Revelers scream for beads as members of the Krewe of Endymion parade down New Orleans’ St. Charles Avenue on Sunday, as part of the city’s Mardi Gras celebrations.
Sean Gardner  /  Reuters
By
updated 3/7/2011 7:33:27 AM ET 2011-03-07T12:33:27

With ideal weather as a backdrop, crowds poured onto the streets Sunday in the traditional warm-up for Carnival's big show on Fat Tuesday when New Orleans expresses itself in song, dance and masked spectacle.

Sunday featured celebrity-laden parades — including CNN's Anderson Cooper, actress Kelly Ripa, the rock band Train and actor Andy Garcia — and the typical drunken revelry of the French Quarter where tourists, locals and swarms of spring breakers rubbed shoulders.

Sunday was packed with the festivity that was missed on Saturday. Heavy downpours that canceled parades and forced the superkrewe of Endymion, a crowd favorite, to be pushed back a day. The line of thunderstorms that crossed the state spawned a tornado that killed a woman shielding her toddler son in Rayne, La.

In New Orleans, the warm-up was in full swing and people celebrated under beautiful clear skies.

On Bourbon Street, Pete and Helen Drago, Mardi Gras old-timers dressed in beads and formal clothes, walked slowly through the still-brewing madness, arm-in-arm and on the lookout for some place to dance their specialty, the jitterbug. After 55 years of marriage, and even more years of Carnival under their belts, they were ready for another round of fun.

"That's what we do: We dance everywhere there's good music," Helen, 76, said. "Mardi Gras is dressing up, coming out, meeting people and having a good time."

"We're just messing around today," Pete, a former dancer with Louis Prima, a New Orleans music jazz singer and trumpeter who helped make Bourbon Street a party mecca in the 1950s. "Tomorrow we'll be dressed up!"

The tempo ratchets up even more on Monday — known as Lundi Gras — as the Carnival festivity moves closer to its climax on Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday. The excesses of Carnival end at midnight Tuesday with the beginning of Lent.

Going the other way down Bourbon toward the strip clubs and mayhem of bead throwing, a group of spring breakers from Illinois State University had daiquiris in hand.

They'd arrived near dawn, seven crammed in a Chevy Traverse after 14 hours on the road getting 20 miles to the gallon. They parked and started drinking.

"We just got here. We haven't even checked into the hotel yet," said Ethan Galvan, a 22-year-old mass communications major.

Slideshow: Carnival around the world (on this page) On Jackson Square, a group of girlfriends from the University of South Carolina were much more tame — and still in search of wildness.

"It's crazy, but it's not as crazy as I thought it would be," said Katherine Davis, a 21-year-old marketing and management major.

The costumes were beginning to come out.

Don May and Tim Simer were dressed like drag queens in hoop dresses, big colorful wigs, jewelry galore and tights.

"We just came back from church," May, a 56-year-old landlord from Memphis, Tenn., joked as gangs of revelers on Toulouse Street asked to get their picture taken next to him. "It's hard to fit these dresses in a pew."

Down the street in front of Johnny White's bar, a posse of bikers from St. Bernard Parish smoked cigars and drank cans of beer. They said they'd been coming to the bar for Carnival since they were 10 years old.

"I come out the uterus doing it," said 54-year-old Wayne "Spudley" Debouchel.

But they were a bit peeved. After years of parking their motorcycles without hassle in front of Johnny White's, a favorite watering hole for bikers, they'd just gotten tickets.

"$75 party fee," said Robert "Frenchie" Francois.

Patrick Semansky  /  AP
A young reveler dons a set of beads that she caught during a Mardi Gras parade on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Sunday. New Orleans' Mardi Gras season ends with an all-day celebration on Tuesday.

Far from the drunken revelry of the French Quarter, crowds packed the oak-tree lined St. Charles Avenue, jostling for the beads, stuffed animals, flying discs and trinkets that masked riders on elaborate floats throw to the adoring crowds.

It gets so crowded on St. Charles, and real estate on the parade route is so prized, families rope off sections along the route 24 hours or more before the parades roll, often getting up in the middle of the night to stake out their plots.

The camps include barbecue pits, mini kitchens, portable toilets, lawn chairs, stacks of coolers and rows of ladders for children to stand on to get up above the heads of parade watchers.

Sunday featured two of the biggest favorites: the Krewe of Bacchus and the Krewe of Endymion.

