Revelers add red, white and blue to celebration

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

NEW ORLEANS -- Mardi Gras revelers who filled the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter added a patriotic twist to the debauchery Tuesday, mixing red, white and blue with the traditional purple, green and gold of Carnival.

On Bourbon Street, strings of beads -- including new red, white and blue necklaces -- rained down on young women who bared their breasts.

"I got the really good beads," bragged Joe Chin, 23, of Miami. "I know it's cold, but girls are still happy to show them for these babies."

National Guardsmen patrolled Mardi Gras for the first time, but police said the only direct response to the terrorism alert issued by the FBI on Monday was the posting of the suspected terrorists' photos at police stations.

"Why would terrorists want to break up such a good party?" said Tommy Mitchell, 31, of San Francisco, who wore only a grass skirt and American flag pasties despite the chill. "This is a friendly group. Very friendly."

Temperatures in the 30s thinned the crowds that usually line the Fat Tuesday parade route through the city's Garden District. Some who did bear the cold pulled their costumes on over sweaters. Others had festive outfits hidden under winter coats festooned with beads and boas.

Although tossing beads and trinkets from the balconies is illegal, police ignore the practice during Carnival. Exposing breasts is also illegal, but arrests are rare.

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