This is a running blog of Mardi Gras-related news items from the Mobile area and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast:
Mardi Gras in September on 'Studio 10' Wednesday
September 2, 2013: On Wednesday, exactly six months from Fat Tuesday, "Studio 10" will air a special Mardi Gras in September show. The local morning TV show on WALA Fox 10 is hosted by Cherish Lombard and Joe Emer (photo) and airs from 8 until 9 a.m. According to Allison Bradley, the show's executive producer, the episode will include taped segments from Toomey's Mardi Gras and the Mobile Carnival Museum, as well as an interview with float builder Steve Mussel, shot at the Order of Polka Dots float barn. Live segments for the show will include Mardi Gras decor and flower arranging by Cleveland the Florist, a bit of Creole cooking by the folks from Louisiana Pantry, and an interview with Mobile Mask editor and publisher Steve Joynt. For fans of Mobile Mask, Joynt intends to give a preview of the stories that will appear in the 2014 Mobile Mask magazine, as well as announce a new Mobile Mask venture. Also, "Studio 10" will be using Mobile Mask photos of Mardi Gras 2013 as "bumper" images, going into and coming back from commercials.
Mardi Gras Mural Appears Downtown Overnight
August 29, 2013: A mural depicting Mobile's royal Mardi Gras court in 1907 has appeared on the side of the building at the northeast corner of St. Louis and North Bayou streets. The mural was painted Wednesdaynight by a small gaggle of local artists, including: Devlin Wilson, who did the artwork for the cover of the first-ever Mobile Mask magazine; Julia Greer; Ginger Woechan; Zach DePolo; and Lucy Gafford; assisted by Alexander Efimov. Intended as a birthday present for Ron Barrett, co-owner of Zimlich Brothers and widely known as the architect of most of the Mobile area's balls, the mural is on the side of the unmarked building Barrett uses as a warehouse and studio for his Mardi Gras ball props and staging. Barrett is out of town on vacation and has not seen the mural yet. "I told him before he left, don't be surprised if you find something painted on the side of your building," Wilson said. The mural is not yet finished, and more elements will be added over the next few months, Wilson said. The current state of the mural depicts a well-known photo of Mardi Gras Queen Virginia Lyons and King Felix II (not III), Thomas Wilkins Sims. The two young pages were LeBaron Lyons Jr. (left) and Marion Hall Lyons. The 2014 Mobile Mask magazine will include a story about Barrett. To visit the web site of PortAL Studio, where Wilson and some of the other muralists display their work, click here.
Buffett Releases Mardi Gras Song, 'Serpentine'
August 26, 2013: The latest album by favorite son Jimmy Buffett has a Mardi Gras tune on it titled "Serpentine," named after the curly paper streamers that used to come flying off of floats in Mobile. Buffett, 66, was born in Pascagoula and raised in Mobile and Fairhope. His song off of the new album, "Songs From St. Somewhere," hearkens to the Mardi Gras of his childhood, with references to flambeaux, Cracker Jacks, and confetti. Interestingly, serpentine, Cracker Jacks, and confetti have all since been outlawed as throws in Mobile. Actually, maskers can still throw packaged serpentine, they're just not allowed to unravel it and cover the float with streamers like they used to. With its mention of Folly chasing Death, "Serpentine" is clearly a song about Mobile Mardi Gras, though Buffett does not actually mention Mobile. And the line "Adolescent lust was begging for a start/As I side-stepped those Brothers with their sacred hearts" is obviously talking about the time he spent in Catholic school here. The song was first performed at the 2013 Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Here, according to the Buffett World web site, are the lyrics to "Serpentine:"
Maybe it’s just age or a thousand other fears
That took me back tonight to my early Carnival years.
I can see the parade a-movin’ like the source of the old Gulf Stream.
Oh what a lovely dream.
Adolescent lust was begging for a start
As I side-stepped those Brothers with their sacred hearts.
Yet for those two weeks a year, it was all about sin.
Folly’s chasin’ Death, you can count me in.
There’s a flambeaux man with a gold earring
And the cold north wind smells like kerosene.
Here comes the float of the Carnival Queen.
