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Mardi Gras News

This is a running blog of Mardi Gras-related news items from the Mobile area and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast:

Joe Cain Marchers Will Have Their Own Parade

December 5, 2014: The Joe Cain Marching Society, which has experienced some friction with the Joe Cain Parading Society for the last couple of years, has obtained its own parade permit, according to Mobile police. As of right now, the Marching Society is scheduled to parade on Route A right behind the Parading Society on Joe Cain Day, February 15, 2015. "This changes the tradition, but we're just happy to be parading," said Ted Flotte, vice president of the Marching Society. Made up of established marching groups, including the Wild Mauvillians, DSD, and the Mistresses of Joe Cain, the Marching Society plans "to make our parade open to anyone who wants to march at no cost," Flotte said. Previously, the foot marchers led floats in the procession, which was overseen by the Parading Society. The marchers, however, complained about rules being put on them by the Parading Society, and a series of meetings failed to find a real solution. "We were just kicking the can down the road," Flotte said. "It was clearly leading to this - two separate groups." There is at least one more meeting scheduled, according to those involved, so some details may still change. Wayne Dean Sr., who will portray Chief Slacabamarinico for the 30th year, said he will lead the Marching Society from his mule-driven wagon. If the marchers go second, as the police department has it scheduled now, that means Dean will appear after all of the floats. The theme for the Marching Society, Dean said, will be Slac is Back Where He Belongs. If all goes well, Flotte said, Revelers will hardly notice the difference - except the parade may seem a little longer. "We're waiting to see what number the police department is going to cap us at. We're hoping for 600," Flotte said. For scheduling purposes, Mobile Mask will continue to refer the Joe Cain Procession as a singular event, even though it will be made up of two separate groups.

Big Changes on Tap for Lundi Gras Night 2015

November 25, 2014: Lundi Gras night is due for some big changes this Mardi Gras. The biggest change will be the addition of a new parade, but the route and start time have also changed. The night had been solely occupied for decades by the Infant Mystics, but now the Order of Doves parade will follow the IM. On one hand, the Order of Doves is a new men’s mystic society founded in 2012, holding its first ball on Lundi Gras 2013 at Bishop State. On the other hand, according to the OOD vice president, the group is a reboot of Mobile’s very first African-American Mardi Gras mystic society, founded in 1894. And though they adopted the name and history of the Order of Doves, and the 75-member group is almost entirely African-American, it also has an open-door membership policy, the vice president said. “This is a group of young men, who are active in the community, and we embrace the mayor’s ‘One Mobile’ motto.” Most histories state that the original Order of Doves lasted until 1914. The other changes due for Monday, February 16, came at the request of the Infant Mystics, according to the police department. The IM and OOD parades will follow a new route, dubbed Route F (Route E is the one used by the King Elexis I parade on Joe Cain Day). Route F is essentially Route A minus the loop down Washington Street then up Canal to Broad. Instead of turning off Government onto Washington, the two parades will continue straight down Government to Broad Street, where they will pick up the usual Route A path. Mobile Mask will soon post a Route F map. And the Infant Mystics will not roll until 7 p.m. instead of the usual 6:30 start time, and the OOD parade will follow.

'Treme' Mardi Gras Costumes to Join Mobile Exhibit
October 27, 2014: When the Mobile Museum of Art opens the doors to its massive exhibit of Mobile Mardi Gras art and artifacts on November 8, a second exhibit, depicting part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans will also open. "Well-Suited: The Costumes of Alonzo Wilson for HBO's Treme" is a traveling exhibit that focuses on the phenomenon of Mardi Gras Indians. While the Mobile exhibit, titled "The Art and Design of Mardi Gras," put together in conjunction with the History Museum of Mobile and the Mobile Carnival Museum, will occupy the entire second floor of the Mobile Museum of Art, the Alonzo Wilson exhibit will be displayed in the Regional Gallery on the first floor, just to the left of the front door. The portion of "Well-Suited" that will be in Mobile includes 14 Mardi Gras Indian costumes - referred to as "suits" by the Indians themselves. All of the "Well-Suited" costumes were made for the "Treme" series on HBO, which lasted for three full seasons and a fourth partial season, airing between 2010 and 2013. One of the main characters of "Treme" was Albert Lambreaux (played by Clarke Peters), the Big Chief of a Mardi Gras Indian gang. The Mardi Gras Indians have been a phenomenon of the African-American communities in New Orleans for decades. At first, they were true gangs that battled each other on Mardi Gras Day. Today, however, they wander their neighborhoods on Fat Tuesday dressed in their glorious feathered suits. Each gang boasts through song that their chief is the "prettiest" of all and will not bow down to any other chief. Each gang's procession is made up of Spyboys, Flagboys, a Wild Man, and, of course, the Big Chief. The chants and songs of Mardi Gras Indian gangs, such as the Yellow Pocahontas, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and the Wild Magnolias, have been the basis of many popular Mardi Gras songs, including "Iko Iko," "All on a Mardi Gras Day," and "Indian Red." Like the Mobile Mardi Gras exhibit, "Well-Suited" will run through May 3. To learn more about Mardi Gras Indians, try the House of Dance and Feathers web site by clicking here

