Mardi Gras 2023 brings joy with celebratory parades in New Orleans

Carnival sweeps through city after weekend shooting

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New Orleans' annual Carnival season entered its ebullient crescendo on Tuesday, with thousands of revellers gathering in the French Quarter and lining long parade routes in citywide Mardi Gras celebrations underpinned this year by worries about violent crime and political turmoil.

Celebrations began before dawn in some parts of the city, and TV crews captured images of The North Side Skull and Bones gang — skeleton-costumed revellers — spreading out through the Treme area to awaken people for Mardi Gras.

Revellers were undeterred by violence that marred a glitzy weekend parade. Gunfire broke out during a parade on Sunday, killing a teenager and injuring four, including a four-year-old girl.

Police quickly arrested Mansour Mbodj for illegally carrying a weapon, then upgraded the charge to second-degree murder. Officials stressed on Monday that the shooting was an isolated event.

“It's discouraging but it's not going to stop me from coming,” said Roz Walker.

Ms Walker and her friend Tracy Dunbar are Baton Rouge residents who were among the crowd awaiting the parades of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the Rex Organisation.

They have been visiting New Orleans on Mardi Gras for decades.

“In our 40-plus years of coming to Mardi Gras, we've never been involved in a situation at all,” Ms Walker said.

Crime has contributed to dissatisfaction with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Ms Cantrell won re-election easily in 2021, but has suffered political problems since and she is facing a possible recall attempt.

“Mardi Gras is a time where satire and jest are on full display,” spokesman Gregory Joseph said in a prepared statement. “The city has been enjoying a safe and healthy Carnival."

Mr Joseph said the mayor was looking forward to continuing the celebration.

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It was a costume party along French Quarter streets.

Jerome FitzGibbons wore a phoney nose, moustache and glasses and carried binoculars as he strolled Chartres Street with a large white sphere strapped to the top of his head — he was a Chinese spy balloon.

Mr FitzGibbons and his similarly clad wife, Jennifer, moved to New Orleans from New Jersey.

“This is our kind of crazy,” she said.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the culmination of Carnival season, which officially begins each year on January 6, the 12th day after Christmas, and closes with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

New Orleans’ raucous celebration is the nation’s most well-known, but the holiday is also celebrated throughout much of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Mobile, Alabama, lays claim to the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the country.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: February 22, 2023, 5:14 AM