Fat Tuesday in New Orleans | NevadaAppeal.com

Fat Tuesday in New Orleans

The Associated Press
Revelers throw and catch beads as the Zulu parade rolls down St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras in New Orleans Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009. Carnival revelers were greeted with clear weather for Mardi Gras. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

NEW ORLEANS ” The economic downturn couldn’t overshadow the Mardi Gras revelry Tuesday as partiers jostled for beads on parade routes and the French Quarter swelled with boozy fun and masked crowds.

Many revelers turned the tables on the recession, dressing in costumes riffing on bailouts, the stimulus package and busted budgets.

Suzanne Gravener, a 59-year-old New Orleans teacher, dressed as the Statue of Liberty ” without a crown. That, she joked, had to be sold for cash because of the hard times. Her husband lost his job as a dairy salesman.

“I still have my torch, though,” she said, and Carnival was one luxury the family could afford. “This is the greatest free show on earth.”

The day started with clarinetist Pete Fountain leading his Half-Fast Walking Club into the streets, marking the unofficial opening of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

By dawn, spectators crammed parade routes and costumed revelers mingled with all-night partiers in the French Quarter’s narrow streets.

The first parade of the day was Zulu, the traditional African-American parade, followed by Rex, the king of Carnival, and hundreds of truck floats.