Mardi Gras fanatics will plan years in advance for the parades and parties held during the biggest week in New Orleans. See what all the fuss is about.
Fans of New Orleans Mardi Gras like these 2010 revelers go nuts for the strands of beads, doubloons and other swag that are thrown from parade floats.
The more beads the better when it comes to a New Orleans Mardi Gras. And as you can see here, strands are often purple, green or gold. Those colors represent justice, faith and power, respectively.
King Cakes are a huge part of Mardi Gras. Each is baked with a little plastic baby inside, and finding the baby usually makes you the king or queen of that particular party. But it can have additional meanings as well: You might be designated as the host of the next Mardi Gras party, for example, or it might signify that you'll serve as the king or queen leading your krewe's parade.
The traditional colors of New Orleans Mardi Gras, along with many other customs central to the celebration, were pioneered by the Rex Organization (also sometimes called the Krewe of Rex). Each year, the organization hosts a ball and a parade which is reigned over by the "King of Carnival" and his queen.
The Boeuf Gras float is a mainstay of the Rex Parade, and it symbolizes the last meat eaten before the Lenten season begins. Masked chefs ride along with the float's central feature: a fattened bull.
Costumes and masks are major features of Mardi Gras. Float riders and spectators alike frequently don masks and costumes created from a wide variety of materials, like feathers, sequins, beads, plaster, felt and glitter.
The Zulu Krewe (formally known as the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club) is an all-African-American krewe that distributes the highly prized "golden nugget" coconut parade throws during their procession.
The parade organized by the Krewe of Bacchus is widely considered one of the most spectacular and elaborate of the Mardi Gras season. But Bacchus faces some stiff competition as top crowd-pleasers from the cuties in the Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade, like Tallulah Belle here.
The Mardi Gras Indians don incredibly ornate and intricate costumes, which can cost thousands of dollars to create.
Music plays a big part in the festivities. From members of local marching bands to random revelers busting out musical instruments, it all helps contribute to the cacophony and craziness that is Mardi Gras.