Mardi Gras spreading across U.S. - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Mardi Gras spreading across U.S.

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Carnival may be engrained in New Orleans' culture, but it has also taken hold in more and more cities around the country.

For us, it doesn't need a lot of explanation. But this time of year, the city's tourism leaders are touting the madness of the country's biggest Carnival celebration to the national media.

"Well, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is what we call the greatest free show on earth," said Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Kelly Schulz. "It's something that is absolutely synonymous with the history of New Orleans. You know, Mardi Gras is something that is very much of a sacred tradition for our residents."

A tradition that's also a huge money maker, generating hundreds of million dollars a year for the city. Tourists pack hotels and spend millions on food and alcohol. Millions more are spent on floats, costumes and throws, and the publicity is priceless.

It's no wonder cities all over are trying to cash in on the Fat Tuesday phenomenon.

Even the Big Apple is home to a French Quarter-themed blowout.

"We open at 11 a.m. and we are probably pretty busy by noon," said Keith Santangelo with the Bourbon St. Bar & Grille in New York. "We have a line down the block by 2 or 3 p.m., and then we're packed all night. It's a fun party, it's a big party."

Santangelo said Bourbon Street Bar & Grille sells a whole lot of liquor on Fat Tuesday.

"We'll probably go through well over 2,500 hurricanes," he said. "That's usually how much we sell that day. The last couple of years we've been at capacity, so I don't think it could get any bigger."

Don't bet on that, as Carnival continues its spread to every corner of the country.

Mobile, Ala. claims title to the oldest Mardi Gras celebration. St Louis claims to have the biggest Mardi Gras event in the country outside of New Orleans.

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