Digital News Report- The economy may be down, but spirits are up in the Big Easy as Mardi Gras approaches. According to the Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association, Mavis Early, “It definitely looks like this will be the most successful Mardi Gras since 2004.”
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, begins its carnival season on January 6th. Though the entire range of festivities is referred to as Mardi Gras, the official date is the day before Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 25th this year. New Orleans is one of the most famous Mardi Gras celebrations in the world.
Parades begin on February 7th and continue through the 24th, when everything ends at midnight on the dot when police clear the streets. The super parades of Endymion and Bacchus, scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday before Fat Tuesday, feature a combined total of 75 floats, 60 marching bands and over 250 units. Their 2,300 members toss more than 1.5 million cups, 2.5 million doubloons and 200,000 gross of the famous beads.
According to a study done by the University of New Orleans, the celebration generates an estimated $840 million annually. “Our hotels rely on this event, as do restaurants, clubs and ‘mom and pop’ businesses throughout the city. Hence, the impact of Carnival is vital to our city’s economic vitality, as well as our cultural vitality,” said Mary Beth Romig of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Figures from last year show that 750,000-850,000 people attended Mardi Gras. The average estimated attendance for Mardi Gras prior to 2006 was around one million, before Hurricane Katrina struck the area. None of the figures include the over one-million day-trippers or local spending.
Image: Creative Commons, Flickr photographer Editor B / Bart Everson