NEW ORLEANS - Whether you're cheering in the street or throwing beads from a balcony, there's no mistaking the vibe in the air.

'The atmosphere is electric,' said Sherrod Davis, of Baltimore, MD. 'That's all you need to know, it's absolutely electric.'

'Oh my gosh, this is the best, Super Bowl has nothing on Mardi Gras, this is the best weekend of the year,' said Joe Callahan of Oxford, MS.

Thousands filled Bourbon Street Friday to kickoff the biggest weekend to Carnival and prepare to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

Many visitors arrived in New Orleans Friday.

'It's wild and crazy, and oh my God I'm just overwhelmed,' said Angela Scott, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as she walked down Bourbon Street.

The madness on Bourbon Street began Friday afternoon, when locals donned elaborate costumes to participate in marching krewes.

'It's wonderful, the day starts out really quiet in the morning, there's few people on the street and as the day builds the energy builds and just, all the preparation for Mardi Gras, it's a lot of fun,' said Carol LaPari, of Covington, LA. LaPari is part of Divas marching krewe.

As the crowds has grown, so too has the police presence. 150 troopers from across the state are helping New Orleans Police with crowd control and enforcement.

'The public could care less the color of our uniform or the shape of our badge, they want to know when they call the police that we're here,' said state police Col. Mike Edmonson.

Meanwhile, visitors from the Northeast are enjoying more than the carnival revelry.

'We've got a blizzard, I'm probably not going to get back home,' said Jessica Thomas, who lives in New York. 'It's been five degrees every single day. 70 degrees you can't beat it, literally I've fallen in love.'

Some New Orleans natives are on Bourbon Street too. Ryan Stangel is experiencing Carnival for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

'Being back is just bringing back everything and I love it. I love it a lot,' said Stangel, a New Orleans native who now lives in Austin, TX.

The crowds will continue to grow as Fat Tuesday approaches.
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