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Inaugural Fremont Street Mardi Gras celebration gets off to slow start

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Leila Navidi / Las Vegas Sun

The Fremont Street Experience Dixieland Band members Steve Johnson, from left, Tom McDermott and Bob Sachs perform on the Main Street stage during Fat Tuesday celebrations at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

Fat Tuesday on Fremont Street

Jeff Keen, left, of St. Louis poses for a photo taken by Scott Sheen, right, who is trying to sell him the large Mardi Gras beads Keen is wearing, during Fat Tuesday celebrations at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Fremont Street has all the makings for a memorable Mardi Gras — beads, daiquiris and revelry are what it is known for on a day-to-day basis.

But some participants in downtown's first Fat Tuesday pub crawl said they were disappointed with the turnout.

"We were expecting more. To me, personally, it seems like just a normal night," said Rhianna Kuhns, an administrative assistant at Rhythm Kitchen, a Cajun restaurant that set up a food stand for the event.

At 8 p.m., in the midst of the 5 p.m.-to-midnight festivities, there were only a few people in line to sample the authentic southern cuisine.

Visitors who had come to experience a party said they weren't finding much of one, either.

"We came down here with high expectations, that the streets were going to be sticky, the music was going to be loud," said former Louisiana resident Dennis Filanger, who attended the event with his wife. "We're disappointed. This is Mardi Gras light, really light."

Walter and Wanda Lambert, also from the South, didn't see a close comparison to their hometown celebration, either.

"It's nothing like New Orleans Mardi Gras," said Wanda Lambert. "You've gotta be there. It's one big party."

Many people on Fremont Street didn't even realize they were part of the celebration initially.

"We're just here to perform in a showcase for unsigned artists," Jesse Lopez of San Francisco said, explaining what drew him downtown Tuesday night.

As for the gold, green and pink metallic beads strung around his neck, even they were acquired unintentionally. "The beads were just thrown off a balcony. They say, 'Bacardi Gras.' I just thought it was really clever."

Even the event's organizers seemed disappointed with the turnout.

"We expected double...We expected about 1,000," said Megan Conklin, marketing manager for Fremont Street Experience as she manned a table where participants signed up for the pub crawl. As of 10 p.m., she estimated, she had gotten only about 400 people to partake.

Despite the slow start, Conklin is holding out hope for future installments. "Start out slow and build from there," she said.

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