Originally published February 21, 2012 at 6:27 a.m., updated February 21, 2012 at 4:45 p.m.
About 40,000 people are expected to flock into downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter tonight to celebrate Mardi Gras.
In honor of Fat Tuesday, the San Diego Gaslamp district is putting on its 18th annual Mardi Gras party this evening. Forty thousand people are expected to turn out in the heart of downtown for the festivities.
Brandy Shimabukuro is with the Gaslamp Association:
"It's going to be 16 blocks of absolute Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday mayhem," she said. "We've got an incredible masquerade parade that's going off at 9:30 tonight. We've got over 30 floats and walking units and dance troupes. We have four stages and deejays, local bands, local artists. It's going to be a fantastic evening."
Irina Makhina had a front row seat last year from her position as hostess at the Toscana Cafe and Wine Bar.
"It's crazy, like a masquerade," she said.
The celebration starts at 6 p.m. and will feature five stages of musical acts. There also will be a parade along Fifth Avenue, beginning at 9 p.m., organizers said.
General admission tickets are $25 at the gate. Revelers must be at least 21 years old.
Also kicking off at 6 p.m. is the Hillcrest Business Association's 11th annual Mardi Gras party. Music, a laser light show and other festivities will be set up along University Avenue between First and Fourth avenues, and Third Avenue, between Washington and Robinson streets.
Tickets for the Hillcrest party start at $20.