Organizer: Island Mystics Will Not Parade in 2015

October 24, 2014: One of the core members and organizers of the Island Mystics has told Mobile Mask that the Dauphin Island group will not parade or hold a ball in 2015. He cited lack of interest by other members and potential members. "I hate to hear that," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said. "But I know they were having some struggles over the last year or so." The last Island Mystics parade, held on February 8 of this year, had just four floats and 13 total units, without any marching bands or truck bands. Despite the parade's small size, it continued to draw thousands of revelers to Dauphin Island on that Saturday. Collier said there has been discussion of trying a number of different things to keep the struggling Mystics rolling, including having them parade on the same day as the larger Krewe de la Dauphine. Incorporated in January 1992, the Island Mystics was the first Mardi Gras parading society to form on Dauphin Island and chose the Saturday before Mobile's Conde Cavaliers as the date for its parade and ball. That would have put the 2015 parade on January 31. There is no word on whether the change will alter the plans of the Krewe de la Dauphine. Starting in 1994, KDLD has always paraded on the Saturday before the Island Mystics, and the next KDLD parade is currently slated for January 17. The Island Mystics organizer told Mobile Mask that this is not necessarily the end for them. Taking a year off, he said, will hopefully give them the opportunity to regroup and return in 2016. 

Mardi Gras Exhibit Opens With Festival in 1 Month
October 8, 2014: One month from today, the Mobile Museum of Art’s mammoth exhibit, The Art and Design of Mardi Gras, will open with a Mardi Gras themed festival that has been months in the planning. All of this forms the centerpiece of the Museum’s 50th anniversary. Admission will be free to the 50th Anniversary Family Festival, being held on the museum grounds November 8 and 9 (10 am to 4 pm each day). The festival will be divided into venues that accent the “sensory components of the overall Carnival experience,” according the festival committee. The taste and smell venue, of course, will contain concessions that are representative of Carnival cuisine, including hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, and funnel cakes. In addition, “a number of interactive, food-related activities will take place in this area,” according to the committee. Music will be highlighted in the sound venue, where visitors will find a band competition for local high school marching bands or music by local brass bands and interactive programs, such as second line dancing instruction and an “instrument petting zoo.” The visual venue will showcase the parading organizations and people that make Mardi Gras happen. It will include floats from various organizations, emblems, maskers, a tiny float parade, and a costume photo booth. The sense of touch venue will provide arts and crafts and will utilize the educational facilities and staff of the museum as well as a number of volunteer artists. Children at the festival will be issued “passports,” which they can have stamped at each of the venues. A full passport will lead to prizes for the kids. All along the way, the festival will encourage folks to be among the very first to visit the Mardi Gras exhibit that takes up the entire second floor of the museum.

To Prevent Confusion, Order of Isis is Now OOI

September 16, 2014: According to the president of the Mobile Mardi Gras mystic society Order of Isis, the ladies' group will now be known simply as OOI. Because of the rise of the notorious Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, the members of the Mardi Gras group decided to boil its name down to OOI. Here is the full statement released by the president: "
Due to recent events in the Middle East, there has been unfortunate confusion over the name of our group versus the terrorist army that has invaded Syria and Iraq. Our organization, founded in 2008, was named after Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and nature. Our name, of course, has nothing to do with the ISIS acronym that the media has applied to the terrorists. Our organization does not intend to change its name, but to avoid any confusion, it will be referred to simply as OOI for the foreseeable future. Those who know Mobile Mardi Gras know our name and our group, but those who do not understand Mardi Gras could react badly to our name, and that’s understandable. At our own expense, we have changed our logo and our emblem throws for Mardi Gras 2015 to say only OOI. In light of the horrific events taking place in the Middle East, especially at the hands of the Islamic State, the problem created for our women’s group is less than insignificant. However, we wish to go on doing what we’ve been doing for almost seven years now, simply spreading Mardi Gras cheer and goodwill. We certainly don’t want the name of our organization creating any confusion or bad feelings." The president said members were recently confronted by people who did not understand the "Order of Isis" printed on their T-shirts, and the organization simply did not want to be targeted by people who do not realize it was named after an Egyptian goddess. According to stories in the media, at least one company has changed its Isis name, while another is keeping it. When contacted by Mobile Mask, the captain of the Krewe of Isis, a ladies Mardi Gras group in Metairie, Louisiana, said her group will make no changes. She wrote in an email that "for 43 years, our name has represented a wonderful group of women, who are proud Americans and who will not give in or give up a title we have created and maintained with dignity and pride." Mobile Mask will refer to the local group as OOI in all schedules and other materials until the group decides otherwise.

