New Orleans lets the good times roll for Mardi Gras

Tue Mar 8, 2011 5:10pm EST
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - It is hard to keep New Orleans, America's party city, down.

Judging by the frenzy of flamboyant costumes, the dancing and drinking on Fat Tuesday, the city was doing its best to forget the twin disasters of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill that brought it to its knees.

Hotels were near capacity again, the planes were full and the French Quarter was buzzing.

"And people have come with money," said Martin Driskell, general manager of Hotel Intercontinental in downtown New Orleans. "Revenue from our lobby bar, which overlooks the parade route, is double what it was last year at this time."

Not quite a year has passed since an explosion on a BP oil platform created a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The April 2010 spill hit the city's tourism and seafood industries as it was rebounding from Hurricane Katrina five years earlier.

But in New Orleans, locals are expert at letting the good times roll in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.

Kevin Kelly's Carnival party is among the hottest tickets in town and couples in elaborate costumes lined up on St. Charles Avenue to get in.

Kelly owns a huge expanse of warehouse space that serves New Orleans' coffee and metals trades, and a sprawling upriver tourist attraction called Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.   Continued...

<p>A member of the Krewe of Zulu greeets revellers as they march down St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Louisiana March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner</p>