A scaled-down New Orleans Mardi Gras because of Hurricane Katrina's destruction could boost turnout for the rollicking festivities in Mobile, where local historians say carnival was first celebrated in the United States in the 1700s.
"It's going to be nuts. We're preparing for the insane, just in case," says bartender Danielle Hamilton at Hayley's on Dauphin Street, the city's downtown entertainment strip.
She says the bar will hire extra bouncers and bartenders to deal with the crowds.
Millions of tourist dollars are up for grabs in carnival cities along the Gulf of Mexico from Galveston, Texas, to Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Leon Maisel, president and CEO of the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, said there are no historical benchmarks for this year's Mardi Gras because of Katrina.
"But in communicating with industry members," he said, "all indications show Mobile Mardi Gras attendance increasing due to this unique situation."
Mobile has advertised its "family-oriented" carnival in markets within a 150-to-200-mile radius, including Jackson, Miss., Hattiesburg, Miss., Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham and Montgomery, Maisel said.
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