a time to revel and to use up all the fat and meat in the larder before the austerities of Lent.
Mardi Gras is “the one time of year people can act like fools and get away with it,” said one reveler, Craig Channell. The biggest displays take place along the St. Charles Avenue parade route, where the Krewe of Zulu kicked off the morning’s marches and then was followed by the Krewe of Rex.
Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Walking Club strutted from the famed Commander’s Palace restaurant to the French Quarter, tossing beads and doubloons to recordings of the late clarinetist’s music. Fountain died in August of last year, but the club members —decked out from hat to shoes in nearly fluorescent spring green —were carrying on the tradition.
The sidewalk along St. Charles Avenue near Canal Street barely had room for pedestrians. People were sitting two rows of chairs deep, while families had set up ladders with seats on top for their children.
This year’s Mardi Gras season was marred by a suspected drunken-driving incident that sent more than 20 people to the hospital Saturday night. No one was killed. Police say the suspect’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.
As Fat Tuesday got underway, Elaine Thomson, 48, of Silver Spring, Maryland, was there with a group of friends who’d hit the streets at 7 a.m.”This is my 23rd Mardi Gras. Every year they do it bigger and better,” Thomson said.
In another part of the city, people in elaborate costumes were taking part in the St. Anne’s parade —an eclectic walking parade that starts in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods and ends in the French Quarter.
Gabrielle Begue described her costume as shrubs, greens and topiary. She and her husband, Erik Winkowski, were dressed as what could best be described as large bushes put together with fake ivy and “a whole lot of hot glue.” Begue said with all of the year’s heated political commentary they wanted outfits that were “full whimsical.”
For others, the year’s heated politics were on full display.
Jim Segreto wore a costume inspired by President Donald Trump’s promises to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The costume consisted of blue sateen pants, an Uncle Sam hat and a cardboard box marked with black lines for cinderblocks. A label read: “Trump’s$26 billion wall. Mexico offers ‘nada.’ We’re stuck with the bill.””I had to have something that made a statement,” Segreto said.
In the Marigny, Kyle Straub and his friends were dressed as various aspects of science under attack. Straub was dressed as a glacier emblazoned with the words “Make Glaciers Great Again,” in a reference to whether climate change is real.
His two children were dressed as polar bears —what his wife Rebekah called “harbingers of global climate change,” although she said the kids didn’t come up with the name themselves.
Government offices and many businesses were closed as parades rolled almost continuously through the city starting Tuesday morning. At the stroke of midnight, police on horseback in New Orleans traditionally do a ceremonial clearing of revelers on Bourbon Street to mark the formal end of the Carnival season before Lent begins Wednesday.