Flashy floats, free gifts and the China Coast Jazzmen will bring a New Orleans Mardi Gras atmosphere to Hong Kong TO ADD AN extra dimension to this year's carnival, the Lan Kwai Fong Association is introducing a New Orleans Mardi Gras theme to festivities. Like the Rio Carnival, Mardi Gras traditionally takes place in the weeks before Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, as it is called in New Orleans. French settlers introduced Mardi Gras celebrations to Louisiana in the 1700s. Traditions such as costumed balls, masks and parades featuring elaborate floats, unique to New Orleans, have grown up over the centuries and the carnival has become a major tourist attraction as well as a local festival. As well as enjoying the spectacle of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans people love collecting the beads and trinkets that are thrown to the crowds from the performers on the floats in the parade. In Hong Kong, stalls at the street carnival will be selling special souvenir beads. 'The beads will be traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras beads, featuring the typical purple, green and gold colours,' says Terence Loo, head of marketing and communications for Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments. 'There will also be trinkets specific to Lan Kwai Fong, such as local street signs. The beads and trinkets will be sold at a very reasonable price and given away in competitions throughout the weekend.' New Orleans is the home of jazz and any Mardi Gras parade would not be complete without music. The New Orleans sound in Lan Kwai Fong will be provided by Colin Aitchison and the China Coast Jazzmen. 'We'll be playing Dixieland New Orleans Jazz,' says band leader Colin Aitchison. The five-piece China Coast Jazzmen will comprise trumpet, saxophone, and the three instruments that ensure a distinctive Dixieland sound, banjo, tuba and drums. Classic Dixieland songs like When the Saints Go Marching In, Down by the River and Sweet Georgia Brown will be on the play list for the carnival, says Aitchison. Dixieland was born out of the blues, Creole music and ragtime in the early part of the 20th century. 'Dixieland has a lot of drive,' explains Aitchison. 'We'll be keeping the tempo pretty well up.' Formed in 1993, the China Coast Jazzmen can usually be found in Ned Kelly's Last Stand in Tsim Sha Tsui or entertaining the crowds at Ocean Park. The band will be performing at the carnival in the afternoon on Saturday, October 14, and Sunday, October 15, moving between the two stages in Lan Kwai Fong and the amphitheatre, as well as taking part in the parades. For the stage sets, the versatile Aitchison promises to put his trumpet down for a short while and sing a few songs made famous by one of New Orleans best-loved sons, Louis Armstrong, who was born there 105 years ago. 'At the New Orleans Mardi Gras music is everywhere,' says Aitchison. 'We're going to try to do what they do in New Orleans.' Whether its singing along to It's a Wonderful World or dancing in the street, Colin Aitchison and the China Coast Jazzmen intend to make sure that everyone shares the music of New Orleans.