The grand marshals for the Endymion parade included Anderson Cooper, Kelly Ripa and Train. Andy Garcia reigned as Bacchus.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Carnival around the world

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  1. Binche, Belgium

    The Gilles of Binche take part in the Carnival parade in Binche, Belgium. The Binche carnival, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage event, is the biggest and the liveliest annual event in Belgium. (Francois Lenoir / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. New Orleans

    Rex, the King of Carnival, rides in the Krewe of Rex as he arrives at Canal St. along St. Charles Ave. Tuesday on Mardi Gras day in New Orleans. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. New Orleans

    Lee Chance laughs as he shows off his collection of beads that he caught during the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade Tuesday on Mardi Gras day in New Orleans. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rio de Janeiro

    Revelers of the Salgueiro samba school participate in the second night of the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome on March 7. (Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Port of Spain

    A masquerader from the band "What I Saw" presented by Robert Lakhan poses on the stage on Carnival at Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain on March 7. (Andrea De Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rio de Janeiro

    Revelers dressed as clowns participate in a carnival parade in Sesimbra village on March 7. The clown parade in Sesimbra village became a tradition after a world record for the biggest clown march was set in 2004. (Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Rio de Janeiro

    Revelers of the Porto da Pedra samba school participate in the second night of the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome on March 7. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rio de Janeiro

    Brazilian pop singer Roberto Carlos waves from atop a float of the Beija-flor samba school on the second night of the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome on March 7. (Ricardo Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Sao Luis do Paraitinga, Brazil

    Revelers kiss on a street during the Carnival of Sao Luis do Paraitinga, 106 miles from Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 7. The event is part of the ongoing Carnival celebrations taking place across the country. (Nacho Doce / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rio de Janeiro

    Revelers of the Salgueiro samba school participate in the second night of the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rio de Janeiro

    Revelers of Uniao da Ilha samba school perform at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro on March 7. Uniao da Ilha lost fancy dresses and floats in a fire that took place three weeks ago. (Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Rio de Janeiro

    Members of Uniao da Ilha participate at the Carnival Rio 2011 parade at the sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on March 7. More than 3,000 drummers and dancers ferried into Rio‘s Sambadrome, the massive stadium where the samba schools compete, wearing costumes and lavish outfits. (Antonio Lacerda / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Rio de Janeiro

    Members of Uniao da Ilha Samba school parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, on Monday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rio de Janeiro

    Members of Uniao da Ilha Samba school parade during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, March 7. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rio de Janeiro

    A reveler of Uniao da Ilha Samba school performs at the Sambadrome on Monday. (Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rio de Janeiro

    Dancers perform on their Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school float during a carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro on March 6. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Barranquilla, Colombia

    Revelers perform during carnival celebrations in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 2003, UNESCO declared Barranquilla's carnival as a "Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity." (Fernando Vergara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rio de Janeiro

    Imperatriz Leopoldinense dancers perform during their carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro on March 6. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

    A fire breather performs during a carnival parade in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on March 6. (Erika Santelices / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Port of Spain, Trinidad

    A girl participates in the Red Cross Children's Carnival competition at Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Feb. 26. (Andrea De Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Venice

    Latvian-born artist Kathrina Asfardi performs with her flying piano at the Fenice theater in Venice, Italy, late on March 5, during the "Cavalchina," a historic annual Venetian carnival ball. (Andrea Pattaro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Duesseldorf, Germany

    A carnival reveller celebrates the traditional Rose Monday carnival parade in the western German city of Duesseldorf on March 7. The Rose Monday parades in Cologne, Mainz and Duesseldorf are the highlight of the German street carnival season. (Ina Fassbender / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Paraty, Brazil

    A woman dances amid orange smoke during the 'Bloco da Lama', or Mud Block carnival parade in Paraty, Brazil, March 5. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Venice

    A horse is brought into the Fenice theater in Venice late on March 5, at the start of the "Cavalchina". (Andrea Pattaro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Venice

    People dressed in carnival costumes pose in San Marco square in Venice on March 5, during the annual Venice Carnival. (Andrea Pattaro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Recife, Brazil

    An aerial view of millions of revellers during the "Galo da Madrugada" (Rooster of the Morning) parade in Recife, in the northern coastal state of Pernambuco, Brazil, March 5. (Stringer/brazil / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Limassol, Cyprus

    People dance through the street during a traditional parade to mark the end of the carnival period in southern port city of Limassol, Cyprus, on March 6. (Petros Karadjias / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Evolene, Switzerland