No More New Year's Eve Parade

September 3, 2014: Mobile Mask has learned that the annual Mardi Gras-style New Year's Eve parade that has been part of the downtown Moon Pie drop festivities for the last four years has been cut. According to Carol Hunter, president of Events Mobile, the parade has been eliminated because of logistical reasons. The parade route had to go around stage areas throughout the downtown area, and that meant much of the route was unattended. "That's no fun for anybody," she said. Also, Hunter said, the timing just wasn't working out. Organizers wanted to move the start time to at least 8 p.m., and that would not have worked for the paraders. With city belt-tightening, Hunter said, organizers had to look for ways to reduce expenses for the city, and that included the police and emergency responders needed for an early parade. "This is not a reflection on the parading groups," Hunter said. "They did a great job. It just wasn't working out." Much of the parade was made up of floats and riders volunteered by several area parading groups, including the Infant Mystics, the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association, the Conde Explorers, the Mystics of Time, and the Mobile Mystics. A board member from one of those groups told the Mask that the group was disappointed to see the parade canceled. The group was planning on turning the event into an all-night affair for all the members. Hunter did hint that there may still be a way to include Mardi Gras and even a couple of floats in the New Year's Eve festivities, though that has not been firmed up yet.

Help the Cain Footmarchers and Have Fun Doing It!
June 23, 2014: How about some genuwine Mardi Gras hoopla in the summertime? The inaugural Joe Cain Footmarchers Ball will be this Thursday, June 26, 7 p.m., at Moe’s Original BBQ downtown, 701 Spring Hill Ave. Featured entertainment will be Kansas Bible Company, with opening act Alanna Royale. Both bands hail from Nashville and have previously performed at Bonnaroo among other festivals. Chief Slacabamarinico hisself will make an appearance along with Joe Cain Day favorites the Mistresses of Joe Cain, the DSD Pirates, the Wild Mauvillians and many more. Net proceeds from the Ball will go to the nonprofit Joe Cain Marching Society, Inc. to cover costs for ALL marching participants in the 2015 Joe Cain Procession. Tickets are available online at and at Moe's. Cost is $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

Piece of Mobile Mardi Gras History Up for Bid
April 18, 2014:
There's almost always some Mobile Mardi Gras items for sale on eBay, from posters to doubloons. On a rare occasion, something truly old, even historical shows up. Right now, there is an Order of Myths brass brooch from 1917 up for bid on the web site. The actual pin on the back is missing, and the brooch is in fair to good condition, but the bas relief of Folly, Death, and the broken column are clearly visible. On the back, the manufacturer stamp reads "Whitehead & Hoag Co., Newark N.J." The pin was most likely a ball favor - a small gift from the OOMs to members' wives and other ladies. The eBay seller, who is located in Carver, Massachusetts, told Mobile Mask that he purchased the pin from a vendor at a flea market just south of Boston. "I don't know who he was, and I don't know where the pin originated from. I had no idea what OOM was until I researched it. I just thought it looked unusual and early." The Order of Myths, of course, is Mobile's first and oldest Mardi Gras mystic society, founded in 1868. Clearly, the seller, who said he puts things up on eBay as a hobby, has a good eye. As of noon today, the price on the pin was up to $152.50 after 36 bids. He did not tell the Mask how much he spent on it, but it was surely not that much, since neither he nor the previous seller knew what it was at the time. UPDATE: The auction closed Sunday afternoon, and this item sold for an impressive $536.50.

