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Countdown begins to Soulard Mardi Gras festivities

ST. LOUIS - Thousands of people are expected to fill the streets of Soulard for one of the biggest parties of the year.

The festivities will kick off with the Mardi Gras Grande Parade beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

"It's my countdown clock," said Michael Finnegan, pointing to a large digital Captain Morgan clock in the front window of his Soulard home. "It's one day, five hours, 44 minutes, and 32 seconds until midnight (Friday) night."

Police are warning visitors not to drive here because you won't find parking. Signs are posted everywhere telling you that. Organizers, residents, and businesses said they are excited about this weekend, but it's not all about just having a good time.

Mack Bradley, president of the Mardi Gras Foundation, said that just like past Mardi Gras events, visitors should expect several street closures, a heavy city police presence, and plenty of no parking signs.

"There's more than three and a half miles of bike rack that we have to put along the parade route," he said. "So that both the people watching the parade and people in it are safe during the parade."

Bradley also explained warnings against how and where you can consume your alcohol.

"No cans, no coolers, no bottles, no backpacks," he said. "Even if you have a house party in Soulard, don't walk out your front door with a an open can of Bud Light. You have to put everything into an open container, and police will be looking for that."

Thursday night, FOX 2 caught up with Josh Lundack, owner of Henry's, setting up part of his bar outside of the restaurant in anticipation of catering to large crowds.

"They will remember being at one of the biggest parties in St. Louis and having a good time and drinking hurricanes," said Lundack.

Lundack said that while he wants party goers to have a good time, they should keep theirs and the safety of others in mind.

"We have two people at every door," he said. "And then on the outside, my big crew consists mainly of guys and they are pretty large dudes so it's intimidating if they see that anybody is going to start anything."

Organizers highly recommend that you don't drive to the event. Metro will be running its shuttle service between the Civic Center Metro Station-just south of Scottrade Center at 14th and Clark in downtown St. Louis-and the Soulard neighborhood-near St. Vincent DePaul Church at Carroll Street between Menard and 10th Streets, near the west end of the footbridge over I-55.

The special Mardi Gras shuttle buses will operate every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and $6 round-trip passes can be purchased on Saturday, February 10 at the Civic Center Station, starting at 9 a.m.

Taxi stands will be active at the same location as the Metro shuttle stop, and also at 1919 South Broadway and 13th and Russell.

Arrive early. You may even want to book a nearby hotel room for Friday and Saturday to eliminate parking hassles and ensure that you are here with time to spare. Several hotels offer shuttles to and from, or provide access to taxis. Use the portable restrooms. There are thousands of portable restrooms located throughout the festival zone. The police will ticket you for not using them.