NEW ORLEANS — Mardi Gras partyers swarmed the French Quarter on Saturday and lined the city's streets to grab beads thrown by strangely costumed people on parade floats.
"It's the greatest party you've ever been to," said 70-year-old Jim Hennosy of Dublin, Ohio, as he downed a beer at 11 a.m. at Molly's at the Market, a bar near Bourbon Street. "The whole place is partying, that's why we come down."
A few bar stools away, Carolina Greene was wearing three strands of multicolored beads and working on her third beer since 6 a.m.
"I'm getting primed for whatever happens," said the 39-year-old lumber saleswoman from Tchula, Miss.
The party will last in heavily Roman Catholic southern Louisiana and along much of the Gulf Coast until Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, traditionally the last day of feasting and celebration before Ash Wednesday and the sacrifices of Lent.
Lenten solemnity was the last thing on anyone's mind along Bourbon Street, where an engineer at the Royal Sonesta hotel dutifully spreads petroleum jelly every morning over the metal posts holding up the wrought iron balconies.
"Guests entice people in the crowd to come up," hotel spokeswoman Jeannine Landry said. "But they fail miserably because the poles are so slippery."
Celebrities scheduled to ride on parade floats include Whoopi Goldberg, Luke Perry, Harry Connick Jr. and Britney Spears.