A Special Mardi Gras Moment
April 4, 2014: It was a Mardi Gras ride worth waiting for. This is the story of a dad and a son, but it's much more than that. The son joined the Crewe of Columbus back in 2012, just as soon as he was old enough, making him the fourth generation of his family in the Crewe. He was also told that he was eligible to ride on a float his first year - 2013. But dad, a National Guardsman and a 12-year member of the Crewe, was deployed to Kuwait for a year and was going to miss Mardi Gras 2013. "I told him he couldn't ride until I got back," the father said. "He was initially disappointed, sure, but he understood. I wanted to be there for that first ride." The father essentially married into the Crewe. His wife was a COC queen two years before they even met. Her grandfather was a charter member. Her father, of course, was a longtime member, and her two brothers were in the Crewe, as well. "My kids were at the parades when they were three weeks old," the dad said. "I'm hoping that both of my daughters will get to be queens." So dad returned from Kuwait Thanksgiving 2013, and the plans were on for Mardi Gras. When Float 15, "Climbing the Matterhorn," rolled down the streets on February 28, father and son rode side-by-side on the lower tier. Grandfather and uncles were stationed just above them on the upper tier. "It was special, it really was," dad said. "He was a bit throw-happy, but I knew he would be. We brought plenty and never ran out." In the end, both father and son were happy that they waited. "His first ride, that's something he'll always remember," dad said. "I'll never forget mine. And now, I'll never forget his either."

Widows, Mistresses, and Chief Slac - Oh My!
March 29, 2014: Mobile's Mardi Gras went into extra innings at the Church Street Graveyard today, producing some sights and situations never before seen. The impetus was the final day of filming for a new British-produced reality show that combines travel and magic. The show, currently being called "Road Trick" - though that's apparently not set in stone, follows three New York magicians from one American city to another. The magicians get to know the city and perform feats of magic for the people they meet along the way. For the Mobile episode, Mardi Gras was the focus as the magicians visited Toomey's Mardi Gras store, the Mobile Carnival Museum, and the Conde Cavaliers float barn. At midday today, a dozen members of Cain's Merry Widows, a dozen members of the Mistresses of Joe Cain, Wayne Dean, who has portrayed Chief Slac for nearly 30 years now, Theodore Arthur Jr. of the Excelsior Band, a half dozen Wild Mauvillians, several members of DSD, and assorted hardcore revelers converged on the final resting place of Joe Cain. This was all terribly interesting, since for years, the Graveyard has been all but owned by the Widows, who make an appearance there every year on Joe Cain Day. To have them and the Mistresses together in the Graveyard is unheard-of, and it's been years since Chief Slac has appeared there as well. And when the Widows and the Mistresses do cross paths, it may as well be the Jets and the Sharks in a dark alley. There's plenty of insults, hissing, and even mild violence involved. The menagerie of Mardi Gras characters first witnessed and reacted to an illusion performed in the Graveyard (we all actually had to sign a confidentiality agreement, saying we wouldn't reveal  anything about the illusion itself). Then they were all corralled to the top of Scott Street and paraded into the Graveyard, which hasn't happened since the Joe Cain Procession was banned from that Graveyard many years ago. The Widows then renewed their vows, if you will, over Joe Cain's gravesite as the Mistresses watched from a safe distance. The whole thing culminated with a bit of a melee between the Widows and Mistresses, with Chief Slac and the magicians caught in the middle, and Arthur providing the soundtrack with his saxophone. One Widow held up a small sign that read "Mistresses Smell BAD! (Really)," and more than one instance of using red or black roses as weapons was witnessed. Through it all, however, no one spilled their libation. It was just another Saturday in Sweet Lunacy's County Seat. If you'd like to see the Mask's photo album of these extraordinary events, click here.

