Mobile Mardi Gras - Alabama's Secret Carnival

by Meg Massie 
Posted Jan 31st 2011 10:52 AMUpdated Feb 4th 2011 04:28 PM

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mobile mardi gras

Okay, so Mobile Mardi Gras is no secret to the citizens of the state and maybe a few other nearby Southerners, but did you know that there's a Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile, Alabama? Better yet, did you know that the first Mardi Gras celebration in America was in Mobile, Alabama? Yes, it's not all about New Orleans: Mobile is where it all began.

Once the capital of French Louisiana, Mobile was infused with the Carnival tradition (including the final Mardi Gras day) from the early French colonizers, and the first Carnival was celebrated in 1703, with all the attendant masking and parading that people have come to identify more strongly with the Basin City. But that identification is what makes Mobile special, as one can come and enjoy the Carnival festivities without the potentially overwhelming Bourbon Street-bustle. Not that that's what New Orleans Mardi Gras is all about, but considering that the city doubles in population during Carnival, the point remains: You can get away to Alabama and experience a Mobile Mardi Gras that you can make all your own, and one that's perhaps a little less debauched than its southwestern cousin's.

This year, Mobile's gearing up for the longest Carnival season since 1943, with the first parades starting on February 5, and others continuing all the way up to Mardi Gras Day on March 8. As with New Orleans, the biggest concentration of parades, balls, and parties are in the week leading up to Mardi Gras, with as many as nine parades a day the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Everything that you would expect from a full-fledged Mardi Gras gala is there: Massive floats in vivid hues, live music, crowds shouting for parade throws, and sumptuous and ornate costumes every rich shade of mauve, verdigris, and gold. In addition to the beads and baubles, the best Mobile throws are the custom-designed and stamped doubloons from various parade societies (or "krewes") and the traditional tossing of Moon Pies (an edible dessert made from two graham cracker cookies coated in chocolate with marshmallow filling at the center) – a treat the kids are sure to enjoy.

So consider a trip to Alabama this Carnival season. Flights and accommodations are cheaper than NOLA's, and believe me when I say that Mobile's Mardi Gras is no slouch; it can hold it's own with best New Orleans and the Caribbean have to offer in a vibrant, family-friendly environment.

Photo by Andrea Wright via Flickr

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