Despite the damage from Hurricane Katrina last year, New Orleanians are gearing up for Mardi Gras, perhaps with more enthusiasm than ever. If anyone needs a good party right now, it's the people on the Gulf Coast. Parades have already started; the larger, more elaborate New Orleans parades will roll next weekend through Tuesday, Feb. 28, which is Fat Tuesday.

Many big parades have traditionally featured celebrities as special marshals, waving atop a float and throwing a few beads. This year is no exception. Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd will ride in Endymion next Saturday night and will perform at the ball afterwards. Michael Keaton will ride in Bacchus on Sunday and Steven Seagal will ride on Monday night in Orpheus, the parade founded by Harry Connick, Jr. While you might not consider this year's celebrities to be A-list, they get big points for supporting the city. My own initial reaction was "Seagal? Why on earth?" until I found out he is a spokesman for Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit that is focusing a lot of energy in fixing up New Orleans. Now I think he's a fine choice.

And if that isn't enough celebrity action for Mardi Gras attendees, Britney Spears also plans to be in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday "with a special surprise." I don't even want to guess.