Unfortunately, I live in one of those cities. On the weekend preceding Mardi Gras, as the bars began to close in Seattle, Pioneer Square was filled with idiot drunks. The ladies did the lift their shirts for beads thing, and the guys milled about causing fights. Eventually the police had to come in and break the crowd up, causing a whole lot more problems. The worst night was the night before (and continuing into) Ash Wednesday, when the biggest crowd piled into Pioneer Square. Police blocked off the streets surrounding the crowd and stayed the hell out. Fights broke out constantly over prime viewing spots, and people generally behaved like drunken morons.

Which is what this holiday is all about in cities like mine. It's one of those "excuse to get drunk" holidays, like St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo. They have an importance elsewhere, but for 90% of the population, the holidays are merely an excuse to act the fool. It isn't about creating the atmosphere of Mardi Gras, or doing what the celebration is really about (going nuts before Lent). The bars get to make some money with beads or green beer or Dos Equis, and people get to think their near-rioting is okay because it's a holiday.