History of Mardi Gras in Mobile Alabama
History of Mardi Gras in Mobile Alabama: The Original Family Friendly Fat Tuesday
New Orleans is not the only city that does Mardi Gras. In fact, it’s not even home to the original Mardi Gras in the U.S. That distinction belongs to Mardi Gras Mobile Alabama, which has been hosting the celebration since 1703. Even better, it’s “America’s Family Mardi Gras,” which means the whole family, young and old, can take in the sights and sounds of the magnificent two-and-a-half-week party without trepidation.
Mardi Gras Mobile Alabama began as a French Catholic celebration to prepare for the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. It was first called Boeuf Gras (fatted ox) in 1703; the first masked ball was held the ensuing year; and the first known parade occurred in 1711.
Today’s festivities include private, invitation-only parties and masked balls, where revelers wear elegant costumes. These celebrations can be traced directly a group of partiers led by Michael Krafft, who, on the night of December 31, 1830, led a group of revelers on a dawn parade with cowbells and rakes and formed the first mystic society, called the Cowbellion de Rakin Society. It was this society that less than a decade later would introduce Mardi Gras celebrations to New Orleans.
Mardi Gras has been celebrated in Mobile nearly every year since its inception, with only a few cancellations of parades due to war, economic tribulations, politics, and sometimes weather.
Contemporary Mardi Gras
The largest turnout in history for the Mobile Mardi Gras was in 2006, some five months after Hurrican Katrina wrecked the Gulf Coast. Though there was much damage from the storm to Mobile, the parade routes were cleared enough for the celebration to go on.
Mardi Gras season in Mobile starts with November parties of the International Carnival Ball and the Camellia Ball, continues with celebrations on January 1 (New Year’s Day) and January 6 (Twelfth Night or Feast of the Epiphany), and finishes with a litany of parades daily starting two weekends before Fat Tuesday.
Watch live marching bands and colorful floats pass by. Enjoy masked riders decked out in satin and sequins on riding on horseback or floats, throwing beads, moon pies, candy, and doubloons to those along the parade routes.
Unlike the more famous – and bawdy – celebrations in New Orleans, parents can take their children to the Mobile Mardi Gras with confidence. Mobile organizers and police work hard to maintain order and crack down on violence, public drunkenness, and lewd behavior.
Tips If You Go
To ensure all-around family enjoyment, it’s recommended that you adhere to the following:
- Make hotel reservations as far in advance as possible – a year early is common.
- “Foot down before hand down”: while watching the parades, to keep a “throw” from someone on a float or on horseback, put your foot on it when it hits the ground, don’t bend down to pick it up. This will protect you from overenthusiastic party-goers clamoring for gifts.
- Grab a guide to know parade schedules, routes, and times, which can help you pick the best spot to watch the parade go by.
- Keep eye on your children. Though the Mobile Mardi Gras is family-friendly, there are thousands of people enjoying the party and it’s easy to get separated from small children.
See their web site (http://www.mobilemardigras.com/) for more information.