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The Rex Parade moves through the central business district as Mardi Gras celebrations build to a climax in the Big Easy.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

A reveler on Jackson Avenue is handed a coconut by a member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club in the passing From Zulu With Love float during the Zulu Parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John McCusker / TIMES-PICAYUNE

The Krewe of Rex signature Jester float approaches Canal Street along St. Charles Avenue.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ted Jackson / TIMES-PICAYUNE

A bee and her keeper, Rosa and Larry Fores, take a break from the buzz of activity on St. Charles Avenue.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: ELIOT KAMENITZ / Times-Picayune

Crowds fill Bourbon Street outside Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop and Bar in the final fleeting hours of Mardi Gras in the French Quarter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SKIP BOLEN / EPA

The Treme Jazz Band marches through the French Quarter in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, the last day of the Carnival season ending at midnight, a daylong celebration of parades, marching groups and people in costumes.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

A close-up view of the brand-new Butterfly King float as it gets ready to roll in the 2012 Krewe of Rex Parade during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. Mardi Gras, which translates as Fat Tuesday, ends at midnight, just before Ash Wednesday ushers in Lent.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SKIP BOLEN / EPA

A member of the Krewe of Zulu costumed for the krewe's parade down Jackson Avenue early in the morning on Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SKIP BOLEN / EPA

Dancers perform in the Krewe of Zulu Parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SKIP BOLEN / EPA

Debbie Miller, left, Nidia Vodanovick and Julie Noto, dressed as Senior-Sations, a takeoff on the New Orleans Saints cheerleaders, walk through the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

The Zulu Parade moves through the central business district of New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

Robert Detrinis and his wife Lenny Detrinis walk through the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

Members of Pete Fountain's Half Fast Marching Club begins to parade through the streets of New Orleans. Tuesday is the last day of the Mardi Gras celebration ending at midnight, after a daylong celebration with parades, marching groups and people in costumes.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

The Mardi Gras "Krewe of Tucks" parade drives through the streets.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

Actress Hilary Swank walks to her float in the staging area before the start of a Mardi Gras parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

Actress Mariska Hargitay throws beads while riding in the Mardi Gras parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

A Mardi Gras float in the 2012 Krewe of Proteus Parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Skip Bolen / Getty Images

Cyndi Lauper goes to her waiting Mardi Gras float in the 2012 Krewe of Orpheus Parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Skip Bolen / Getty Images

A Mardi Gras float in the 2012 Krewe of Proteus Parade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Skip Bolen / Getty Images

Riders on the "Muses Go Shopping" float keep their eyes on the hundreds of hands passing them by at the Krewe of Muses Parade in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRIS GRANGER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Riders toss beads and toys as floats roll down Napoleon Avenue at the Krewe of Babylon Parade in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: G.M. ANDREWS / PRESS-REGISTER

Riders toss beads and toys as floats roll down Napoleon Avenue at the Krewe of Babylon Parade in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRIS GRANGER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Riders toss beads from floats at the Krewe of Chaos Parade in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRIS GRANGER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Revelers with the Mystic Stripers toss trinkets to the crowds gathered on Royal Street in Mobile, Ala. The pre Lenten blowout continues along the Gulf Coast, culminating in Fat Tuesday celebrations Feb. 21. Tourism leaders estimate more than a million visitors pour into the Mobile area each Mardi Gras season to watch the festivities.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: G.M. ANDREWS / PRESS-REGISTER

Actress and New Orleans native Patricia Clarkson was the honorary Muse as she rides in a giant shoe down St. Charles Avenue at the Krewe of Muses Parade in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRIS GRANGER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Actress Patricia Clarkson talks to another rider on her float as she rides in the Muses Mardi Gras Parade through the streets of New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

A reveler with the Mystic Stripers tosses trinkets to the crowds gathered on Royal Street in Mobile, Ala. The pre Lenten blowout continues along the Gulf Coast culminating in Fat Tuesday celebrations Feb. 21.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: G.M. ANDREWS / PRESS-REGISTER

The Muses Mardi Gras Parade rolls through the streets of New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Haber / Associated Press

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Mardi Gras climaxes with Fat Tuesday in New Orleans

Mardi Gras. It brings to mind beads, parties and fancy floats in as people cram in all the fun they can before the austere religious period known as Lent begins. Scenes from parades in New Orleans and Mobile., Ala.

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