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Mardi Gras News Archive

This is an archive of the Mask's older Mardi Gras-related news items from the Mobile area and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast:

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 museumrelations@cityofmobile.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.



***SCHEDULE CHANGE***
Mystics of Ashland Place Postpone Parade

Jan. 28, 2013: The Mystics of Ashland Place, a long-running pre-K Mardi Gras parade, has been postponed due to forecasts for rain on Wednesday, January 30. The parade is now scheduled for Friday, February 1, at 12:30 p.m. The parade will still be led by the Excelsior Band, and the Ashland Gallery will be holding its open house on Friday instead of Wednesday, 11-noon (Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee), and 1-2 p.m. (Dew Drop Inn hot dogs). This is not a big parade, and you won't walk away with a bunch of throws, but it is cuter than that puppies and kittens web site you've been perusing at work. This year's theme is Preschool Activities, and you'll see a bunch of sweet little kids dressed up in adorable costumes, some of them walking, some of them being pulled along by their parents in decorated wagons. Head out to Lanier Avenue in Midtown and get yourself a big dose of cute before the weekend starts! 

More Treats: Carnival Cakeballs at Cream & Sugar
Jan. 23, 2013: The Mardi Gras treats just keep coming. Cream & Sugar, a lovely cafe in the Oakleigh neighborhood, has pulled out the stops. They're offering a box of cakeballs in SIX Mardi Gras flavors. Boo-yah! Sorry, got carried away there. Anyway, for a mere ten bucks, you can get a box of all six: Cinnamon King Cake, Praline King Cake, Chocolate MoonPie, Banana MoonPie, Joe Cain Red Velvet, and Krewe de Key Lime. Cream & Sugar is located at 351-B George Street, just a little ways down from the Oakleigh Mansion. If you'd like to visit their web site, click here. Go for the cakeballs, but stay for the coffee.

Gigi's Offers Another King Cake Alternative
Jan. 22, 2013:
You say you like king cake, but you'd like it even better with 2 inches of cream cheese frosting on top? Gigi's Cupcakes in the Pinebrook Shopping Center has joined other retailers in offering Mobilians king cake in an alternate format. You can get king cake as ice cream (Blue Bell), as a latte (ask for it at any Starbucks), and as a doughnut (see the item below about Krispy Kreme). Now you can get a king cupcake. Gigi's describes it as a "cinnamon-roll cake, our delicious cream cheese frosting, covered in our sugar glaze, and purple, yellow, and green sugar crystals." Unlike the other products mentioned above, each of the Gigi's cupcakes is topped with its own king cake baby. According to Gigi's, the cupcakes will be available at the counter through Mardi Gras Day (February 12). If you want to reserve a bunch of them in advance, call 251-316-0008. To visit and "like" Gigi's Facebook page, click here.   

Head to Krispy Kreme for Mardi Gras Doughnuts
Jan. 21, 2013: If the Carnival season is the time for excess (and it is), then Krispy Kreme has the perfect way for revelers to indulge. First up is the King Cake Doughnut. We'll say that again: King Cake Donut. It's a cinnamon yeast donut, glazed of course, topped with stripes of purple, green, and gold granular sugar, then a drizzle of white icing. It is, in a word, yummy. They also have a glazed doughnut, topped with chocolate icing, which is then completely covered in purple, green, and gold jimmies (or sprinkles, if you insist). To round out your mixed dozen, they offer glazed doughnuts topped with purple or green or gold tie-dye icing. It's certainly a great way to bring some Mardi Gras to the office. You won't find any signs advertising these items, but the Krispy Kreme employees have been wearing festive masks just to remind you. And the inside of the Hillcrest store is completely decorated for Mardi Gras. Which one of these tempting, tasty treats is best? The Mask will answer that by saying that you should not walk into the store or drive through without getting at least a couple of the king cake doughnutes. If you'd like to check out the Facebook page for the Hillcrest Krispy Kreme, click here.


Mobile-ize Your Beads
Jan. 17, 2013: Everybody's got to have some beads this time of year, right? Heck, we wear them to work, we wear them to the bars, we even wear them to funerals. OK, not all funerals. Anyway, why not make your beads Mobile-specific? Toomey's Mardi Gras (Government Street, Carnival Museum, and Daphne) has some pretty cool custom-made beads that show off the fact that your Mardi Gras doesn't involve a city shaped like a crescent. No sir, you're a Mobile reveler. How about some Joe Cain-face beads? Or beads with an emblem that quotes Mobile's Mardi Gras king, Felix III? You can even get a big old emblem bead that boldly declares Mobile's Mardi Gras can trace its roots back to 1703. If you want to check out the Toomey's web site, click on "resources" in the list on the left, then look for the links under "Merchants."

