New Orleans' Mardi Gras packs festive punch, economic boost

Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:43pm EST
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Revelers in New Orleans celebrated Carnival and Mardi Gras with parades, giant floats and parties that were expected to attract about a million people to the city and its historic French Quarter and generate an estimated $300 million.

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, local organizers of the celebrations predicted Carnival 2013 would be one of the best ever.

"People are just amazed by Carnival in New Orleans," said Ed Muniz, the 72-year-old founder and captain of Krewe of Endymion, one of the largest parades during Mardi Gras, whose celebrity grand marshals have included Britney Spears and Dolly Parton. Pop star Kelly Clarkson has the honor this year.

"And Mardi Gras is bigger now than it has ever been in my lifetime," Muniz added.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the final day of the weeks- long Carnival season. It is devoted to unfettered frivolity and partying in the final hours before Ash Wednesday, which begins the Lenten season of sacrifice in the Catholic Church.

This year's celebration comes less than two weeks after New Orleans hosted Super Bowl XLVII, which stuffed local hotels to capacity.

Muniz decided that his krewe, or parade organization, should try to capitalize on the Super Bowl lead-in by putting on an even bigger show than usual, so he capped this year's parade with the largest float ever seen in New Orleans.

Stretching 330-feet (101-meters) long, the nine-segment float carried more than 220 riders, with each segment represented by an amusement park ride. It was the highlight of the three-hour Krewe of Endymion, one of dozens held during Carnival.   Continued...

Members of the St. Augustine High School band march down St. Charles Avenue as the Krewe of Mid-City parades during the weekend before Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana February 10, 2013. REUTERS/Sean Gardner