The Rare Occasion in Which Everybody Wins

March 21, 2014: With the amazing success this year of Krispy Kreme's Beads for Doughnuts program, the Mask thought the whole thing deserved some more explanation and accolades. First, some numbers: Over three days, March 17-19, 9,116 people brought in 12 or more pounds of Mardi Gras beads. Each of them received a certificate good for a dozen glazed doughnuts. At a retail price of $8.49 per dozen, that means the Mobile Krispy Kreme gave away $77,394.84 worth of its product. The company also paid for the trucks to deliver 78 so-called gaylord shipping boxes full of beads - weighing a total of something between 58 and 70 tons - to a Mobile public schools storage building. From there, the beads will be sorted, cleaned, and packaged for resale by 27 special-needs students at the Augusta Evans School. The proceeds will go right back into school programs. Last year, the then-record 45 bins of beads collected by Krispy Kreme yielded about $48,000 for the school, according to special education teacher Susan Mulvey. This year, she said, she's a tad apprehensive about whether the students will be able to get through all those beads, "but somehow it always seems to work out," she said. About 20 percent of the haul will be discarded - broken beads, beads that are in terrible shape or too tangled to be sorted, along with Moon Pies and whatever else people tossed into their contributions. "We've found bricks before," Mulvey said. "People do that to make the bag weigh enough to get their doughnuts. We even found a wrench that had to have been worth more than a dozen doughnuts." As for the flying discs, footballs, and other throws people include, much of that is saved for the kids to throw when they get to ride with the Bayport Parading Society during the next Mardi Gras. The program, she said, helps these special kids learn about the value of work, how to follow instructions, and it gives them pride, knowing they can do something that has worth. Area maskers benefit because they can purchase the repackaged throws for a little less money than new throws. And we all benefit because of the recycling that's done. This was Krispy Kreme's 11th year collecting Mobile's unwanted beads, and all the folks out there - Bob Glidden, Chris Brooks, Joe McAleer, to name just the top guys - truly seem to love doing it, and they want to break the record every year. Full disclosure, Krispy Kreme is an advertiser in the Mobile Mask magazine, and the Mask could not be prouder to have them on board. Their product is all about the taste of the South, and it's all about the indulgence of Mardi Gras. And the Beads for Doughnuts program is so ingenious that it would be difficult to come up with something else that spreads so much good with the simple lure of dough and sugar. Next Mardi Gras, don't forget to put aside a couple of bags of beads and haul them out to Krispy Kreme a couple of weeks after Fat Tuesday - the Mask will let you know the exact dates when they are announced. You'll get some doughnuts, and your beads will do some good.

MOT Marching Band Contest Winners Announced
March 19, 2014: Seven masked, costumed men strode through the halls of Baker High School today and entered a hastily called meeting of the school's band students. The members of the Mystics of Time Mardi Gras parading group came with gifts: beads, doubloons, a giant trophy, and a check for $500. West Mobile's Baker High was declared the winner of the MOT's second Champions of the Street competition. The Baker band came in third last year and beat out 16 other bands this year to take the top spot. In addition to the trophy and check, the band was presented with a 2014 Champions of the Street banner that will precede Baker in the 2015 parade. The first, second and third-place bands received automatic invitations to next year's parade. Baker band director Sid Dedeaux accepted the trophy and held it high over his head as his students cheered and applauded. "Get ready, because the competition is getting stiff," an MOT board member told the students. "We've already got six 6A schools that want to be in the parade next year." To see an 18-photo album of today's visit to Baker, click here. On Tuesday, MOT representatives traveled to Moss Point, Mississippi, to present the second-place trophy and a check for $300 to the Moss Point High marching Tigers. And on Monday, MOT members traveled to Lee County, Alabama, to present a trophy and $200 to the Loachapoka High School marching band for coming in third place, just one point behind Moss Point. MOT members said they were especially impressed with story of the band at 1A Loachapoka. In 2008, the band had just two students; now it has 71, which is about 25 percent of the school's student body. The Champions of the Street contest was started in 2013 as an effort to attract marching bands from all over the Southeast and to motivate those bands to perform at their best. Each band is rated by representatives of the other bands, who observe from spots all over the parade route. Best-known for its three self-propelled dragon floats, the MOT parade is among Mobile’s most popular. The Mobile Police Department said that 106,432 people - the year's second-biggest Mardi Gras crowd - turned out for the 2014 MOT parade. Next year's parade will be held on Valentine's Day, February 14.

