Tens of thousands of revelers thronged Mardi Gras festivities, many yelling “throw me something, Mister!” in the universal call to float riders who tossed them coveted beads and trinkets on Tuesday’s raucous finale to Carnival season in New Orleans.
The 300th anniversary of this Louisiana port city featured prominently in Fat Tuesday’s festivities as costumed tourists and locals alike packed parade routes under mostly blue skies and balmy temperatures. Merrymakers also jammed French Quarter bars and narrow streets to party with abandon.
New Orleans’ oldest parading Carnival group, Rex, celebrated the tricentennial with 21 of its 28 floats commemorating the city’s history starting with those who lived in the area before Europeans settled it in 1718 to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Other floats included one for St. Louis Cathedral, the descendant of a church built the year of the city’s founding, and the yellow fever, which killed more than 41,000 people between 1815 and 1905.
Rex and Zulu are the two major parades in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday, a state holiday. And families jam the sidewalks and camp out in the broad medians to watch with small children often perched in wooden seats atop ladders near the front.
Although many people associate Mardi Gras with women flashing their breasts for plastic bead necklaces, that bawdiness occurs mostly in the French Quarter, often from Bourbon Street balconies.
Neighbors Christine Stephens and Tracy Thomas said they stay on the traditional parade route, outside the French Quarter.
“Mardi Gras should be for everyone from 8 months to 88 years old,” Stephens said as crowds turned out in temperatures warming to the 70s (20s Celsius) in this south Louisiana city aside the Mississippi River.
By early Tuesday afternoon, the French Quarter’s most famous street, Bourbon Street, and parallel Royal Street were crowded with costumed tourists and locals, many of them stopping each other for photographs….