Mardi Gras 2012 Photos: Before the Beads turned to Ashes in New Orleans

In the 12 days leading up to Fat Tuesday, about one million people took to the streets of New Orleans, bringing an estimated $300 million in direct and indirect economic impact. The bulk of visitors poured into the French Quarter and across the Big Easy over the weekend to revel in parades led by mythic royalty. The weather was even more cause for celebration: Mid 70s with partly cloudy skies. Over the four-day weekend there was drinking, dancing, and King Cake eating. The streets were flooded with flamboyant costumes, frivolous floats, and frolicking late night flesh-flashers.

Photos: Reuters.

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