LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) -- In an area of the country that looks for any excuse to throw a party, it would take a lot more than a little humidity and some afternoon showers to keep the Mardi Gras crowds away.

Lafayette's Carnival revelers lived up to that reputation today, setting up tents, cooking it up Cajun style, and otherwise having a good time. And if you were from out of town (and there were many of you), even better--people down here love to show off the southern hospitality for which we're famous.

Yeah, the weather may have affected the overall attendance this year, and thus Lafayette's claim of having the second-largest Mardi Gras in the country, but the spirit was still very much alive and well.

Along the parade route was a sea of southern tradition--kids and teenagers hanging out in the beds of trucks while their parents lounged in lawn chairs sipping on a cold beer; friends and family dancing to everything from country to hip hop  to zydeco; and the sounds of parade-goers screaming, "Throw me something, mister!" as beads and spirit sticks flew by overhead.

Not much really changes with Lafayette's Mardi Gras from year to year, and perhaps that's a good thing. We're a far cry from the wanton debauchery that takes place in a city just a couple hours east of here. City-Parish President Joey Durel has called our's the most family-friendly in the country, and that perception is evident in the sheer number of parents and children who show up to the parades, toting around bags upon bags of beads, coins, and other trinkets by the end of the day.

The regulars are great, too. You know who they are--year after year, they show up wearing the same costumes or playing the same songs on their same worn out instruments, and they're always more than happy to share with you their stories about why they do what they do.

Take the guy who walks along the parade route wearing (carrying?) the biggest set of beads I've ever seen around his neck. The first time he wore them nearly a decade ago, the reaction was so positive that he turned it into a yearly tradition. Now he gladly stops to take pictures with random people, and if you're feeling bold, he'll even let you wear the monstrosity (it's a lot of fun).

Mardi Gras is more than just an excuse to throw a party. Sure, there are the religious meanings behind the holiday that kicks off the Lenten season leading up to Easter. But the people, the sounds, the traditions--they're all woven into the fabric of our community.

And that's what keeps me coming back for more every year.

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