I want to wrap her in serpentine.
Hands up high, eyes open wide.
“Throw me something mister,”
That’s why you ride.
Crackers Jacks with toys inside,
Real beyond our wildest dreams.
Floats and masks and a two mule team.
Some things really are
The way they seem
Beads and confetti were littering the air
When the Queen looked at me with her Ava Gardner stare.
Though tomorrow would bring ashes and penance by the ton,
Mardi Gras’s where I learned to have fun.
There’s a flambeaux man with a gold earring
Mask Offers Its First Mardi Gras Merchandise
And the cold north wind smells like kerosene.
I’m still in love with the Carnival Queen.
I want to wrap her in serpentine.
Still want to wrap her in serpentine.
It was the devil.
July 30, 2013: Mobile Mask has stepped out into the world of Mardi Gras merchandise, and its first offering is an exclusive Euro-style decal for your car. The decal is high-quality vinyl, 4 inches high by 6 inches wide, and looks like the classic European nation decal, only it's in the official colors of Mobile Mardi Gras, purple and gold. Now you can tell the world: "There's no green in my Mardi Gras. I'm all about purple and gold, Folly and Death, Joe Cain and Vernadean. I'm all about Mobile Mardi Gras, just like the Founding Fathers would've wanted it." The decal was created by the Mask, so you won't find one like it anywhere else. While it may find its way into some area stores eventually, right now, the only way to purchase one is through this web site. To order yours, simply click here.
Beads Will Be Flying Saturday Night
July 23, 2013: How does that old Seals and Crofts tune go? "Summer beads - make me feel fine ..." OK, sorry. Anyway, you can get some summer beads this Saturday night, July 27, as a nine-float Mardi Gras-style parade takes to the streets of downtown. The parade is being staged for the benefit and entertainment of the 67th annual meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference being held here in Mobile. The SLC is made up of legislators from 15 Southern states. According to the organizer of the parade, it will include floats from the Mobile Mystics, Mystics of Time, Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association, MLK Monday Mystics, Order of LaShe's (that's the LaShe's in the photo, taken during Mardi Gras 2013), Order of Polka Dots, Comic Cowboys, and Conde Cavaliers. The parade will also include the marching bands of Murphy, Vigor, and Alma Bryant high schools. Barring nasty weather (we've had no shortage of that lately), the parade is due to start at 7:30 p.m. and take a "modified" Route A, according to the organizer: The parade will start at the Civic Center, go up Claiborne and head east on Church. It will turn left on Royal, go around the top and west sides of Bienville Square, then head west on Government and back to the Civic Center. Now go get some throws and show those legislative folks just how Mobile likes to party - in the street!
Mobile Mask Reveals Cover for 2014 Magazine
July 16, 2013: Mobile Mask has revealed the cover that will grace its annual magazine/Mardi Gras guide in 2014. The cover features artwork by Mobile float designer and artist Brent Amacker. As an homage to all those artists and artisans who make Mardi Gras so wondrous, Brent's illustration - which he did specially for the Mask - is pictured on his drawing table, surrounded by his tools and little bits of inspiration. As a designer for two of the area's largest float builders, Brent's influences can be seen all through Mardi Gras in Mobile and Baldwin counties. For example, he may have designed that doubloon you caught last year. Along with many other stories about the people and organizations that make Mardi Gras happen, the 2014 Mobile Mask magazine will include Brent's story of a born-and-raised Mobilian who finally broke into the Mardi Gras world. If you'd like to see more of Brent's work, click here. And if you'd like to advertise in the 2014 Mobile Mask magazine, click here. The magazine will officially go on sale Twelfth Night, January 6, 2013.