    "Empailles" (Straw man) wearing a costume made of a jute bag stuffed with straw and scary mask walk through the streets of Evolene during a traditional carnival procession on March 6. "Empailles" along with "Peluche" who wear costumes made of animal skins and masks invade the streets of the village and scare residents with their broomsticks or their bells during carnival. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Oruro, Bolivia

    A dancer performs during Carnival celebrations in Oruro, Bolivia, March 5. (Juan Karita / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Torres Vedras, Portugal

    Carnival revelers look at a float depicting Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates, left, and Spain's Jose Zapatero, threatened by an "IMF beast" during the parade on the streets of Torres Vedras on March 6. Torres Vedras village carnival organization devoted 2011 carnival to the subject "The Jungle". (Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Prague, Czech Republic

    A girl in a costume is pictured during the Malostranky carnival parade in Prague, Czech Republic, March 5. (Filip Singer / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Baranquilla, Colombia

    A reveler performs during Carnival festivities in Baranquilla, Colombia, on March 5. The Carnival of Barranquilla was declared to be a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003. (Joaquin Sarmiento / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Rio de Janeiro

    People dance during a "Ceu na Terra" street parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 5. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Sao Paulo, Brazil

    Revellers of the Vai-Vai samba school dance atop a float during the opening night of parades at the Sambadrome, as part of Carnival celebrations in Sao Paulo on March 5. (Mauricio Lima / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Lucerne, Switzerland

    Carnival goers celebrate the opening of the festivities in Lucerne on March 3. For five days the traditional carnival will be celebrated in the city of Lucerne. (Sigi Tischler / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Rio de Janeiro

    Revelers perform during the 'Mameludicos Euforicos' street carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro on March 3. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Venice, Italy

    People dressed in carnival costumes pose in San Marco square in Venice on Feb. 27 during the annual Venice Carnival. (Andrea Pattaro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Canary Islands

    A nominee for Queen of the Santa Cruz carnival shows off her outfit to a jury at Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife on March 2. (Desiree Martin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Jacmel, Haiti

    Women dressed in party attire prepare to participate in a parade during carnival weekend in Jacmel, Haiti, on Feb. 27. This year's celebration was met with mixed emotion as the memory of the 2010 earthquake, which forced the cancellation of last year's event, loomed large. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Viareggio, Italy

    A giant carnival float called ReXpubblica showing a mask of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi during the annual carnival of Viareggio on Feb. 20. (Fabio Muzzi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Oruro, Bolivia

    Women from Orinoca town, where Bolivia's President Evo Morales was born, join in celebrations in the Anata Andina (Andean carnival) in Oruro on March 3. Hundreds of ethnic groups from Oruro province participated in the carnival. (David Mercado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Nice, France

    The Queen of Nice's float takes part in a parade at the 127th Nice carnival in Nice on Feb. 19. The 127th edition of the carnival, celebrating the "Mediteranean King," runs until March 8. (Sebastien Nogier / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. New Orleans

    Young girls and their dogs parade through the French Quarter during the Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans on Feb. 27. The parade of dogs and their owners, a twist on the Krewe of Bacchus, benefits animal welfare organizations. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Lucerne, Switzerland

    A carnival goer celebrates the opening of the carnival in Lucerne, Switzerland, on March 3. (Sigi Tischler / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Viareggio, Italy

    A float depicting United States President Barack Obama with his hat topped off by a man masked as al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, titled "Barack-Adabra and the Great Circus of the Fleas," is shown at the traditional Viareggio carnival parade in Viareggio, Italy, on Feb. 20. (Paolo Lazzeroni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Montevideo, Uruguay

    Members of group Cuareim 1080 participate in a parade to inaugurate the Carnival of Uruguay, in center Montevideo, Uruguay, on Jan. 27. The Carnival in Uruguay is one of the longest in the world, with more than 80 days of celebration, generally occurring in January through mid March, with celebrations in Montevideo being the largest and brightiest. (Ivan Franco / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Bremen, Germany

    A dressed up participant stands on the market square during the 26th Samba Carnival in Bremen, Germany, on Feb. 26. Samba groups from all over Germany take part in the street carnival. (Carmen Jaspersen / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Rio de Janeiro

    A dancer of Uniao da Ilha samba school performs while parading during carnival celebrations Monday at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. New Orleans

    Revelers reach out for items thrown by riders on a float in the Rex parade Tuesday on Mardi Gras day in New Orleans. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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