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Lifestyle

January 27, 2013

Super Bowl + Mardi Gras = Super Gras

New Orleans readies for onslaught of visitors for two wildly popular events

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“We opened the area to fans for the first time last year, and the feedback was incredible,” said Mary Pat Augenthaler, the NFL’s director of special events. She said the media area includes “Radio Row” and the NFL Network. “Last year some fans spent hours just in that one section. Not everybody can go to the game, but in here you feel like you’re a part of the central nervous system of the Super Bowl.”

As Super Bowl fans leave town, a new wave of revelers will arrive for Mardi Gras weekend. That’s when some of the city’s largest parade organizations, known as superkrewes, hold their glitzy balls and parades.

Parade groups have been working for months to make this year bigger and better than ever. The Krewe of Endymion is boasting it will have the largest float in city history for its Feb. 9 parade, led by pop singer Kelly Clarkson.

The Bacchus parade and its yet-to-be-named celebrity rider rolls on Feb. 10, and the Orpheus parade rolls on Feb. 11 — the eve of Fat Tuesday known as Lundi Gras — with actor Gary Sinise, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress Mariska Hargitay and New Orleans musicians Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Harry Connick Jr.

Visitors who can’t catch the parades in person may opt for a visit to Mardi Gras World, the enormous studio and warehouse where floats are made and stored. Tours include a stop in the prop shop, where artists create and paint float decorations and sculptures.

This year, Mardi Gras World is also the site of a Guinness World Record attempt by New Orleans artist Stephan Wanger to create the world’s largest Mardi Gras bead mosaic. Visitors can help cut and place beads one by one onto a 42-foot-long, 8-foot-tall board etched with the New Orleans skyline.

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