Mobile Mask Radio Ad Features the Voice of Joe Cain
Jan. 7, 2013: OK, not really, but it's pretty funny anyway. The Mobile Mask has a commercial currently airing on 92 Zew, and if you haven't heard it yet, here's an MP3 of it you can click and listen to:

                             

If you'd like to see the even funnier video that the Mask made from this ad, click here.

MAMGA 75th Anniversary Float Debuts
Jan. 1, 2013:
The Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association, the area's leading historically African American Mardi Gras organization, is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2013. MAMGA provided a small glimpse of that celebration New Year's Eve night by including its revamped emblem float in the Mardi Gras style parade that rolled through downtown Mobile. The float is fronted by a large, 3-D "75 Years," and there's a large diamond below that. All along the upper tier of the long float, a Mobile cityscape has been painted. Across the sides of the lower portion of the float, a more residential scene, which includes longtime businesses in the African American community, such as Hodges Funeral Chapel, has been painted. The float is capped with the image of a lanky saxophone player, leaning back and making music. For more on the 75th anniversary of MAMGA, see the story in Mobile Mask magazine.

• EXTRA! EXTRA! •
Get a Mobile Mask Magazine at the MoonPie Drop!
Dec. 28, 2012:
The premier issue of Mobile Mask magazine, The Reveler's Guide to Mardi Gras, will be available for sale at Mobile's famed New Year's Eve MoonPie Drop celebration. Just hours before 2012 ends, you can get the first copies ever of what will surely become the Mobile area's go-to source for Mardi Gras information. Given the MoonPie drop's many ties to the coming Carnival season, it seemed only fitting that the Mask debuts at the event. The magazine costs just $2 apiece, cash only, (New Year's Eve special: 3 for $5), and we'll be located in a tent right on Bienville Square. Come on by and get one or two or 12! This year's magazine has extensive parade info, more parade route maps than you can find anywhere else, and a number of fascinating feature stories about the people and history of Mobile Mardi Gras. For example, you'll find a story about the years when Mardi Gras was canceled, and a story about the woman who has built the vast majority of a Baldwin group's floats. Oh, and how about an interview with singer/songwriter Grayson Capps about his Mardi Gras song "Ol' Slac"? Grayson will be performing at the MoonPie Drop, by the way.

A Goatlady and a Krewe of Kids for 2013
Oct. 30, 2012:
Prichard's Krewe of Goats has made a couple of big announcements for 2013. For the first time ever, the Krewe's parade will not be led by a Goatman, it will be a Goatlady: Tomzie L. Williams, 61, a retired surgical nurse from Eight Mile. "It really was an honor to be asked to do this," Tomzie said recently. "I go to that parade all the time." The Krewe of Goats parade is scheduled for Saturday, February 9, at noon. The mother of five and grandmother of seven, Tomzie also retired as a major from the U.S. Army Reserve in November. She graduated from Blount High School in 1969. The Krewe of Goats also announced that it will sponsor a children's parade on Lundi Gras morning (10 a.m. February 11) that will be called - of course - the Krewe of Kids. The parade will follow the Krewe of Goats route, and the grand marshals will be Kenneth Fairley Jr., 11, and Hope Miller, 12. Anyone wishing to participate in the Krewe of Kids parade should contact Kenneth Fairley Sr. at 377-5630. Formed in Prichard in 1995, the Krewe of Goats was created to commemorate an area folk hero of the 1920s, known only as the "Goatman." He would hitch his goats to a homemade cart and travel up and down the narrow, dirt roads, "singing and screaming for all to come," according to the Krewe. He tossed homemade trinkets and treasures to children and adults.

No Clydesdales for Mobile Mardi Gras 2013
Oct. 3, 2012:
In checking to see when the Budweiser Clydesdales might be appearing in Mobile during the Mardi Gras season, the Mask has been told that the famous draft team will not be coming. It's always a crowd-pleaser whenever the huge horses, beer wagon and dalmation mascot come clomping down the parade route. But, according to Jill Beishir, with the communications department at Anheuser-Busch, Mobile's Mardi Gras "just didn't fit into next year's schedule" for the Clydesdales. Ah, well.

Area Float Barns Make it Through Isaac Unscathed
Aug. 30, 2012:
From all reports, Hurricane Isaac did not damage any Mobile or Baldwin county float barns. On Dauphin Island, the Krewe de la Dauphine reported that its float barn, which actually sits on Mon Louis Island, was high and dry, but there may be a problem with one of the doors. The Mask has not yet heard from the other Dauphin Island parading group, the Island Mystics. According MAMGA and the area's two largest float building companies, the barns "on the mainland" made it through the storm without any damage. But, according to one float builder, nearly three days of tropical weather has wreaked further havoc on a work schedule that was already disrupted by an unusually stormy, rainy summer. Never fear, though, the floats will be ready for Mardi Gras, and there are some great themes on tap for 2013.


