Party Nazis

Has Mardi Gras become a tool of mega-buck sponsors? That's what state and federal authorities are asking.

"It's definitely become more political with each passing year," complains Hammerstone, who's grown nostalgic for the days before Soulard's neighborhood block party became an institution controlled by Mardi Gras Inc. "Do we really need 700,000 people down here each year? It certainly was easier back then."

"Victims of our own success" is how bar owner and Mardi Gras Inc. supporter Johnny Daus puts it. "Has Mardi Gras become too commercial? Sure. Believe me, nothing irks me more than stadium naming rights and all the corporate sponsorships you see in professional sports. But when you're running an event as big as Mardi Gras, all of a sudden you become the same kind of whore. Tell you the truth, I'm surprised we don't have official sponsors for the porta-potties. Somebody has got to pay for this stuff."

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