CANCELED: Masking in the Midst of Summer
July 1, 2013 UPDATE: This event has been canceled due to lack of sponsorships and donations. Isis will continue fundraising efforts for the Autism Society of Alabama. June 27, 2013: So, we’re face-down in the throes of summer, and you’re jonesing for some Mardi Gras fun. Aren’t you? How does a full-blown masquerade ball sound? You got it. One of the Mobile area’s newest Mardi Gras groups, the Order of Isis, is throwing a masquerade ball to support the Autism Society of Alabama on Saturday, July 27, from 7 p.m. to midnight. The ball will be held at the Grand Hall, 3556 Halls Mill Road, a great facility for dancing. Music will be by DJ David Wilson, and the $50-per couple tickets include hors d’oeuvres, beer, and wine. Dress is formal or cocktail attire, with mask. Don’t forget your mask! There will be a silent auction and a cash bar. To get tickets, call 251-458-3136 or email email@example.com and get ready to dance the night away.
Saenger Nite Live Has Some Mardi Gras to It
June 18, 2013: There’s a Mobile-centric variety show coming up at the Saenger Theatre that’s going to incorporate some bits and pieces of Mardi Gras. Jams Plus Media has “joined hands” with the Saenger to create Saenger Nite Live, which is currently scheduled for six different shows this summer, the first to be staged this Friday, June 21. The evening begins with a street party in front of the Saenger at 6 p.m., and the show will begin at 7. The headliner Friday night will be Delta Reign, and the show will include Stereo Dogs, Charles Collins Ministries, the Murphy High School Cheer & Drum Team, and skits by the folks from the Joe Jefferson Playhouse. Where’s the Mardi Gras, you ask? Well, the Excelsior Band will be the house band for all six shows, and at each show, a different Mardi Gras organization will be turned loose on the audience at some point. Friday night, for example, costumed members of the Crewe of Columbus will run out and throw beads and create general havoc. The Fifty Funny Fellows will do much the same at the July 19 show, and the Order of Polka Dots is scheduled to appear at the August 2 show. Also of interest to Mardi Gras fans, Grayson Capps will be playing the July 19 show, and with the Excelsior Band onstage, who knows if he’ll be able to resist the urge to play “Ol’ Slac.” The dates of Saenger Nite Live will be June 21, July 5 & 19, August 2, 16 & 30. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from the Saenger Theatre Box Office; Callaghan’s Irish Social Club; Moe’s Original BBQ in Daphne; Cape Travel; Butch Cassidy’s; Mobile Records; Brickyard Music Hall; and The Hungry Owl. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Child Advocacy Center.
Mobile Cadets will be Area's Newest Parading Group
May 17, 2013: Mobile has a new men’s parading group called the Mobile Cadets, and it was founded in December by Alan Burns, who also started the Mobile Mystics in 1993. When asked why he was starting another parading group from the ground-up, Burns simply said, “It’s in my blood.” According to Burns, the Cadets will be a Mardi Gras organization, not a mystic society, so secrecy is not required. Members will, however, wear masks when they ride on their floats, Saturday, March 1 at midday, behind the Knights of Mobile. The Cadets will hold a reception for members only after the parade, and the group’s ball will be held after Ash Wednesday on the first Saturday of May every year. “This will be the same day as the Kentucky Derby and will fit in well with our dress code,” Burns said of the ball, which will be held at the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion this year. As for what imagery the group will offer beyond the obvious connections to the military and the Civil War, Burns was a tad coy: “The organization’s objective is to present a parade and ball … that doesn't copy what the traditional mystic societies offer today. One will have to wait for our parade and/or be invited to our inaugural ball to see what we have in order. This will be what's mystic about the Mobile Cadets.” He did say that the organization has hit about 40 percent of its first-year objective of 80 members. Anyone interested in applying for membership can go to mobilecadets.com for information. Specifically, Burns said, the group is targeting younger men for membership, “as these guys have proven throughout the years to be the most energetic and generous with their throws.” The Cadets recently gained membership in the Mobile Mardi Gras Parading Association.
