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Partiers in New Orleans are taking one last chance to eat, drink and be merry before Lent. Tourism officials don’t believe the economic downturn has dampened the mood at this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations, and say that big crowds over the weekend and nearly full hotels bode well for the annual event.

Thousands of revelers are expected to line the streets Tuesday morning for one more day of parades. Jim Belushi and his Sacred Hearts band ushered in the final day, playing hits including “Soul Man” and “Hard to Handle” into the morning.

Mardi Gras officially ends at midnight Tuesday. In heavily Catholic New Orleans, many will be in church Wednesday to have ashes daubed on their foreheads as they begin 40 days of prayer, penitence and self-denial leading up to Easter.

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