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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fat Tuesday Fills Streets From New Orleans to Rio

Combined Reports

NEW ORLEANS -- Mardi Gras madness, in all its gaudy glory, has hit once again in a Cajun-spiced orgy of garish floats, jangly bands, bared breasts and thrown beads. And, oh yes, sobriety isn't considered a virtue.

All good sense gives way Tuesday in a Fat Tuesday celebration -- America's biggest street party. More than a million revelers were expected to jam the French quarter for everything from parades to a transvestite beauty pageant.

With a pile of beer cans beside him and a string of beads around his neck, University of Texas student Jim Marcus, 22, awaited the festivities in a lawn chair.

"At first I couldn't move, then I decided why bother,'' Marcus said. "I might as well just rest here and wait for the next parade.''

Jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain kicks it off at dawn as he leads his Half-Fast Marching Club down fashionable St. Charles Avenue.

Numerous "marching societies'' follow, including the gilded coconut-throwing Zulus -- black people in black face parodying the previously all-white Carnival clubs -- and then Rex, King of Carnival.

It all ends at midnight when the religious season of Lent begins.

Today's celebrations capped a month-long Carnival season which saw Rio de Janeiro's festival labeled "a modern Sodom and Gomorrah" by Brazil's highest-ranking Roman Catholic authority as millions of revelers packed cities from the northern Amazon to the southern pampas.

"Carnival has suffered a gradual degradation over the years,'' Archbishop Dom Lucas Moreira Neves said Monday in the Rio daily O Globo.

But his comments did not stop Rio's parades rumbling toward their climax at dawn Tuesday, enthralling Brazilians and tourists alike with a blaze of color, a roar of samba and a swirl of naked flesh and elaborate costumes. ()