This page is a compendium of interesting or even strange Mardi Gras facts from the Mobile area. Items will be added here all the time, so it will be worth it to check back from time to time.
Don't throw it!
The list of what maskers are allowed to throw from floats is about what you'd think: beads, doubloons, plush toys, cups. Here's the list of what they're not allowed to throw. How many of these contraband items have you caught at a parade?
• Rubber balls or other hard-type balls
• Hard or heavy bean bags
• Glass products
• Wooden-handled objects
• Condoms or related items
• Plastic or rubber dolls or animals having explicit sexual organs
• Candies or food in pasteboard boxes
• Cool Pops
• Candy apples
• Jolly Ranchers
• Candy the size of silver dollars or smaller, usually made in foreign countries
• Boxes of any size or kind
Joe Cain Day - in California?
In 1993, Curt Colagrass and some of his friends formed the Joe Cain Society of California and held a Joe Cain Day procession in Nevada City, California. By 1997, the procession was drawing up to 5,000 spectators. In 2003, the Joe Cain Society asked the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce to take over the event, and that's when Joe Cain was dropped from the name. These days, the Nevada City celebration is simply referred to as Mardi Gras. It's held on the Saturday and Sunday before Fat Tuesday, and it includes a masquerade ball, street fair, and parade.
Ever wondered how much a funnel cake stand or a guy pushing a cartful of beads for sale has to pay the city in order to transact business? According to the city of Mobile's Revenue Department, a Mardi Gras vendor license for a "stationary" vendor is $1,000 plus a $10 issue fee. To peddle wares on foot or in a golf cart costs $500 plus a $10 issue fee. Those licenses are only good for about three weeks and run out at the end of Fat Tuesday.
They Lit the Night
"Flambeau" is a fancy French name for a torch. In Mardi Gras parlance, however, it means something much more specific. According to a display at a New Orleans Mardi Gras museum: "The gas lanterns of New Orleans streets were insufficient for the theatrical aspirations of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, which presented the first nighttime parade in New Orleans in 1857. The krewe adopted the solution used in Mobile, where the Cowbellion de Rakin Society had been parading by torchlight since the 1830s. These torches, called flambeaux, were simple candle-lit paper lanterns carried with poles." Where would New Orleans Mardi Gras be without the ingenuity of Mobilians? Interestingly, flambeaux remain an important part of New Orleans nighttime parades, even though they're not used to light the floats anymore. In Mobile, you might still catch sight of a flambeau, most notably accompanying the emblem float of the Order of Myths.
The Years Without a Mardi Gras
In Mobile, Mardi Gras events were canceled for five years between 1868 and today: in 1918 and 1919, due to World War I; and 1942, 1943, and 1944, due to World War II. The Korean War prompted a "limited" Mardi Gras celebration in 1951. In New Orleans in 1979, Fat Tuesday parades were canceled because of a police department strike. An estimated 300,000 people descended on Mobile that year to get some Mardi Gras fun.