Chief Barber Talks About Mardi Gras Issues
February 14, 2014:
Just hours before the first downtown Mardi Gras parade of the 2014 season, Mobile Mask interviewed Mobile Police Chief James Barber about several issues of interest to parade-goers, including the no-smoking ordinance and rules about alcohol. A longtime veteran of the police department, Barber said he has worked Mardi Gras parades for about 25 years. But this is his first Mardi Gras as the head of the department. His number one goal, he said, is the safety of everyone involved. And the basic philosophy of the police department is to give people the freedom to have fun until someone proves they can’t handle that much freedom without endangering others.
• Smoking – According to City Hall, there is no waiver of the relatively new ordinance that prohibits smoking anywhere downtown. Barber said the police department’s goal is “voluntary compliance.” He said officers know that people are going to smoke at the parades. If someone complains to an officer about someone smoking, the officer is going to inform the smoker of the ordinance and ask them to put the cigarette out and not smoke again. If the person complies, there’s no problem, Barber said. He encouraged anyone bothered by someone smoking near them to notify an officer.
• Drinking – Barber described the police working Mardi Gras as having “incredible tolerance toward drinking in public.” Glass bottles are strictly prohibited, and underage drinking is rigorously rooted out. But adults with open containers in and around the parade route or downtown bars during Mardi Gras is allowed. This is an area, Barber stressed, that those who are imbibing are free to do so as long as they behave themselves.
• Non-drinking – The city has once again set aside a section of the parade route that is an alcohol-free zone, Barber said. It’s located on the west side of Royal Street between Government and Church streets, and it’s marked by signs. Anyone drinking in that area will be asked to leave.
• Special Needs Revelers – There is also an area of the parade route that is specially roped off and monitored for those in wheelchairs or with other physical challenges, Barber said. It’s located on Spring Hill Avenue at Washington Street, near the main fire house.
• Closing Dauphin Street – Barber had announced earlier this week that on parade nights, Dauphin Street will be closed to through traffic as late as 11 p.m. He explained that bar owners on Dauphin felt that reopening the street as early as 9, as had been the case, was hurting business. Barber said he will have some officers come into the area later in the evening, so they can stay later and keep Dauphin closed down between Conception and Jackson Streets. Cross streets will remain open, except Joachim. “We’ll be monitoring this and making adjustments as we go,” he said. “We’re trying to let people have a good time.”
• Manpower Adjustments – Earlier in the week, it was reported that Barber was considering trimming down the number of police officers working the parade route for some parades, especially those in the daytime that have lighter attendance. “In the past, we’ve applied one plan to every parade,” he said. “It was easier. But it wasn’t necessarily a good use of overtime funds. I’m simply trying to be a good steward of the city’s money and customize our manpower numbers to some of the smaller parades.” He did not want to talk specific numbers, but he said that at any parade, there will be more uniformed officers on hand than in the rest of the city. That doesn’t mean, however, that staffing in the rest of the city will be any lower than normal.

Avast Ye Scurvy Dogs! Peg Leg Pub Crawl Feb. 18
February 13, 2014: A delightfully sketchy organization known as DSD (Dauphin Street Drunks) will be holding its 8th annual pirate-themed Peg Leg Pub Crawl on Tuesday, February 18. They invite one and all to join them as they second line through downtown and invade the restaurants and bars between Washington and Royal streets. Show up dressed as a pirate, and you will be greeted as an old friend. Bring throws, and you will be adored by one and all. The whole thing starts at the Garage at 5 p.m. and heads east on Dauphin Street by 6. They will be joined by a band at Café 615 at 7 p.m., and they try to wrap things up by 11, but you really never know what bar-hopping pirates might do. Their route – Route ARRRR, as they call it – goes east on Dauphin, cuts across Bienville Sqare, heads down Royal, then west on Conti, up Joachim, then it’s a zigzag, roughly. In  the true spirit of Mardi Gras, DSD was formed in 2006 by folks who lived, worked or simply drank a lot in downtown Mobile. The idea was to spread some Carnival cheer in the middle of that empty space between the Saturday night and Thursday night parades. 

Bands Coming From Far and Wide to Compete
February 12, 2014:
When the board members of Mobile’s Mystics of Time announced they would be holding an annual contest between the marching bands in their Mardi Gras parade, they hoped that the prizes and prestige would attract bands from all over. Last night, with their announcement of the band lineup for the second Champions of the Street Marching Band Competition, that goal was clearly moving forward. Of the 17 bands that will be in the MOT parade on March 1, five are from Mobile, one each from Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia, and the rest from as far away in Alabama as Birmingham and Phenix City. “We sent out 700 letters and heard from about 25 high schools,” one board member said. “We’ve had interest from New Orleans to Jacksonville, and it’s our hope the interest will keep growing. We’d like to host bands from all over the Southeast.” The Mobile bands that will be in the 2014 parade are last year’s first-prize winner, Blount High School; the third-place winner, Baker High School; along with Williamson, Vigor, and B.C. Rain high schools.
The out-of-town bands announced last night were:
• Calhoun High School – Letohatchee, Ala.
• Central High School – Lowndes County, Ala.
• Central Savannah River Area All-Star Band – Augusta, Ga.
• Chattahoochee Valley All-Star Band – Phenix City, Ala.
• Escambia County High School – Atmore, Ala.
• Jackson High School Clarke County, Ala.
• Keith Middle/High School – Dallas County, Ala.
• Loachapoka High School – Lee County, Ala.
• Marbury High School – Elmore County, Ala.
• Moss Point High School – Moss Point, Miss.
• Pensacola High School – Pensacola, Fla.
• Tarrant High School – Jefferson County, Ala.
The bands will be judged on their performances during the MOT parade, which starts at 6 p.m. and follows Route A through downtown Mobile on March 1. The first-place winner will receive a trophy and $500. Second place will get a trophy and $300, and third place will win a trophy and $200. All three bands will get an automatic invitation to the next parade, which will be on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015. Known for its three self-propelled dragon floats, the MOT parade is among Mobile’s most popular. Last year, Mobile police reported that the biggest crowd of the Mardi Gras season – 95,960 – turned out for the MOT parade.