Mobile Mask to Have Booth at Business Expo
Aug. 20, 2012:
The Mobile Mask will be among the 200 or so members of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce to have a booth at the Chamber's Business Expo, to be held Thursday, August 23, 1 to 6 p.m. at the Mobile Convention Center. The Mask will occupy booth 110, right next to Gigi's Cupcakes, distributing information about the upcoming first issue of the annual printed guide. Among other things, you'll be able to get a sneak peek at some of the stories that are going to be in that first issue. For anyone interested in hearing more about advertising in the guide, that information will be available as well. Come on by, have a Moon Pie and guess how many Mardi Gras beads are in the Bucket O' Beads. All it takes to get into the Business Expo is one of your business cards, and you'll walk away with so much more. To see the Chamber's web pages about the Expo, click
here.

***UPDATE: Tonight's Parade is Canceled ***
Aug. 16, 2012:
Tonight's Mardi Gras-style parade for the benefit of the Marine Corps League's 89th national convention, has been canceled, due to weather, according to a spokesman with the Mobile Police Department. The Marine Corps League, an organization of current and former U.S. Marines, who promote the Corps and organize a number of charitable programs, brought thousands of conventioneers from all over the country into downtown Mobile this week. The parade was to include at least five Mobile parading groups, donating their floats, riders and throws to the effort. In all, there were to be about 20 units in the parade, including a few brass bands, military equipment, the Shriners and the Crewmates. Everyone was invited to come out and enjoy the parade and show the conventioneers just how Mobile puts on a party.


You Can 'Adopt' 1922 Mardi Gras Queen's Ensemble
July 12, 2012:
The History Museum of Mobile has a number of items in immediate need of conservation or they may be lost forever. One such item is the ensemble worn by Marie Courtney, the1922 Mobile Carnival Association queen. The ensemble, which is the oldest in the museum's collection, includes the cream colored train shown here. It's completely trimmed with fur and has a large depiction of a vase of flowers in the middle. King Felix II that year (they weren't up to Felix III yet) was Paul B. Ray. Maybe you're a descendant of these Mardi Gras monarchs or maybe you just want to make sure that Mobile's Mardi Gras history is preserved. For as little as $25, you can participate in the History Museum's "Adopt an Artifact" program. It would certainly make a nice gift for anyone who is Mardi Gras crazy to adopt this historical item in their name. To adopt this or any museum item is easy, and you can do the whole thing online. Just click here to get the ball rolling. If you have any questions about the program, you can email Holly Jansen, curator of collections, at holly.jansen@cityofmobile.org.

• EXCLUSIVE •
P-R Editor Comments on Future of Masked Observer

June 18, 2012:
With all of the change and outright turmoil going on at the Press-Register in Mobile - along with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times - the Mobile Mask wondered what would become of the Masked Observer. For more than two decades, the Masked Observer, "a mysterious denizen of the leisure class," has delighted readers with his witty columns about the interesting and sometimes racy goings-on at Mobile area Carnival balls. Along with his semi-fictitious cohorts, including Dark Hallway and Floral Headpiece, the M.O. has become one of the icons of Mobile Mardi Gras. Now, under the new printing schedule of three days a week, due to begin in October, the Press-Register supposedly will not offer newspapers on Lundi Gras or Fat Tuesday. On top of that, most of the Register's staff members have been told that they will not have jobs after Sept. 30 (though they are free to apply for any of 100 new positions being offered by the statewide online entity, al.com). So the Mobile Mask contacted Mike Marshall, who remains the editor of the Press-Register until Sept. 30, when he will become the vice president of commentary for the reorganized Alabama newspapers owned by Advance Publications, and asked him: "What does the future hold for the Masked Observer? Will Mobilians ever get to read his columns again?" Marshall's response was both committal and cryptic: "As you know, the M.O. is not bound by time, space or the dictates of dumb editors like me. We could never get rid of him."

Mardi Gras Reading Just Out in Time for the Beach
June 7, 2011:
The debut novel by Mobile author Stephanie Lawton became available today. "Want" includes a pivotal scene at Mobile's Mardi Gras. Here's the description of the book provided by the publisher, Inkspell: "Julianne counts the days until she can pack her bags and leave her old-money, tradition-bound Southern town, where appearance is everything, and secrecy is a way of life. A piano virtuoso, she dreams of attending a prestigious music school in Boston. Failure is not an option, so she enlists the help of New England Conservatory graduate Isaac Laroche. Isaac knows he must resist his attraction to a student ten years his junior, but loneliness and jealousy threaten his resolve. Their indiscretion at a Mardi Gras ball forces their present wants and needs to collide with sins of the past." The book is listed as young adult, but by all accounts, it's a crossover that will captivate adults as well. It's available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Page & Palette. The author will have a book signing at Page & Palette on July 6, starting at 6 p.m.

