Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- It's Carnival crunch time at Haydel's Bakery. By the time Mardi Gras rolls around, they will make 60,000 King Cakes there.
"It's been crazy," said Dave Haydel, Jr., whose family owns and runs the bakery. "The Mardi Gras season is big time for us. You know, that's when we make our bulk of the money for the year."
They're not the only ones: a Tulane University professor's new study released Friday shows that last year's Carnival season brought in more than $300 million to the city, mostly generated by visitors.
"They fill up our restaurants and our hotels and our shops, and it's just a great opportunity economically to show people why Louisiana is strong, why it's vibrant, why New Orleans has come back since Katrina," said Stan Harris, president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
In addition to what's come back, there are some new things to keep an eye out for this year. The all-female Krewe of Nyx will roll Uptown on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras. With 530 members and 20 floats, they will be the first, new full-fledged krewe in the city in 10 years.
"It's a lot of excitement. Everybody's thrilled to death," said Lori Seuzeneau, executive and membership director for the Krewe of Nyx. "We're looking forward to just being involved in the thrill of Mardi Gras."
Back at Haydel's, a new King Cake will debut: chocolate brownie. Their original King Cake will serve as the muse for a new King Cake vodka this year.
"The guy apparently loves our King Cake and he sent our King Cakes to France a couple of times, so they can get the flavor profile right," Haydel said. "We love that. I mean, that's kind of an honor to have our King Cake flavor as a vodka."
It's a new twist on a Carnival favorite in a city that will once again have the eyes of the world on it come Fat Tuesday.