Washington Mardi Gras officially got underway Thursday night in the nation's capital with parties that rocked until well past the midnight hour.

Louisiana Live, a showcase of the Bayou State's food, music and heritage, kicked off the four-day celebration, most of which takes place at the Washington Hilton.

Some 5,000 guests packed the hotel's main ballroom, where they were serving shrimp, crawfish, oysters and catfish. And, since Raising Cane's founder Todd Graves is this year's king, there was loads of chicken fingers and buckets of Cane's sauce.

Next up was the masquerade party hosted by Graves for 1,000 guests at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium.

Arriving by bus, guests were greeted by a 20-piece string ensemble. Upon entering the magnificent building, you could don one of the amazing masks or have one painted on by a couple of very talented face artists.

Chef John Folse served up a uniquely Louisiana menu, and Todd's favorite college band, Better Than Ezra, and rapper Flo Rida kept everyone on the dance floor.

Follow Pam Bordelon on Twitter, @pamspartyline.