Huntsville Should be Welcomed to the Party

February 5, 2014:
After seeing a short story about Huntsville's first-ever Mardi Gras parade being staged this year, the Mask decided to get in touch with the orchestrator of that effort, Marydae Sneed. She is the executive director of Blount Hospitality House, a kind of homegrown Ronald McDonald House for the families of people who are in the hospital. "I was needing a new fundraiser, an event that would kind of put us on the map," Marydae said. And, even though she's never been to a Mardi Gras celebration, she thought that putting on a Mardi Gras parade could be the answer. The planning has been in the works for a while, but the parade was only just announced in early January, and already the response has been pretty huge. There will be a parade on Saturday, March 1, at 5 p.m. over a 1-mile route in downtown Huntsville, followed by an afterparty. Twelve "krewes" have filled out their paperwork, and Marydae expects at least several more. Their floats will be rudimentary, of course, and there will be several challenges to overcome. For example, in Huntsville, it's illegal to throw anything from a moving vehicle, so throws will have to come from maskers on foot. And it's not like there's a bead store within 100 miles of there. Marydae said they will do most of their learning along the way, but her daydream is that their first parade will one day build into a full-blown Mardi Gras celebration for Huntsville. Plenty of folks here can tell her that big things come from humble starts - such as the first Joe Cain Procession or the first Gulf Shores Parade. The Mask urged Marydae to learn about Mobile's Mardi Gras, even visit us on Fat Tuesday. Now we urge Mobile to do the same thing. Reach out to this north Alabama effort and welcome them as brothers in revelry. Give them a hug, a beer, and some beads. The more, the merrier. And if there's a way you think you can help, they would surely appreciate it. There's a Facebook page and a web site, and there's an email address, Maybe your cousin has a band in Huntsville that could be in the parade. Even if your mystic society might want to issue a proclamation welcoming Huntsville to the band of Alabama revelers, that  would go a long way.

Crisis Averted - Mardi Gras Flags for Sale

January 31, 2014: Ten days ago, Mobile Mask reported that it was impossible to purchase a new Mobile Mardi Gras flag, since the only entity that could have them made, the local YWCA, no longer exists. But local merchant Will Baxter, owner of Bienville Beads & Throws, has saved the day. About three weeks ago, Baxter contacted the Miami manufacturer that used to make the flags for the YWCA and convinced them to make some flags for him. Baxter has deep ties to this flag - his mother was one of two City Council members who
sponsored the 1987 resolution that declared it to be the official flag of Mobile Mardi Gras. Baxter received the box of 50 flags today, and he is selling them at his seasonal store, located in the old Blockbuster building at Pinebrook shopping center, for $49.99 each. Once those 50 are gone, that's it for this year. After he opened the box of flags, Baxter pulled out the first one, held it open, then took it outside and ran it up the flagpole in front of his store. The copyright for the design of the flag still rests with the defunct YWCA office, but efforts are under way to acquire the copyright and place it in the hands of another area nonprofit. Until then, these are the only flags available, but that's 50 more than we had yesterday. Bienville Beads & Throws is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., and Sunday, noon until 5 p.m. The store's phone number is 251-202-3237, but flags will not be sold over the phone or the internet.

Exclusive: Huge Mardi Gras Exhibit to Open in Fall
January 24, 2014: Mobile Mask magazine broke a story this year about an unprecedented Mardi Gras exhibit due to open here in November. As the centerpiece of the Mobile Museum of Art's 50th anniversary, the museum has joined forces with the History Museum of Mobile and the Mobile Carnival Museum to build "The Art and Design of Mardi Gras." This ambitious, from-scratch exhibit will feature art and artifacts from Mobile Mardi Gras, both historic and contemporary. The exhibit will take up the entire second floor of the Museum of Art - a truly huge amount of space. Museum Director Deborah Velders has said they are striving to put as many as 100 royal crowns on display, as well as dozens of royal trains from throughout the years. The exhibit will also focus on the art of Mardi Gras found in floats, at balls, even in invitations and posters. Without these various forms of art, Mardi Gras would simply be a big party. Anyone can throw a party, but only a couple of places have been able to create Mardi Gras for more than 100 years. Mobile Mask is honored to be a minor sponsor of this exhibit, which will show generations of Mobilians what a truly amazing thing we have in Mardi Gras. For more information about this exhibit, see the story on page 22 of the Mobile Mask magazine. Don't have one? Click here to see how to get yours today.

