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10 Offbeat Places to Celebrate Mardis Gras

St. Louis, Mo.
When your city lacks a Carnival or Mardi Gras history, sometimes you just need to throw up your hands and declare it a holiday anyway.

Such is the case with St. Louis Mardi Gras, which has almost no connection to religious or cultural Carnival or Mardi Gras celebrations whatsoever. City guides date St. Louis Mardi Gras back to sometime in the 1980s, when drunken bar patrons simply decided to parade from one bar in St. Louis' Soulard neighborhood to the other. The numbers grew year by year until finally reaching between 200,000 and 250,000 last year.

The upside is that this has resulted in not only a dachshund wiener dog race two weeks before Mardi Gras, but huge parades on both the Saturday before Fat Tuesday and on Mardi Gras itself. The downside is made clear by the event Web site's Do's & Don'ts list, where "Do's" include "respect the police" and "don'ts" include drinking if you're under 21; urinating on streets, sidewalks, houses, cars, trees, flowers or friends; trespassing; and vandalizing property.

Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD) and Southern Comfort parent company Brown-Forman (BFA) are big sponsors of the event, as is a local casino. To say that alcohol plays a role in this event is like saying jet fuel plays a role in your flight from Atlanta to Chicago. Bud Light hosts a $100-a-head party tent, Landshark Beer sponsors the concert stage and Brown-Forman stocks the corporate hospitality tents with cocktail bars full of its Jack Daniel's whiskey, Finlandia vodka and Korbel sparkling wine.

If a reveler doesn't have beads in his or her hands when storming the streets after Saturday's parade, they'll likely have a beer. If they do have beads, chances are they exposed part of themselves in full view to get it.

This could be great news if you always wanted to go to Mardi Gras but didn't want to put up with the centuries-old "history" and "tradition" of some of the nation's other celebrations. It could also be terrible if you're an unfortunate tourist who starts off the day looking to give the kids a lovely day at the parade and ends it with an impromptu anatomy lesson.

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