Crisis? It's party time at Venice Carnival

Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:13am EST
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

VENICE, Italy (Reuters Life!) - From milk cartons to hot air balloons and from Elizabeth I to rubbish bin-inspired outfits, the Venice Carnival saw it all this year when it came to costumes.

Despite the economic crisis, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the Italian canal city for the centuries-old celebration, organizers said, for more than 10 days of parties that end on Tuesday.

From a drag queen beauty pageant to chefs teaching recipes, revelers had numerous attractions to choose from on top of street concerts, theater, and acrobatic performances.

"People may have less money in their pockets but they don't have any less desire to entertain themselves, in fact maybe they have more because things aren't going well," Mauro Pizzigati, president of Venezia Marketing & Eventi, which organized the carnival, said.

The good weather was an added bonus, meaning expectations of 800,000 revelers were topped with more than 1 million people seen enjoying the celebrations by the end of Tuesday, he said.

One of the main events was the masked costume contest, where outfits inspired by cats, frogs, angels and even a kitchen vied for the top prize. Highlights included a dress whose wide bottom was made out of studded umbrellas, a trio of rubbish-inspired outfits and opulent historical costumes depicting nobility.

Parading in the central St Mark's Square, the jury picked a group of Germans who looked to Marco Polo and China for their outfits that had skirts made out of Chinese bubble lampshades.

"People come because it is a passion, the crowds are fantastic," Alessandro Travaglini, who was wrapped in a mock hot air balloon. "The masks are nicer than last year."   Continued...

<p>A masked reveller stands near St Mark's square during the Venetian Carnival in Venice February 14, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>