New Mobile Mask Radio Spot About to Air on 92 Zew
January 22, 2014: A radio ad for Mobile Mask magazine - featuring the voice of everyone's favorite Mobile Mardi dragon - is slated to hit the airwaves on 92 Zew next week. Since you are already a Mobile Mask fan/consumer, we decided to give you the chance to hear it before it airs. Just click on the little playback graphic below:


No Official Mardi Gras Flags to be Found
January 21, 2014: Mobile's official Mardi Gras flag - given that distinction by the City Council in 1987 - simply can't be had. It may come back, but not this year. You see, the copyright for the design of the flag is owned by the YWCA. You used to have to go to the YW on Summerville Street and purchase it directly from them. It was usually a tricky proposition, since the organization only had small bunches of flags made at a time. But apparently, the local YWCA recently closed without any notice from the local media at all (the Mask Googled up a storm looking for any news story about the closing of the facility and came up empty). A Mobile area Mardi Gras official confirmed that the facility is permanently closed, and therefore you simply can't get a Mardi Gras flag. The issue has been discussed, and there is a plan to attempt to obtain the copyright for the flag from the national YWCA. However, since the copyright is owned by a nonprofit, it can be transferred only to another nonprofit. One such organization has stepped up and said it's willing to take possession of the copyright, but none of that is going to happen quickly. So, if you have an official Mobile Mardi Gras flag, hang onto it, treat it nicely, don't leave it out in bad weather. If you don't, Mobile Mask will stay on top of this story and let you know when they'll be available again.

Mobile Mask Launches Area's First Mardi Gras App!

December 30, 2013: Mobile Mask - which brought you the area's biggest Mardi Gras web site and annual magazine - is now offering south Alabama's first all-Mardi Gras app. And it's FREE! Simply pull up the Google Play Store on your Droid device, do a search for Mobile Mask Mardi Gras, download, and you are ready for the Carnival season. If you're having trouble finding it through the search function, click here for a link to it. The app will give you this year's parade schedule and route maps with a
single click. You can also find thumbnail descriptions of each parading group in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Use the app to get the latest Mardi Gras news; check the Mask's Facebook page or Twitter feed; send your Mardi Gras photos to the Mask so they can be posted on the Mask's web site; and text the Mask. With this app, you'll be the Mardi Gras expert in the crowd. "Is there a parade tomorrow? Who is parading? Is that the group with the dragons or not?" You'll be able to answer all those questions and much more.

Ring in 2014 at the MoonPie Drop - Full Sche
December 28, 2013: Mobile Mask has the full schedule
of events for the MoonPie Over Mobile festival on Tuesday, December 31:
• 5-6 p.m. - I SING performs on Bienville Square Stage; Th
e Wolf Gambino Trio performs on Riverview Plaza Stage.
• 6-9 p.m. - Children's activities in Bienville Square.
• 6:30-7:30 p.m. - Kyle and Karl perform on Riverview Plaza S
• 6:30-7:45 p.m. - Worx performs on Bienville Square Stage.
• 7 p.m. - Giant edible MoonPie from Chattanooga Bakery will be served at Riverview Plaza Hotel.

• 7:30 p.m. - Mardi Gras-style parade; modified Route A. Expect at least nine Mardi Gras floats.
• 8:30-10 p.m. - Less Than Stellar performs on Riverview Plaza Stage.
• 8:45 p.m. - Opening ceremony on Austal Stage.
• 9-10:30 p.m. - Latimore performs on Austal Stage.
• 11 p.m. - Gretchen Wilson performs on Austal Stage.
• 11:30 p.m. - Light show - RSA tower and Riverview Plaza hotel.
• 11:59 p.m. - Countdown begins and giant MoonPie descends from atop the RSA Trustmark Building.
• Midnight - Laser and fireworks show.
• 12:30 a.m. - Gretchen Wilson performance concludes.
The Mask feels a tremendous kinship with this event, not only because it revolves around a favorite Mardi Gras throw - the MoonPie - and because it includes a Mardi Gras-style parade, but also because New Year's Eve was the event that Mobile's original mystic societies (Cowbellions, Strikers, TDS) celebrated.

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
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.

Mask Offers Its First Mardi Gras Merchandise
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.

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 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 ( 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.

To see the Mardi Gras News Archive, click here.