Parading Association Elects New Board
April 10, 2013: Jacque Schwartz, president of the Mobile Mardi Gras Parading Association for the last six years, presided over her last meeting tonight as new officers were elected to the board. "We shouldn't forget that there's power in Mardi Gras, that Mardi Gras is a big deal here," Schwartz told members as she bid farewell to a board she served on for 13 years. She pointed to "another big deal" - the arrival of Airbus in Mobile - and told members, "show them that Mardi Gras is a good time" and that they should be involved. Schwarz mentioned the establishment of an Association web site (mmgpa.com) and the use of email to communicate with members as improvements made on her watch. She also said the adoption of a constitution and bylaws was a big step forward for the organization. "I've had a great ride," Schwartz said to a roomful of folks who truly know what a great ride is, "but it's time to move along." The members responded with a prolonged standing ovation for Schwartz. Per the election, the vice president became the president; the treasurer became the vice president; the secretary became the treasurer; the parliamentarian became the secretary; and a newcomer to the board was elected parliamentarian. Each will serve a two-year term and cannot run for re-election to the same position. The Parading Association is made up of representatives of the city's parading and non-parading mystic societies and was formed, according to its constitution, "to provide the city of Mobile with a collective body for the purpose of uniting all mystic societies with equal representation and a collective effort for simplicity and unity." The MMGPA meets nine times per year.
What Else Will Be Going on During Mardi Gras 2014?
March 25, 2013: With the announcement that the date for the Oscars has been changed for next year, the Mask thought it would be a good time to figure out what will be going on outside of Mardi Gras land during Carnival 2014. First of all, the Oscars will be held on March 2, 2014, which will be Joe Cain Day here in Mobile. Revelers won't be able to catch all of the red carpet coverage, but they ought to be able to see the parades, grab a pizza on the way home, and still be able to see most of the Oscars (if you're into that kind of thing). The Super Bowl will be held on February 2, 2014, the day after Mobile County's first Carnival parade of the season, the Krewe de la Dauphine on Dauphin Island. The Senior Bowl will be in late January, before any parades get rolling. The biggest competition will come from the 22nd Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremony will be February 7 (one day before the Island Mystics parade), and the closing ceremony will be February 23, the night that Neptune's Daughters and the Order of Isis are scheduled to parade. Those two ladies' groups can't seem to get a break from big sporting events, as their 2013 parades fell on Super Bowl Sunday. The police department's crowd count on that parading night was less than 10,000. The Conde Cavaliers will parade on Valentine's Day 2014, which will be a Friday. Try getting a table downtown that night.
Final Numbers From Beads-for-Doughnuts Event
March 7, 2013: Krispy Kreme's annual Beads for Doughnuts event, which wrapped up Wednesday night, broke all kinds of records this year, according to the Hillcrest store's co-owner, Bob Glidden. In just three days, the store collected 45 large bins of Mardi Gras beads. When the bins were taken to the Mobile school system's warehouse, one of the bins was weighed, and it tipped the scales at 1,820 pounds. Previously, Glidden said the estimate they usually work with is 1,200 pounds per bin. If you meet somewhere in the middle at a nice round 1,500 pounds, it means they collected 67,500 pounds of beads. That would mean that the 5,000 people who brought those beads in brought an average of 13.5 pounds per person. And they walked away with 5,000 certificates, each one good for a dozen glazed doughnuts. Yes, Krispy Kreme gave away 60,000 doughnuts over the three days of the event (that's a total of 12.6 million calories, by the way). The beads are going to Augusta Evans School, where the special-needs students will sort, bundle, and sell the beads back to area mystic societies at lower-than-new prices. The proceeds of those sales will go back into the school.
MOT Band Competition Winners Announced
March 6, 2013: Today's announcement of the first-place winner in the Mystics of Time's first-ever Champions of the Street Marching Band Competition brought a close to the contest. And despite the fact that there were some out-of-town bands vying for the prize, all three awards went to Mobile County high school bands. The Blount High School Leopards out of the Eight Mile community came in first, winning $500 and a large trophy. The Satsuma High School Gators came in second, winning $300 and a trophy; and the Baker High School Hornets came in third, winning $200 and a trophy. All three bands have also been invited to participate in the 2014 MOT parade in coveted spots at the head of the parade, which will also make them eligible for the second annual Champions of the Street contest. The competition, which includes the judging of every marching band in the MOT parade, was developed as way to get the bands to step up their performances, according to officials with the Mystics of Time. The judging was done along the parade route on during the February 9 parade by representatives of each participating band. Each judge was given an extensive grading sheet and was instructed to rate each band except their own. Eventually, MOT officials said, it's hoped that the contest will bring only the highest quality bands to the parade. The Mask would like to congratulate this year's winners!
