New Orleans’ Mardi Gras 2024: Fat Tuesday, fake monarchs, more


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans said goodbye to the Carnival season on Tuesday with its typical joy. Mardi Gras parades, street parties and what amounted to a huge open-air costume festival in the bars and restaurants of the French Quarter.

Revelers in capes, wigs, spandex and feathers danced in front of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square as Latin music played. Not far away, tourists and locals wandered Bourbon and Royal Streets in costumes that ranged from the skimpy and suggestive to the fanciful.

There were pirates, mimes and a family of giant bananas. A group of judges dressed in black and wearing white wigs sipped drinks outside a bar while, nearby, a fluorescent green gorilla pushed a shopping cart through an intersection and a half-dozen “Kens” in blonde wigs and fur coats The movie “Barbie” posed for photographs with passers-by.

Initially, crowds grew noticeably as the cold, cloudy morning gave way to sunshine and milder temperatures.

Outside the neighborhood’s narrow streets, two tradition-rich parades unfolded on a route that took them through the city’s Uptown neighborhood and up to Canal Street in the business district. First came the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, with protesters and riders dressed in African-inspired attire handing out the century-old club’s signature gift: hand-decorated coconuts. Later, Rex, King of the Carnival, came down St. Charles and stopped for a ceremonial toast at a historic downtown building with Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a secular holiday but is tied to Christian and Roman Catholic traditions. It always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday and is considered the last day of feasting and revelry before the solemnity of Lent.

“I was raised Catholic, so tomorrow is for repentance, but today is for partying,” said Bethany Kraft, a regular visitor from Mobile, Alabama, as she waited for the parades with her husband Alex. She was wearing a white dress and a crescent-shaped headdress; him, a Fred Flintstone costume.

On Monday night, the Krewe of Orpheus parade took place, co-founded by local musician and actor Harry Connick Jr. In addition to elaborate floats and marching bands, participants included Connick himself, actor Neil Patrick Harris and the Harris’ husband, David Burtka. .

New Orleans has the largest and best-known Carnival celebration in the country. It is packed with traditions loved by locals. But it’s also a vital boost to the city’s tourism-driven economy, something always evident in the French Quarter.

“There are no strangers here,” said visitor Renitta Haynes of Chattanooga, Tennessee, as she watched costumed revelers on Bourbon Street over the weekend. “Everyone is very friendly and approachable. I love that”.

She and her friend Tiffany Collins wore giant purple, green and gold bead necklaces while sipping on drinks.

The annual pre-Lent festivities are not limited to New Orleans. Similar celebrations are held in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast. Mobile, Alabama, where six parades were scheduled Tuesday, claims to be the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the country. And other lavish Carnival celebrations in Brazil and Europe are world famous.

Monday’s activities in New Orleans also included an afternoon celebration of “Lundi Gras,” or Fat Monday, on the banks of the Mississippi River, which included live music. Part of the event was the annual ceremonial meeting of the man chosen to be this year’s Carnival King (chosen by the Rex Organization, a predominantly white group with roots in the 19th century) and the man chosen Zulu king, founded by black workers in beginning of the 20th century. The gathering is a custom that began in 1999 in what was seen as a symbol of the slow erosion of social and racial barriers.


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