Be a Masker for a Night on June 18
June 6, 2012: The call has gone out: Maskers needed! Virginia McKean of Mobile Mystery Dinners is staging a Mardi Gras tableau for more than 100 conventioneers at the Crystal Ballroom of the RSA Battle House Hotel, and they need maskers to show the out-of-towners just how it's done. According to McKean, they usually have a moderator come out and give the conventioneers a presentation about the history and traditions of Mobile Mardi Gras. Then to illustrate, a king and queen come forth in full regalia. It's usually two people who actually were a king and queen, and they wear their authentic costumes. After they promenade, and after two conventioneers are chosen king and queen, music starts playing, and maskers pour into the area, throwing beads, cups, etc. If you'd like to brighten up a Monday night with some Mardi Gras fun, call McKean at 251-479-3212 and sign up. They ask that you dress as a float rider/masker or as if you were going to a Mardi Gras ball. If you can bring throws, that would be great, but they can also furnish throws. Be at the hotel, ready to go, by 7:15 p.m. June 18. Demonstrate your Mobile Mardi Gras pride and have a good time doing it!

Mobile Mardi Gras Memorabilia Nets Big Price
May 28, 2012: An Order of Myths invitation from 1885, recently put up for auction on eBay, drew a winning bid of $432 (shipping was $12). It's unknown who bought the beautiful piece or whether it's coming back to Mobile, but it was being sold out of Luling, La. Here is the description that was given with the listing: "Just out of an estate last week in Metairie, La., is this very rare invitation from the Mobile Alabama Mardi Gras. It is in near mint condition, no tears or creases, except the creases that fold it up. The lithograph work is fantastic. I have had New Orleans invitations before but not Mobile. Truly a museum quality collectible. ... Opened up, it measures about 10.5 inches square. You may never see another one. It reads on the cover: 'The Order of Myths request of your company at the Mobile Theater Mardi Gras 1885 Nine oclock PM.' There is slight paper loss on the surface on the word 'Myths,' but it can be read. Overall condition is just about as good as it gets. Don't let this one get by." The auction generated 11 total bids, and the bidding started at less than $100. 

Beads for Doughnuts is Back, Three Days Only
April 1, 2012: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is once again offering a dozen original glazed doughnuts in exchange for at least 12 pounds of Mardi Gras beads. Take your beads to the Krispy Kreme at 741-B Hillcrest Road on Monday, April 2; Tuesday, April 3; or Wednesday, April 4, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. each day. If you gave up doughnuts for Lent, you can ask for a coupon for a dozen rather than taking the dozen right then. Only one dozen doughnuts per person per visit, but there's nothing saying you can't contribute even more than 12 pounds of beads. The beads will be given to Augusta Evans Special School for an employment training program. For years, the students at Augusta Evans have worked and raised money for the school by sorting and bundling donated beads and selling them back to parading societies, so the beads can be thrown again.

Association Votes Donation as Tribute to Officers 
March 21, 2012: The members of the Mobile Mardi Gras Parading Association voted tonight to make a donation to a police survivors' fund in tribute to the sacrifices of Mobile officers Steven Green and Chad Wynne. Green was killed by a prisoner on Feb. 3, the first day of the 2012 Mardi Gras parading season, and Wynne, a member of a Mobile mystic society, was critically injured by a robber's bullet on March 2. Tonight was the first meeting of the Parading Association since January. During the discussion before the vote, it was pointed out that the entire police department works hard to make the city's Mardi Gras parades run smoothly. In particular, it was said, the mystic society members were well aware that it must have been difficult for police officers to be on hand to launch the parading season, just hours after Green, 36, was killed. Wynne, who was shot in the chest during a robby of the Midtown Winn-Dixie, was released from the hospital March 14, and his road to recovery will be a long one, police said. After the Parading Association voted to contribute the money, board members said they would research what survivors' fund has been established and report back to the members at the next meeting in April. The Mobile Mardi Gras Parading Association was established as a collective body of all of the city's mystic societies to improve communication and planning.

Tourism Dept.: Mardi Gras is State's Biggest Event
March 2, 2012:
According to the Alabama Tourism Department’s just-released compilation of attendance figures for various attractions in 2011, Mobile Mardi Gras was the state’s top event, drawing 1.09 million people. That compared to a 2010 attendance figure of 810,000. If the Mobile Police Department’s crowd counts are any indication, the 2012 attendance figure should at least match 2011. Above all of that, south Alabama had the top four events of 2011: the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (second place, 300,000 attendance); the Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores (third, 250,000); and BayFest (fourth, 230,000). Foley’s Hot Air Balloon Festival came in eighth place with an attendance of 75,000. All five south Alabama events showed the same or higher attendance than 2010, except BayFest, which was down by 70,000 people, according to the Tourism Department’s figures. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville was the state’s No. 1 admission-charged attraction in 2011, with 533,000 visitors. The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile placed fifth on that list with 322,685 visitors. Alabama’s Gulf Coast beaches and Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores were the state’s first- and second-most attended parks or natural attractions, claiming a total of 6.09 million visitors.

