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

 @MarkJohansonIBT on February 22 2012 11:36 AM

[PHOTOS] Police Officers on horseback cleared Bourbon Street early Wednesday declaring Mardi Gras 2012 officially over. As New Orleans' famous Carnival came to an end, Mardi Gras revelers prepared for the somber start of Lent and 40 days of penance before Easter Sunday.

But what a celebration it was.

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.

Indeed, the theme of the week was party. Hard, and often.                

Have a look at the best of Mardi Gras 2012 below:

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Mardi Gras 2012

Members of the Muff-A-Lotta's performance troupe dance with pizza pans during the Orpheus Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana February 20, 2012. Reuters

Mardi Gras 2012

Members of The North Side Skull and Bone Gang affix their masks on Mardi Gras day in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21, 2012. Reuters

Mardi Gras 2012

Members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club march in the Zulu Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21, 2012. Reuters

Mardi Gras 2012

A woman catches a coconut during the Zulu Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21, 2012. Reuters

Mardi Gras 2012

A reveler wearing tents as costume dances during Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21, 2012. Reuters

Mardi Gras 2012

Two women wearing large plastic buttocks talk with a friend during the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21, 2012. Reuters

Mardi Gras 2012

A member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club presides over a float during the Zulu Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana February 21, 2012. Reuters

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