Put on your mask and start begging for beads -- it's time for Mardi Gras. Take a look at how New Orleans and hundreds of people celebrate this festive occasion every year.
Partygoers and parade bystanders get excited as a float -- paying homage to the fairytale <i>Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland</i> -- rolls down Canal Street for the Rex parade. New Orleans lights up with excitement every year for Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Mardi Gras started in Louisiana in the late 17th century when the area was under French colonial rule.
Rex, the King of Carnival, parades down St. Charles Avenue during the Mardi Gras parade.
The Rex parade, pictured here, is one of New Orleans’ most celebrated Mardi Gras parades. It’s led by an organization (The School of Design), which chooses one member every year to wear the honorary title “Rex.” The distinction is one of the highest honors a person can receive in New Orleans.
Members of the Rex organization toss beads from a float to revelers.
Catch the beads! A large crowd reaches up for beads as a Zulu parade float -- one of the more controversial parade participants, because of their exaggerated blackface -- rolls down New Orleans’ Canal Street on Mardi Gras.
Two revelers pass by a home before a Mardi Gras parade. Those decorations you see -- beads, ribbons, masks and streamers -- come in traditional Mardi Gras colors: green (symbolizing faith), gold (power) and purple (justice).
Crowds flock to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras Day. The annual Mardi Gras celebration ends at midnight, when the Catholic Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.
Joe Perez with the Mondo Kayo Social and Marching Club parades down St. Charles Avenue in the French Quarter.
Members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club ride on a float during the Mardi Gras parade.
A reveler with the Krewe of Zulu parades down St. Charles Avenue.
Members of the Mondo Kayo Marching Club dance down St. Charles Avenue.
New Orleans Saints fans dance to the beat of the famous song "When the Saints Go Marching In" at a bar on Bourbon Street.
Mardi Gras participants beg for beads to be tossed from a balcony in the French Quarter.
One of the main Mardi Gras parade routes, St. Charles Avenue is also home to an active business district. Here, members of the Krewe of Zulu ditch the corporate look for a vibrant march down the avenue.
A little drizzle can’t keep these revelers from celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
A reveler dances in his festive tent dress and elaborate costume during Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans.
NOLA’s Mardi Gras attracts hundreds of people, including celebrities like '80s singer Cyndi Lauper, caught on camera heading to her float for the Krewe of Orpheus parade.
At the Krewe of Proteus parade, an excited crowd waits for people -- on top of this illuminated float -- to throw more beads to bystanders.