The country’s biggest annual celebration requires a whole lot of time, money, and effort.
It’s the biggest party in the world — and it’s already gotten started. On January 6, New Orleans began its first Mardi Gras parade, the first of dozens that will culminate on Fat Tuesday, February 28.
The first recorded celebration in the area occurred in 1699, and over the centuries, New Orleans has become practically synonymous with Mardi Gras. Over a million people come to see the celebrations in person every year — that’s more than triple New Orleans’ population. As tourists flood in, hotel rates skyrocket, but the 37,000 hotel rooms available in the city still reach nearly full capacity. The event, tied with the Christian tradition of feasting and drinking before Lent, is a boon for the city’s famous Cajun restaurant scene, as well as for its 3,000 bars. The University of New Orleans estimates that the event brings in $840 million in yearly revenue.
Those are some pretty impressive numbers, but none of it would be possible without the hundreds of hours, millions of dollars, and float-loads of creativity that the city devotes to the big event. Let’s take a look at how each year’s Mardi Gras celebration comes together, from the very first float to the big cleanup on Fat Tuesday.