Albany prepares for Mardi Gras - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany prepares for Mardi Gras

A mannequin dressed up in Mardi Gras colors at the Albany Welcome Center.  Mardi Gras weekend is fast approaching. A mannequin dressed up in Mardi Gras colors at the Albany Welcome Center. Mardi Gras weekend is fast approaching.
A lamppost sign in Downtown Albany.  Around 50,000 people are expected downtown during the Mardi Gras weekend. A lamppost sign in Downtown Albany. Around 50,000 people are expected downtown during the Mardi Gras weekend.
The Albany Welcome Center would be a good place for visitors to stop when they first arrive in town. The Albany Welcome Center would be a good place for visitors to stop when they first arrive in town.
Part of the route map for the marathon.  The full marathon is highlighted in blue, the half marathon in purple, the bike race in green.  Numbers on the map indicate mile markers for the running races. Part of the route map for the marathon. The full marathon is highlighted in blue, the half marathon in purple, the bike race in green. Numbers on the map indicate mile markers for the running races.
A brochure for the Albany Marathon.  The marathon routinely fills up its allotment of places (about 2000), partially due to its topography and the fact that its a Boston Marathon qualifier. A brochure for the Albany Marathon. The marathon routinely fills up its allotment of places (about 2000), partially due to its topography and the fact that its a Boston Marathon qualifier.

Organizers are preparing for one of Albany's biggest annual events. Thousands of people will pack downtown next weekend for the annual marathon and Mardi Gras celebration.

Part of that preparation involves salt packets.  They were being loaded at the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Downtown Albany Wednesday.  It's all part of the preparations for the second biggest tourist weekend of the year in Albany.

Rashelle Beasley from the Convention and Visitors Bureau said, "the whole weekend itself will be over 50,000 (visitors)."

The economic impact is enormous.

"It's upwards of a 2 million dollar economic impact," said Beasley.

It's the 10th annual Mardi Gras weekend.  As usual, there will be plenty of things going on downtown.  But the marathon - now in its sixth year - has become the biggest event.

Beasley said, "the wheelchair racers will start at 6:45.  The marathon and half-marathon will start at 7:00 a.m. sharp."

The marathon has built a good reputation among runners.

"Our race is very flat.  It has just enough hills where it's not going to hurt you.  But it's flat enough so that you can get some good speed," said Beasley.

So they come from all over to take part.

"Over 30 states and 5 countries," said Beasley.

Which brings us back to the salt.  Sodium helps marathon runners stay hydrated and avoid cramping.  That's critical for these runners because if they can run this marathon fast enough, they can qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Whether they're running or simply walking around; with all those tourists in town, city officials are preaching patience.

"We just ask you to be very mindful and if they're asking you to stop it's because there are runners coming," said Beasley.

Runners who will leave behind more than just their sweat on these streets.  They'll leave behind plenty of prosperity for the city as well.

Copyright 2012 WALB.  All rights reserved.  

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