When we stopped in Mobile, the intent was to stay for a night or two at most, and maybe see a parade. During our first parade we talked to several locals and non-local residence about Mardi Gras and learned more about Mardi Gras meant in Mobile. After being enlightened we decided to stay the week, through Fat Tuesday to see what it was all about. If you are in a hurry I can sum it up here in the words of one of the regular attenders I met. “It’s just a good old Catholic celebration.”
Mardi Gras in the US Actually started in Mobile Alabama … or should I say Fort Louis de la Louisiana in 1702. This, to date is the first recorded Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday in the US. The tradition of Mardi Gras actually dates back much further, but you can research that elsewhere. Maybe here http://www.themobilemask.com/.
IF you follow our Facebook or twitter accounts you got a semi live look in the goings on around mobile at during Mardi Gras. For Mobile, Mardi Gras is a family event. The parades are all family friendly. The throws (except for one carefully and systematically distributed squishy boob) were all geared for the kids. Yes, the kids – even Joe Cain Day and Fat Tuesday parades day and night were kid friendly. The floats taught lessons, celebrated milestones, super heroes, mythical hero, dragons, factual history and even some political satire. Mardi Gras is an engrained family tradition for many in the area, generations spent time at the parades and now bring their kids and grandkids back to watch and enjoy.
The groups setting up the floats are generous, sometimes crazy sometimes trouble makers. At the end of the day it’s all fun and games, and stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Each member of each float is responsible for their own libations and throws. The cost of these throws sometimes range from hundreds to thousands. There are carnival toys and prizes, beads, stuffed animals, moon pies, ramen and other odd grocery items galore tossed from the floats. Tons of cheap fun sports stuff from soccer balls, footballs ranging in all sizes, Frisbees and throwing rings, and countless other items (someone threw old cell phone cases -haha). By the end of the week we had 100 lbs. of beads, and 3 trash-bags full of stuffed animals, toys, and other little items, and 6 1 gallon freezer bags full of moon pies and snacks, not to mention enough romen and cup-o-noodles for a couple of late night meals when we got back to the RV For some of these families that live in the area, Mardi Gras is more lucrative than Christmas with the stuff that is thrown over the edge of the floats. The same when for our kids, who had opted to travel to see family instead of buys stuff for Christmas.
The entire experience is fun, a bit gluttonous (tons of stuff and tons of moon pies!), and very tiring. We partook in Fat Tuesday and followed another grand catholic tradition of thinking about cutting something for lent and then promptly failing. What good is a period of celebration and, in this case moon pies, and gaining weight from eating moon pies, without cutting a little something from the diet. I guess I haven’t had any alcohol since then so maybe I’ll stick with that. I didn’t have that much then either so it shouldn’t be that hard. Modern example of Christian commitment! (ouch that hurt.)
Mobile is far more than Mardi Gras, but Mardi Gras is a big part of mobile. In recent years they have added he moon pie drop as an event, or at least the even has become more popular on new years eave especially for those central timers. There is a large building with a big moon pie attached that is lowed on a cable at midnight central time. Down town also has some unique sights, street art and a beautiful cathedral. If you have a day, wander down town, get some roasted nuts, admire the architecture and enjoy the parks. If you have more time (and money) see the the USS Alabama http://www.ussalabama.com/.
Here is a slide show of our pictures. It was hard to get good pictures at night with a cell phone and we ended up having phone issues on Saturday. Oh well, we got what we got.
There is a down side to Mardi Gras in Mobile, and this is a national problem too. There is a bit of segregation going on with the parades. I was told that it was by choice. There are two different groups of people putting on floats and event. There is a black group and a white group. If you are black you are in a Krew that is a part of the black parade, if you are white you are in a crew that is a part of the white parade. Of all the floats there were only a few white or black individuals who broke that rule. The segregation goes both ways. Even on the parade route there is a bit of a split. I was told by several white couples that we shouldn’t venture too far up Government Street. I was told by a few black people that I wasn’t welcome. Even in having conversation with people, I noticed that if you were in the square where we spent most of our time people were cordial, it was pronominally white, but maybe by 50%, and there were other colors, ethnicity, and backgrounds in the group and everyone got along. We found that as we went up Government Street the crowds changed. Soon we were the only white people, and the responses to us were mixed. There was one family that we hung out with a little and talked, they made eye contact and we exchanges stories. There were others however who scowled at us, made an effort to take our children’s throws, or flat out ignored us. My kids didn’t care, or even notice, when it came to the throws we were giving away half of them anyways. But it is clear, and well known that there are racial issues still lingering on all sides of the issue. Outside of this social segregation, the rest of the events were fun. We met people who we would have loved to get to know better, even if they wen’t interested in meeting us.