NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gaudy floats, beads and costumes gave way to street sweepers and repentance as Fat Tuesday ended and largely Catholic south Louisiana welcomed Ash Wednesday.
At midnight on Mardi Gras, a wedge of law enforcement - mounted horsemen - moved slowly down Bourbon Street to clear off remaining drinkers, declaring the all-day party over. Sweeper trucks began clearing tons of beer cans, broken beads and other trash from city streets dampened by intermittent rain showers throughout the day.
As Lydia Thumser, of Berlin, Germany, strolled through the city streets taking in the sights and sounds of her first Mardi Gras, she said she would like to attend her first Ash Wednesday service as well - even though she isn't Catholic.
Churches around the area scheduled Masses at which priests would dot or cross the foreheads of the faithful with ash to mark the start of the 40-day Lenten season of penitence and fasting.
As a parade of revelers strolled by in Mardi Gras masks, costumes and boas, New Orleans resident Diane Williams sipped wine on her front porch Tuesday and said she would worry about repenting Wednesday.
"Today is all about friends, family and vino," she said, adding that she is Catholic and planned to receive her ashes. "Getting ashes, it's a part of the tradition. I don't give anything up, I just try to be nicer to people because I feel that's more effective than giving something up."