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Be in a Mardi Gras Parade!

Updated on March 24, 2014

It's Carnival Time!

This could be YOU!
This could be YOU! | Source

The Other Side of the Barricade

While thousands attend Mobile's family-friendly Mardi Gras; as a tourist, there was never a way to be on the other side of the barricade until the 1960s. Some locals realized that Southern hospitality should especially extend to visitors and they worked to form a group that involved locals and tourists. Even as a Mobilian, it can be downright impossible to join many of the groups, which are actually mystic societies. This means members are masked and should not reveal their membership. Although there are different rules for all the various groups, many must wear masks throughout the parade and can later unmask at a certain time at the ball. What a relief it is to take the mask off! Mobile first started Mardi Gras in the early 1700's, a good 15 years prior to New Orleans as Mobile was settled first by the French. The idea of mystic societies and floats began in the 1830's as the drunken brainstorm of Michael Kraft, who formed the Cowbellion de Rakins one New Year's Eve In an impromptu processional by foot. At the time, many people celebrated New Year's Eve by visiting homes in a kind of open house. The Cowbellion members played a hand in the formation of New Orleans' Krewe of Comus, when they were asked to come show them how they, too, could put on a show with floats and flambeaux, the torches that lit the scene at night. Over the years, a move was made to Mardi Gras. Sadly, the Cowbellion de Rakins became extinct when they became so exclusive they preferred to fold rather than take members' sons. This type of situation still exists to some degree today in the mysterious and convoluted voting processes of mystic societies.




A Krewe Member Handing Out Goodies

Source

Southern Hospitality

Fortunately, there is Le Krewe De Bienville, a civic organization dedicated to educating the world about Mobile's rightful place as the "Mother of Mystics" for the past fifty years. There is available, for $160 per person as of 2011, the opportunity to parade with the Krewe on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday and attend the ball afterwards. This is an excellent deal, although I have not ever participated in this group, which is coed. Typically, depending upon the size of the parading society, most mystic society dues are in the $500 + range. This great opportunity is called a "seasonal" membership and is only available for those who are 100 miles or more outside of Mobile. Parade throws are not included. Your costume, drinks, as well as food, are included. The parade is about 2 hours long. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Their website is www.krewedebienville.com. The day they parade is also after the famous People's Parade, the Joe Cain Parade on Sunday in the early evening. This is the biggest and best weekend to experience all the Mardi Gras fun. Keep in mind that Mobile's Mardi Gras is fiercely family-oriented as you are parading, so noone has their visit spoiled.


The Krewe of Bienville Parade

Local Chance to Parade

Locals can join Krewe of Bienville for a larger amount. As I said before, it can be very difficult for Mobilians to join most of the Mardi Gras groups. Typically in most mystic societies, one must be put up by two members in good standing. Members vote on whether or not they let you in. The smaller the membership, the more exclusive it may be. Once you get in, you may have to stay a member for quite a few years, typically ten years. Ultimately, these groups are a business of sorts; it makes no sense to keep adding and losing different people. Some parade and then find it not as fun as they thought it would be. It can be dangerous, with lurching floats moving suddenly. So it is really great to have this option to join for just a few years for the locals and surrounding areas. This Krewe, named after Bienville who settled Mobile for the French in 1702, should be commended for bringing tourists and locals into the fold. Let the Good Times Roll!

Update- Mobile Mystical Revelers

Another newer option is Mobile Mystical Revelers, a group that says they offer the chance to parade without putting up with the time commitment or the politics of a typical mystic society. They parade in the daytime on the 2nd Saturday of Mardi Gras, the weekend BEFORE the big Mardi Gras weekend. From their Facebook page: "For only $250.00 per person, anyone can ride with the Mobile Mystical Revelers on the second Saturday of Mardi Gras at 2:30 in the afternoon. We have a pre party and an after parade party both included in the price. Men, women, friends and family all welcome to ride. Groups welcome, ask about float discounts, call for details. Kenny Boguski @ 604-7949 or Tony Price @ 377-5853"

So now there is a reasonable option for locals, who typically are going to pay anywhere from $500 and up, and that doesn't even include your throws. My advice is to contact them shortly after Mardi Gras; April is usually the beginning of a new year for most groups. You also need to ask yourself if you prefer a traditional parade with ball (Krewe de Bienville) or a simple party (Mobile Mystical Revelers).

Mobile Mystical Revelers Parade via Mobile Mask

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