Brian Kelly/Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  St. Louis’ annual pre-Lenten fun-fest, often called the second-largest in the nation after New Orleans, kicks into high gear this weekend.

The Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball happens Friday night at City Hall, with tickets going for $100-to-$500 dollars each.

Then the River City Casino Grand Parade through Soulard steps off at 11 am Saturday, with organizers suggesting to get downtown much earlier than that to grab a good viewing spot.

Also on hand for the parade, St. Louis’ finest — although you may not realize it.

“We’ve put a couple of hundred police officers on the ground for the parade,” says St. Louis police captain Sam Dotson, adding many of those officers will be of the plain-clothes variety.  “And then again, we have another couple of hundred officers coming in the afternoon to follow the event all the way until it ends at 10:30 Saturday night.”

Dotson adds they’ll especially be on the lookout for underage drinking; last year they busted nearly 100 partiers under the age of 21 for having alcohol.

He says those attending Saturday’s festivities should also be aware of a couple of things they should leave at home if they’re coming down to Soulard.

“”There are checkpoints.  They’re looking for coolers…coolers are not allowed,” Capt. Dotson points out.  “Alcoholic beverages are not allowed.  Those things are provided inside the festival.”

Also keep in mind there are numerous street closings Saturday. 

For all portions of the day, the following streets will be closed: 6th Street from Cerre to Gratiot, Clark from 8th to Broadway and the entire “red zone” marked by Marion to the north, Broadway to the east, Shenandoah from Broadway to 11th and Ann from 11th to I-55 to the south, and I-55 to the west.

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