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New Orleans dressed up, ready to let loose on Fat Tuesday

NEW ORLEANS — The streets of New Orleans will be filled Tuesday with excited kids catching beads from atop ladders, revelers in fancy costumes walking through the French Quarter and Mardi Gras Indians wearing finely beaded costumes.

Tuesday marks the final day of the Mardi Gras season, which began on Jan. 6.

After rainy weather affected some parades Sunday, the weather Tuesday is expected to be cold but sunny.

The festivities kick off early in the morning when the Northside Skull and Bone Gang walks through the Treme neighborhood before the sun comes up, wearing costumes that look like skeletons and waking people up to celebrate the day.

Then the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club will parade along the city’s famed St. Charles Avenue followed by the Rex Parade. Zulu’s practice of wearing black makeup during its parade has drawn attention and criticism after news that two Virginia politicians wore blackface heightened attention nationally to the issue.

Zulu issued a statement in February saying that their parade costumes bear no resemblance to those worn by “blackface” minstrel performers at the turn of the century and that their costumes are designed to honor garments worn by South African Zulu warriors.

Tuesday’s Rex parade is also expected to feature a stop at “The Rex House,” despite a fire that heavily damaged the historic mansion. The home along St. Charles Avenue has been an important stop along the Rex parade route since 1907, and the Rex king usually stops at the house during the parade.

A fire on Feb. 20 caused massive damage to the three-story, 150-year-old mansion whose occupants over the years include four kings and a queen of Rex.

This year’s Carnival season also has featured numerous jabs at the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell, over the now-infamous “no-call” that came during the Jan. 20 NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints.

A Rams defensive back leveled a Saints receiver with a helmet-to-helmet hit at a crucial point in the final minutes of regulation time. The Rams went on to win the game and then lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

NFL officials acknowledged after the game that flags should have been thrown. But judging by the number of Saints fans dressed up as blind referees during the Mardi Gras season — and likely again on Tuesday — fans here have neither forgiven nor forgotten.

The party officially ends at midnight, when police on horseback ride down Bourbon Street to ceremonially “clear” the street — a symbol meant to mark the end of the Carnival season. Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which for many Christians is a period of fasting and reflection ahead of Easter.

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