NEW ORLEANS — With the nation more aware than ever of its vulnerability to terrorism, this famously carefree city is going to great lengths to beef up security before the crowds arrive for Mardi Gras.
Ed Muniz, a councilman in suburban Jefferson Parish and the captain of Endymion — one of the biggest parade clubs in New Orleans — is confident that security measures will allow the city’s celebrations to be a success.
"Everybody’s vigilant, and watching, and if there’s a problem then overnight things could change," Muniz says. "But if there’s been no problems between now and the time of our parades, we’d expect crowds to be as big as ever."
The carnival season, which ends with Mardi Gras on Feb. 12, turns much of New Orleans and numerous communities across Louisiana into giant public parties with streets mobbed with people in costume. This year, the Super Bowl will bring even more people to New Orleans on Feb. 3, right in the middle of the carnival.
"Since Sept. 11, we’ve had to go back and review emergency plans not just for major events but overall," said Marlon Defillo, New Orleans deputy chief of police. "We’ve had to include other agencies that may not have been involved before, like the National Guard … and we’ve had to include issues that may involve terrorism."
During the Super Bowl, the Louisiana Superdome will be fortified as never before. For the first time, the U.S. Secret Service is handling stadium security. A no-fly zone extending miles from the stadium will be in effect during the game.
Some of the Mardi Gras parades are also going patriotic this year to show the Big Easy’s support for an uneasy nation.
Organizers of one of the parades — which features a turban-clad figure in its marquee float — changed the turban to look like it is made from an American flag, and the figure will be wearing a red and white costume and holding American flags.
Another float will feature New Orleans Saints lineman Kyle Turley dressed as Uncle Sam, throwing red, white and blue beads.
"I’m sure all the major crews are doing something patriotic," Muniz says. "We’re all having a great time here, but with young men and women at war on the other side of the world, you just can’t party and forget them."
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