Mardi Gras 2012 Was Great, But It's Not Over Yet
Feb. 22, 2012: Even as the city of Mobile cleans and scrubs the parade routes after an estimated 150,000 people descended on the area Fat Tuesday, Bay Minette has announced that the party is not quite over. The Mystic Revelers of Bay Minette, along with all other area parading groups that were scheduled to go last Saturday, had to postpone due to stormy weather. Unlike the other groups, which rescheduled for this past Sunday or Monday, the Mystic Revelers opted to parade this coming Saturday at 2 p.m. So, you have one more chance this year to yell, "Hey, mister!" and catch you some beads 'n' stuff. For more information about the Mystic Revelers, click here. For a description of the group's parade route, click here.

Saturday Forecast Forces Parades to Reschedule
Feb. 17, 2012: Joe Cain Day just went from huge to mega- huge. Since the weather forecast for Saturday doesn't look so hot, the downtown Mobile parades have been postponed to Sunday. According to the police department, here's the parade lineup for Sunday:
• 1 p.m. - Floral Parade, Knights of Mobile, Order of Angels
• 2 p.m. - King Elexis I Parade
• 2:30 p.m. - Joe Cain Procession
• 5 p.m. - Le Krewe de Bienville
• 7 p.m. - Mystics of Time
In Baldwin County, the Krewe of Mullet Mates in Mullet Point, as well as the Mystics of Pleasure in Orange Beach, have moved their parade times to Sunday at 2 p.m. The Mystic Revelers in Bay Minette will not run Saturday, but a new date has not been announced. The Shadow Barons in Daphne have rescheduled and will parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. And in Prichard, the Krewe of Goats will now parade at 10 a.m. Monday. Check this story for further updates as they come in. 

Hit the Joe Cain Sidewalk Sale at Lunatix
Feb. 17, 2012: Before settling in at your favorite section of barricade for the Joe Cain Procession, stop by Lunatix & Co. between 1 and 6 p.m. for some unique Joe Cain and Mardi Gras items. According to the owner, Courtney Matthews, they will set up a table in front of the Springhill Avenue shop and will be selling Mardi Gras feathered earrings, an exclusive Joe Cain T-shirt by Suzanne Sarver, and a limited edition Joe Cain poster by Josh Holland. There will be only 20 of the signed and numbered posters available for $30 each. Lunatix offers works by 40 local artists and is located at 662 Springhill Ave., just up from Dauphin Street. They have a web site at http://lunatixandco.com, as well as a Facebook page.

Live Fat Tuesday Coverage on Two Local Stations
Feb. 14, 2012: If you can't make it out to the parades on Fat Tuesday (Feb. 21), you'll still be able to catch plenty of it on TV. WKRG Channel 5 will have live coverage from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Mardi Gras Day. That will include coverage of all Mobile parades between those times, which should be every parade except the Order of Myths. During the down time between parades, Channel 5 plans to show taped coverage of the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach parades from that day. Meanwhile, WPMI Channel 15 plans to show live coverage both on the air and streaming on its web site, www.local15tv.com. Coverage will go from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will be broadcast from four different locations around downtown Mobile: the Hampton Inn downtown, Bienville Square, the Mobile Housing Board, and the Mobile Mardi Gras Museum. 

Moon Pie Eating Contest in Bay Minette
Feb. 4, 2012: Mardi Gras Fest 3 in Bay Minette, which will be held Feb. 18 at Halliday Park, will feature its first-ever Moon Pie eating contest. Toomey's Mardi Gras donated more than 1,000 chocolate, banana, coconut, and orange Mini Moon Pies for the contest, said Greg Mais, president of the Bay Minette Civic Club. Registration for the contests, divided into six age categories, will be held at the fest. It's $3 for kids 5-9 and $5 for those 10 and up. Proceeds go to the Civic Club's Charity Fund. The winner in each age group will receive a Moon Pie hat and a trophy. In the 5-9 age category, the first contestant to eat six Moon Pies wins; in the older five categories, it's the first to eat 10 Moon Pies. Each contestant also gets a bottle of water. "We wanted to try something different that's tied to Mardi Gras," Mais said. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun." The Mardi Gras Fest, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. will also include music, vendors, food, and a Kids Zone. Admission is free, but donations to the Charity Fund will be accepted. The Fest also sits on the parade route of the Mystic Revelers, which is scheduled to roll at noon that day.

