Party fever grips Big Easy

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The New Orleans Saints were just two games away from making NFL history for the second year in a row, but you won't find too many long faces on the streets of the Big Easy.

That's because the city is rife with anticipation and excitement for what has been dubbed as 'The Greatest Free Show on Earth': Mardi Gras. At the time of writing, there were only two weeks left until Fat Tuesday, 8 March 2011, so preparations to continue the 312–year–old tradition were well underway. It would be hard to overestimate the amount of planning going into the festivities as more than 60 parades are scheduled to roll through the Greater New Orleans area in the coming month, many of which will run simultaneously. These range from French Quarter walking crews like Pete Fountain's infamous Half–Fast Walking Club (of which actor John Goodman is a member) to 'super krewes' like Orpheus, whose ornate floats cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take months to build. One notable exception to all the preparations in the city is the Superdome, home of the Saints. Its doors are closed for carnival while it receives a full makeover in anticipation of hosting Superbowl XLVII in 2013. This means that the Krewe of Endymion, who holds its annual Extravaganza ball inside the hallowed round walls, will temporarily move their fete to the Morial Convention Center. Found among the krewe members of Endymion this year will be celebrities Anderson Cooper, Kelly Ripa and Pat Benatar, who will all serve as royalty. Mardi Gras historian and local author Arthur Hardy said: " No one in New Orleans would've minded a repeat of last year's Superbowl win, but we're all still looking forward to a record–setting Carnival season. " Complete information about Mardi Gras 2011 is available at http://www. mardigrasday. com.

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