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Mardi Gras revelry fills New Orleans

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Photographs by AP/GERALD HERBERT

A member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club hands out prized painted coconuts Tuesday in New Orleans during the group’s Mardi Gras parade. Tens of thousands of revelers packed the sidewalks for the Zulu and Rex parades and frenzied merrymaking up until midnight, when the police clear the streets and Ash Wednesday begins.

NEW ORLEANS -- 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 high 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.

By early Tuesday afternoon, the French Quarter's most famous street, Bourbon Street, and parallel Royal Street were crowded with costumed tourists and locals.

The holiday climaxes a two-week Carnival season, which draws about 1 million visitors and pumps about $840 million into the city's economy, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. It also means two weeks of 12-hour, no-vacation shifts for the city's police, who are reinforced by 165 state troopers, and officers and deputies from a half-dozen nearby areas.

Neighborhood organizations are among the first groups out on Mardi Gras. There's St. Anne's parade, an eclectic walking parade and the North Side Skull and Bone Gang, which wakes people up and tells children to behave.

The Half-Fast Walking Club, organized by the late clarinetist Pete Fountain, rolls and strolls to the Quarter from the Commander's Palace restaurant.

Then comes the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a historically black group that parades in blackface and grass skirts. After Zulu comes Rex, followed by two "truck parades" with floats built on flatbed trailers and decorated by the families, neighborhood groups and other organizations riding in them.

A Section on 02/14/2018

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