Riverview Sitting Out Light Show This Year
Feb. 6, 2012: If you've been in downtown Mobile at night recently, you've probably appreciated the Mardi Gras-themed light display atop the RSA Tower and now the RSA-BankTrust Building. But you may have also wondered why the third RSA sister, the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza, doesn't seem to be participating. According to RSA spokesman, Bill Lang, the lighting system atop the hotel is being updated to LED, like the other two buildings now have. The equipment has been ordered but will not likely be installed and operational before this Fat Tuesday. Next year, however, all three buildings should be participating in the lighting display. Meantime, the giant Moon Pie on the BankTrust Building continues to mark the beginning of each downtown parade by lowering down the side of the building at start time to the strains of "Second Line." That tradition was started last Mardi Gras, and, according to Lang, "was a big hit."

Forget Wall Street, Occupy Mardi Gras
Feb. 5, 2012: There's a brand new Mardi Gras T-shirt being sold in Mobile that's highly appropriate to our times. Why occupy someplace as boring as Wall Street, when you can occupy Mardi Gras and catch some beads while you're doing it? This shirt was designed by the folks at Mardi Gras & More (457 Dauphin Street) and is sold exclusively in their store for $10.95. The shirt has a simple, clever design that depicts the mask from "V for Vendetta" (the face of Guy Fawkes) - which has become synonymous with revolution and chaos - and put a far less serious jester hat on it. For more information, you can call Mardi Gras & More at 251-432-0537. Shirt sizes up to 3X are available.

Get a Shot of Screaming Moon Pie
Feb. 3, 2012: While you're in downtown Mobile for a parade, or any other reason, you might want to make a point of stopping into Serda's Coffee Company (3 South Royal Street) for a shot of their Carnival (and New Year's) drink, the Screaming Moon Pie. Invented by John Serda and bartender Joe Sullivan, the 1.25-ounce layered shot was introduced in 2009 and has been growing in popularity. It's $5 a shot, $6 if you want to keep the commemorative glass, shown in the picture to the left. Serda - who will not part with the recipe - said he ordered 150 glasses in 2009, 500 in 2010, and 600 in 2011 and sold out of them each year.

Police: No More Parking in the Median
Feb. 1, 2012: If you've always parked in the grassy median on Water Street on parade days, you're going to have find someplace else to go, police said today. "Due to safety concerns and an increase in available public parking," the Mobile police said in a news release today, they will "begin enforcing the no-parking signs on the Water Street median and Dauphin Street on Mardi Gras parade dates." The river-side shoulder on Water Street, just above the convention center, is now also off limits, according to the release. The police pointed out that revelers can now park at the cruise terminal and in the lot where the CSX terminal used to be. It will cost to park in those lots: $10 on parade days, $15 on Joe Cain Day and Fat Tuesday. If your car is towed, it will be taken to a temporary lot at Water and Monroe streets under Interstate 10. The lot will be open until 11 that night. After that, the cars will be taken to the permanent impound lot at 1251 Virginia Street. It will cost $125 to get your vehicle back (cash, debit, Visa, and MasterCard only), and you need your driver's license, proof of ownership, and proof of insurance.

2012 Mardi Gras Monarchs Announced
Jan. 29, 2012:
The kings and queens of the Mobile Carnival Association and the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association have been announced. For MCA, King Felix III is James Tunstall Inge Jr., 27, a sales representative for Scotch Gulf Lumber and the fifth member of his family to serve as king. The MCA queen is Kathleen Anne Shearer, 22, a senior at Vanderbilt. She is the 10th member of her family to serve as an MCA monarch. For MAMGA, King Elexis I is Kendrick Terrell Dunklin, 25, an admissions counselor for Spring Hill College and a teacher for Upward Bound. MAMGA's queen is Walkitria Minnie "Kiki" Alexander, 29, a medical school graduate who is about to start her residency. The MCA coronation will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center; and the MAMGA senior court coronation will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 19 at the convention center. 