It's Almost Beads-for-Doughnuts Time!
March 1, 2013: OK, all of those Mardi Gras beads have been lying around the house long enough. It's time to pull out the few really cool ones you want to keep, like the big kissy lips thrown to you from a LaShe's float, and put the rest into a bag. If you can put together as much as 12 pounds of beads (it really isn't that hard to do), you can take them to Krispy Kreme (on Hillcrest, near Airport) and trade them in for a coupon good for a dozen glazed doughnuts. This not only means that you get some warm, sweet, doughy goodness, it means that your now-unwanted beads are put to good use. Krispy Kreme will donate the beads to Augusta Evans School, where the special-needs students will sort and bundle them, so they can be sold back to mystic societies, with the proceeds going right back into the school. Then those beads will be thrown again in another parade. It's recycling, it's fund-raising for a good cause, and it's a dozen doughnuts for you to take to the office. Everybody wins. It all starts this Monday, March 4, and only goes through Wednesday, March 6. On those three days, you can take your beads in between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Get some Mardi Gras at History Museum Wednesday
Feb. 4, 2013: So there's no parades this Wednesday ... you can still indulge in some Mardi Gras. Just head to the History Museum of Mobile at lunchtime Wednesday (Feb. 6) for "a special photographic presentation." According to a news release from the museum, "Joaquin Holloway, PhD, a retired University of South Alabama professor, who has been photographing Mardi Gras events in Mobile for decades" will give the Learning Lunch presentation "Scenes I've Seen During the Mobile Carnival Season." The Excelsior Band will add music to the presentation. You'll be able to purchase copies of Excelsior's latest CD, as well as copies of Mobile Mask magazine, before and after Holloway's presentation. It all starts at noon. Bring your lunch, and beverages will be provided. Oh, and it's FREE! The History Museum of Mobile is located at 111 South Royal Street, downtown. If you need more information, contact Daniela Werner at the museum at 251-208-7652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MOT Parade Bands Will Compete for Prizes
Jan. 30, 2013: In a move that's meant to "kick band performances up a notch," the Mystics of Time announced this evening that the marching bands in the organization's parade this year will be judged on their performances, and the top three bands will win a trophy, money, and the chance to lead next year's parade. All band directors were told of the contest, and while "a couple balked, and one band dropped out," according to an MOT official, "the vast majority were excited." Each band will designate one person, such as an assistant band director, to stand on the parade route and grade all of the marching bands in the MOT procession, except their own. Bands will be graded on their marching, music, and ability to entertain. The winner of the MOT Champions of the Street Marching Band Competition will receive a trophy (the three trophies are pictured here), $500 cash, and an invitation to lead the 2014 parade. Second place gets $300, and third gets $200, all in addition to the standard band fee. In a news conference held outside the MOT float barns, organization officials said it's their hope that the contest "will improve the quality of our parade by improving the marching bands," keeping them "on top of their game for the entire parade." The MOT members refrained from criticizing any marching bands, but anyone who has attended a number of parades knows that some bands do not seem to play much or play that well. In a few years, one official said, it's hoped that the contest will attract enough top-shelf bands, even from other states, to fill the parade. By the way, the MOT president also promised that this 65th anniversary parade will debut "something else no one has ever seen." He did not elaborate.
MOT's New Throws Will Light Up the Night
Jan. 29. 2013: The Mask has gotten a sneak peek at one of the new custom throws that will be flying off Mystics of Time floats, Saturday, February 9. They are plastic foam batons, 15.5 inches long and about as big around as a paper towel tube (see the picture below). They're bendable, and they light up in a variety of colors and patterns. The baton is covered with a clear plastic skin that has MOT, Mystics of Time, 1949, and a dragon printed on it. These will surely be a big hit with kids, and they won't hurt each other much when they decide to smack each other with them. C'mon, you know they will. For years now, MOT has thrown some of the most innovative custom throws in all of Mobile Mardi Gras. Look for them to throw all kinds of cool stuff again this year.