NEW ORLEANS – It’s 10 a.m. on a spring Tuesday, and several dozen people wearing bright beads around craning necks slowly stroll the warehouse in wonder. The enormous chamber holds more than Mardi Gras floats; around them are beautiful or beautifully grotesque figures brighter and generally larger than life. Some creations are humorous or benign; others verge on the terrifying.
These visitors – the first of many on this day at Mardi Gras World – talk among themselves in French. That’s appropriate, given the ancestral roots of the region and of the annual blowout that attracts roughly 1.4 million revelers. “Mardi Gras” translates as “Fat Tuesday.”
But this tour group is visiting from Quebec or Europe, and Mardi Gras – the four-parade culmination of the pre-Lenten Carnival season – was still eight weeks away.
The event wriggles around the spring calendar because it is the day prior to Ash Wednesday, tied to date-shifting Easter. Mardi Gras could fall anywhere between February 3 and March 9; similar but smaller festivals across the Gulf Coast follow this schedule.
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