New Orleans celebrates Fat Tuesday
NEW ORLEANS - Thousands of hurricane-weary residents joined with rowdy visitors for Fat Tuesday, taking a break from rebuilding New Orleans to put on wild costumes and celebrate the second Mardi Gras since Hurricane Katrina.
John Ferguson, who is still rebuilding his house almost 18 months after the storm, said of the celebration: "We never needed it more."
"I work all day at my job; then I work all night and all weekend on my house," Ferguson said. "I just want to eat, drink and have fun today."
Many spectators spent the day along the parade routes or in the French Quarter, where the first Mardi Gras parade of the day was staged by the 1,250-member Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a predominantly black group that wears grass skirts and black face makeup in parody of stereotypes from the early 1900s, when it was founded.
"I'm hyped up," said Ike Williams, a 42-year-old Atlanta contractor who is black, marching in his first parade as a member of Zulu's Walking Warriors. "I couldn't sleep last night. This is the center of the universe right now."
Earlier in the day, Mayor Ray Nagin rode a horse down St. Charles Avenue.
"We're going to make it happen," Nagin told the crowd at Gallier Hall, which served as city hall for more than a century. "We're going to rebuild this city regardless."