NEW ORLEANS (AP) —
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Mardi Gras is when you come across alligators — or maybe dragons — from Boston taking photos of two-headed dragons from Wichita, Kansas, in the French Quarter.
They were among more than 100 people, many of them costumed, in Jackson Square about 10 a.m., as French Quarter festivities got under way on Fat Tuesday and a morning chill began warming up.
Zulu, the first parade, was already rolling on a route that ends on Canal street, the edge of the Quarter, with crowds jostling and shouting for beads, toy spears and Zulu's signature painted coconuts.
Nearby, a street preacher shouted that people in the crowd were heading for damnation. He was backed up by about 50 followers and surrounded by a small crowd, most of them hecklers.
The religious group left after a few minutes of ear busting reggae and samba music.
Staying warm is a major theme of this year's costumes on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans.
On the 7:30 a.m. ferry from New Orleans' West Bank to Canal Street, Tracy Thomas wore a fuzzy, hooded pink zip-up suit over other clothes. She described her costume as her warm and comfortable pajamas.
She and neighbor Christine Stephens are heading to what has become their traditional Mardi Gras breakfast spot. Then they are going to get a good spot outside a po'boy sandwich shop to watch the Zulu parade.
Stephens wore a lavender wig, black pants, jacket and top hat and lacy lavender half-gloves. She described her costume as a cross between Goth and Lolita. Then she changed that to pastel Goth. She says she decided to forego a short skirt because it's cold.
Tuesday's forecast was for cloudy skies, temperatures in the 60s (15 Celsius), and a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms.
Tens of thousands of revelers are expected on New Orleans streets for parades and rowdy fun as Mardi Gras caps the Carnival season in a city with a celebration of its own, its 300th anniversary.
The anniversary of this Louisiana port city will feature prominently in Fat Tuesday's festivities.
Rex is New Orleans' oldest parading Carnival group. It is celebrating the tricentennial with 21 of its 28 floats commemorating its history from those who lived in the area before Europeans settled it in 1718 to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815