Get Some King Cake For Your Freezer
Jan. 27, 2012: If you love king cake, but it just isn't cold enough for you, there are two king cake-inspired frozen treats    
now on sale in the Mobile area. G.S. Gelato, out of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, is offering King Cake Gelato; while Blue Bell Ice Cream out of Brenham, Texas, has put half gallons of Mardi Gras King Cake ice cream on the shelves.
  • Blue Bell first came out with Mardi Gras ice cream in 2003, then changed to king cake in 2006. They went back to Mardi Gras flavor in 2009, but this year it's Mardi Gras King Cake, described as "cinnamon cake ice crime, tasty pieces of cinnamon pastry, and a colorful, sweet vanilla icing swirl with festive candy sprinkles in shades of purple, green, and gold." It's sold across Louisiana and south Mississippi and Alabama. You can find it in Publix, Food World, Bruno's, Winn-Dixie, Wal-Mart, Greer's, Food For Less, Cains, and Target food stores.
  • G.S. Gelato introduced pints of the King Cake Gelato in 2011. The flavor came about, according to Cynthia Harrison at G.S., at the urging the central store manager for the Rouse's grocery chain in Louisiana and Mississippi. It's described as "a warm biscotti base with enticing cinnamon and dark Italian cherry swirls throughout." There's purple, green, and gold sprinkles on top of each pint, and there's a sugar "baby" somewhere inside. You can find the gelato at local Winn-Dixie stores, but hurry, the company's not shipping any more this year. However, Harrison said, the flavor will definitely be back next year.

New Joe Cain Poster Now Available at Toomey's
Jan. 27, 2012:
Toomey's Mardi Gras is now offering a brand new Joe Cain-themed Mardi Gras poster. The highly stylized 16-inch by 20-inch poster shown on the right was designed by local artist Jennifer Grehan. It's on sale now exclusively at Toomey's for $8.70 each. Toomey's has three locations: Government Street at McRae Avenue; the gift shop at the Mobile Carnival Museum downtown; and Daphne. For more information, including hours and exact locations, go to the Toomey's web site by clicking here. For more on Joe Cain, click on "Mardi Gras History" in the list to the left. Or click on "Joe Cain Day" to learn more about the way Mobile honors this Mardi Gras pioneer.

2012 Mobile Mardi Gras Print Now Available
Jan. 20, 2012: This year's Mardi Gras print, offered exclusively by the Mardi Gras & More store, is now available, according to owner Jeff Jordan. Each year, the store offers a different print, each one depicting a certain aspect of Mobile Mardi Gras or one of its parading groups. In 2006, for example, the poster highlighted the Knights of Revelry. This year's print, shown on the left, is a tip of the hat to the Crewe of Columbus. Jordan said he has 100 signed and numbered prints available for $11.95 each. Founded in 1921, the Crewe of Columbus is scheduled to parade this year on Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. on Mobile's Route A. To learn more about the COC, go to the Mask's page about the group by clicking here. You can visit the Crewe of Columbus web site by clicking here. The Mardi Gras & More store is located at 457 Dauphin Street, and their phone number is 251-432-0537.

Les Femmes Cassettes: No Parade, No Ball in 2012
Jan. 18, 2012:
 Saying the economy has taken a toll on membership, a spokeswoman for Mobile parading group Les Femmes Cassettes confirmed that the ladies' group will not parade or hold a ball this year. "We need to regroup and get membership back up," the spokeswoman said. "We've always been a very small organization, but right now, we're too small." At its most robust, the group had 36 members, and right now, it has 10, the spokeswoman said. The group, named after the French women sent to this part of the New World to be wives for settlers, started parading in 1999. Normally the group is the last to parade on Joe Cain Day, the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. This year, Le Krewe de Bienville will be the last to parade that day.

Cain's Merry Widows Announce 2012 Schedule
Jan. 17, 2012: The mystic society known as Cain's Merry Widows announced its schedule of appearances on Joe Cain Day, Sunday, Feb. 19:
    11:25 a.m. - Arrive at Church Street Cemetery
    11:45 a.m. - Leave cemetery
    11:50 a.m. - Arrive at Joe Cain house, 935 Augusta Street
    12:20 p.m. - Leave Joe Cain house
    2:30 p.m. - Joe Cain procession begins
For many, the spectacle of Cain's Merry Widows, all dressed in black, lamenting the loss of Joe and arguing over which of them he loved best, is the highlight of the most important Carnival day in Mobile. For more on Joe Cain Day, see the Mask's Joe Cain Day page.

Mardi Gras Warehouse Open on U.S. 90
Jan. 17, 2012:
Mardi Gras Warehouse, the seasonal beads and more store that has had locations all over west Mobile through the years, is open for business in the Skyland Shopping Center at Azalea Road and U.S. 90. It's a large store, and it's several doors down from the location Mardi Gras Warehouse previously had in Skyland. The store is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon until 5 p.m. The phone number is 251-751-6594, and the web site can be reached by clicking here.

