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The Patpong Mardi Gras

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Bangkok celebrated its version of Mardi Gras Saturday with marching bands, martial arts shows and beauty contests to choose the city's most voluptuous go-go dancer.

The action began at noon with a parade of Thai student and police bands along Bangkok's girlie-bar strip on Patpong Road.

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Jazz musicians and traditional Thai folk dancers competed for the attention of thousands of locals and foreign tourists attending the third annual Patpong Mardi Gras, sponsored by the local Rotary club and Patpong bar owners.

Both ends of the strip were blocked to traffic, and bunting-draped booths sold souvenirs. Carnival games and a magician kept the kids busy.

Off-duty dancing girls and touts rubbed shoulders with busloads of American and European tourists.

Profits from the $2 entry fee and concession sales go to charities including the rural ear, nose and throat project.

'We want to show there's more to Patpong than just hustling,' said one bar owner employing more than a hundred go-go dancers. 'This is an event the whole family can enjoy.'

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