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      Big Mardi Gras crowds expected in St. Louis

      It is billed as the second-largest Mardi Gras celebration behind New Orleans, and St. Louis is expecting big crowds starting this weekend in the Soulard area south of downtown.

      The Mardi Gras Grand Parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Fat Tuesday Parade is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, beginning at Broadway and Washington. More than 100 floats are expected.

      The event is expected to draw tens of thousands despite cold temperatures.

      Police will be watching the party closely -- hundreds of officers will be in Soulard during Mardi Gras. Parking in the area will be very limited. Bottles, cans, backpacks and coolers are not allowed.

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