Daphne Businessman Named 'Goatman' for 2012
Jan. 13, 2012:
Napoleon McCovery, 55, a native of Daphne and owner of two businesses, one on each side of Mobile Bay, has been named this year's "Goatman" by Prichard's Krewe of Goats. McCovery said he was surprised by the honor, and his first response was, "What's a Goatman?" He has since learned that the Goatman is the emblem of the Krewe of Goats, which was formed in 1995 to remember a Prichard-area folk hero of the early 1920s, whom everyone knew simply as the Goatman. McCovery is the founder and owner of Asphalt Paving and Concrete in Daphne and the owner of Club Elegance on North Lafayette Street in Mobile. He said he's never seen the Krewe of Goats parade but feels something of a kinship with the Goatman. McCovery started his own landscaping business when he was 19, and he would go from client to client on his bicycle, pulling his lawnmower behind him. 

Biker's Ball at ABBA Shrine Center
Jan. 10, 2012:
The ninth annual Biker's Ball and Rally will be held at the ABBA Shrine Center, at Hitt and Schillinger in west Mobile, Feb. 17-19, the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Tickets are $100 per couple and are available at the Shrine Center (251-633-5561), Mobile Bay Harley-Davidson (251-471-2174), and Eastern Shore Harley-Davidson (251-626-8050). Those who purchase tickets, which are good for all weekend events, will have a chance of winning the grand prize, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  

GoDaddy.com Bowl Parade Coverage
Jan. 7, 2012:
The GoDaddy.com Bowl Parade was well-attended, despite the Saints playoff game that was about to start, and everything seemed to go off without a hitch. Several of Mobile's parading organizations participated in this Mardi Gras warm-up. Check out the Mask's coverage of the parade by clicking here.

Different Route for GoDaddy Parade
Jan. 6, 2012:
Despite the fact that all of the advertising for tomorrow night's GoDaddy.com Bowl parade has said the parade will follow Route A, it's actually a greatly modified and much shorter route than that. This map was posted on the bowl game's web site. The parade starts at 6:30 Saturday night, and it's excellent warm-up for Mardi Gras, as it includes floats from a number of Mobile area parading groups. And throws? There will be lots of them. The weather forecast for parade time looks like 60 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain. If you don't make it out there, check this web site later for full coverage of the parade.

New Use for the Cruise Terminal
Jan. 5, 2012:
Mobile's civic parading group, Le Krewe de Bienville, has come up with a new use for the Alabama Cruise Terminal. The krewe will hold its Mardi Gras ball on the second floor of the terminal on Feb. 19. The $20 million terminal, dedicated in October 2004, has been without cruise ship activity since Carnival pulled out in October 2011. According to the president of the krewe, other parading groups have approached the terminal management about holding balls there, but the terminal will probably hold it to just one this year. "This is a new use for them," the president said, "and they just want to kind of stick their toe in the water, see how it goes." For the krewe, he said, the location is perfect. It's smaller than some locations. It's nice and new, and it offers a view of the Mobile River. For more information about the krewe, visit its web site by going to the Mask's Resources page and click on "Le Krewe de Bienville." 

Pharaohs Grand Marshal Announced
Jan. 4, 2012:
Mobile parading group the Pharaohs announced that the grand marshal for its parade on Feb. 4 will be NASCAR truck driver Rick Crawford. According to NASCAR.com, Crawford captured two Alabama short track championships, three track championships at Mobile International Speedway and two from Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, in 1981 and 1982. He spent 12 seasons in the NASCAR All-Pro Series compiling 111 starts, 11 victories and 61 top-10 finishes. In 1989, he captured a victory in the prestigious Snow Ball Derby at Five Flags. His Craftsman Truck Series career began in 1997 when he and the Circle Bar Racing team moved up from the All-Pro Series. Crawford is a regular weekly guest on The Morning Drive on Sirius NASCAR Radio. In March, he entered a multi-year contract to be the promoter and manager at Mobile International Speedway.
 
NOLA Groups Announce Celebrity Guests
Dec. 29, 2011:
NEW ORLEANS - According to the Times-Picayune, the Krewe of Bacchus has chosen comic actor Will Ferrell to serve as Bacchus XLIV. The parade is scheduled for Feb. 19. Ferrell is in New Orleans filming a political comedy titled "Dog Fight." The Krewe of Orpheus will have singers Bret Michaels and Cyndi Lauper as celebrity monarchs in the Feb. 20 Orpheus parade. And acclaimed actress and New Orleans native Patricia Clarkson will reign as Honorary EveryMuse, riding in the signature red high-heeled shoe float in the Krewe of Muses parade Feb. 16.

Two New Bead Stores in Mobile
Dec. 18, 2011:
Two new Mardi Gras bead businesses have sprung up in west Mobile. Mardi Gras Explosion is located at 1168-B West I-65 Service Road, just south of Southeastern Salvage, and they say they will not be undersold. Their phone number is 251-391-1494.  Bienville Beads & Throws is located at 4658-M Airport Blvd. in a small shopping center behind Diamonds gentlemen's club. Their phone number is 251-202-3237, and they have a web site at www.bienvillebeads.com.