NEW ORLEANS – Mardi Gras 2015 is officially over and the last tipsy revelers in New Orleans have been cleared from city streets.
At the stroke of midnight, New Orleans police on horseback rode down the French Quarter’s main tourist thoroughfare, Bourbon Street, sending home the last revelers from the “Fat Tuesday” bash in this Mississippi River port city.
City crews before dawn Wednesday began sweeping up tons of trash, discarded food and plastic beads that had been tossed from the Mardi Gras floats during parades the day before. City officials have said up to 150 tons of trash would be collected – making it appear as if the parades never happened.
Each year, the unabashed Mardi Gras celebrations by costumed revelers mark the prelude to the solemn Catholic religious season of Lent.
And with temperatures near freezing on Tuesday, almost everyone was bundled up even along Bourbon Street, where costumes usually tend toward the skimpy during Mardi Gras.
“You can’t tell, but we’ve got Mardi Gras shirts on,” said Tiffany Cannon, watching Tuesday’s first big parade with her 8-year-old son, Eli, tucked up in warm layers. The youngster had a blue scarf over his chin and mouth and a large fuzzy hat to ward off temperatures Tuesday that began in the mid-30s.
No major incidents were reported Tuesday by police. But a 23-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman fell from different floats in a truck parade in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said. The man was in stable condition and the woman was expected to be treated and released, said Col. John Fortunato, the sheriff’s spokesman.
Tuesday’s main celebration kicked off when a retired musician, Pete Fountain, launched a 10-mile stroll by his Half-Fast Walking Club through the city. Many fortified themselves agains the cold with a breakfast of sandwiches, coffee and brandy-fortified milk punch.
“There was beer and water, too. But most people stuck with the milk punch,” said Ralph Jukkola, on his fourth walk with Fountain’s club.
After Fountain’s group, major parades of Zulu, Rex and others followed down the streets, their costumed participants tossing trinkets and plastic bead necklaces to revelers lining the sidewalks and median strips.
The crowd was thick along the main St. Charles Avenue, where Zulu’s parade route merged with that of Rex, one of the most elaborate. Rex was followed by two long “truck parades” – floats built up from flatbed trailers and decorated by costumed riders.
Matching gray quilted jackets hid the gowns worn by young women on the “maids” float in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s popular parade.
As Zulu passed, Ashley English said she was too cold to show off her costume.
“I have a corset on. You just can’t see it,” she said, pulling at the neck of her leather jacket. The corset was purple, she said, to go with her green and gold leggings.
Purple, green and gold were introduced as the colors of Mardi Gras in 1872, when a group of businessmen first crowned one of their own “Rex, king of Carnival.”
Because of the cold weather, many wore extra layers of sweat shirts and jeans under costumes made to look like clowns or animals.
Erin Buran of New Orleans wore a white jacket and feathery angel wings but didn’t mind the cold.
“My angel wings have tequila in them,” she said, showing off the mouthpiece of a hydration backpack covered by the wings.