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Parade Tips in Mobile's Mardi Gras
Throw Me Something, Mister!
Mobile is the "Mother of Mystics" and the cradle of Mardi Gras in the United States due to the fact that we were founded a good sixteen years before our sister port city, New Orleans. Founded in 1702 as the first capital of Louisiana, there were plenty of opportunities to celebrate the "Boeuf Gras" or Fatted Calf, a French celebration shortly before the deprivations of Lent. The first celebrations were small; later, by the 1780's, the Spanish had a processional type of walkers, perhaps the precursors of parades.
Early one New Year's Day in 1830, Michael Kraft and friends, all tipsy, celebrated by "borrowing" all manners of rakes, hoes, and cowbells from Partridge's Hardware Store. They paraded through the city and called upon the mayor, who invited them in for a drink. Soon the Cowbellion de Rakins began to plan elaborate parades with actual floats based upon famous epics. As the connections between port cities were close, several men from this Mobile group began the Krewe of Comus in New Orleans.
All Parades Are Not Equal
You first need to decide what parade you are going to. If you are a tourist, you really need to concentrate on coming down to Mobile for the biggest weekend, the one before Fat Tuesday. Ideally, you would stay Friday through Fat Tuesday; but realistically, you would be here Friday through Sunday evening. My only complaint with Mobile compared to my native Mississippi Gulf Coast is that the parades are just too short in Mobile, particularly the weeknight ones. However, with the large men's mystic societies on Friday(Krewe of Columbus) and Saturday nights (Mystic of Times), this is not a problem.
Mystics of Time parade
Typically entertaining 100,000 or more paradegoers, Mystics of Time is the most popular parade due to their three fire-breathing dragon floats at the beginning. Also, the men are well-known for sparing no expense, from their throws to their floats made in New Orleans.
The Order of Myths Documentary About Mobile's Mardi Gras
Fat Tuesday's Knights Of Revelry Parade
Order of Myths Parade
Earlier we learned about the Cowbellions, a long-defunct group. Today, it is said that the Order of Myths, started in 1867, was patterned along their lines; and, instead of the New Year's Eve parade that was traditional, OOM chose Fat Tuesday as their parading day. This is the last parade of Fat Tuesday and for many, a must see. The emblem float, depicting members dressed as Folly and Death, plays a starring role as paradegoers watch the two enemies chase each other around a broken pillar, which represents the Confederacy. For me, it is a disappointing end to the day as it is a small parade due to the exclusiveness of the group. The exclusiveness even extends to the stingy throwing.
Where To Stand
It is possible to hit the same parade three times! To do this, first arrive an hour before the parade begins and park near the civic center with the round dome. Stand on north side of Civic Center Drive with the large pink stuccoed Malaga Inn behind you. There is a back door that leads to the Inn's courtyard where a bartender will sell you drinks for cash. You can have plastic cups to go, just no glass. You will see the floats lined up on Civic Center Drive/Lawrence Street waiting to be released and the restless riders will be practicing their throwing on you while they wait to the go ahead to go. You can walk freely all the way back to visit each float before they go. Typically, this is best time to make eye contact and get some great beads, stuffed animals or moonpies, which are delicious marshmallow sandwiches that are particularly thrown in Mobile.
Remember that we are the family friendly Mardi Gras- do NOT flash for beads. You will be arrested. Also don't climb over barricades; it's illegal. Bring a small rake to drag out of reach throws back to you. Although New Orleans allows parade ladders, they are not allowed here. Also, people watching the parade don't wear masks like those in New Orleans sometimes do. You certainly can but you will be about the only one. Walk down Claiborne Street to Government (2 small blocks), wait for parade to come there, stay at that same spot to catch same parade on its way back. This is the last two blocks so they will be dumping tons on you!
Alcohol Free for You and Me For those who just don't want to be around any drinking whatsoever, the city of Mobile has set aside two areas sans alcohol. The best one is on Royal Street between Church Street and Government Street; the other one is on Spring Hill Avenue near the fire station, by St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
How to Leave Quickly Again, get on Claiborne to make a quick exit via the interstate just beyond Canal Street. Or take Virginia Street to Ann Street to skirt around parade route if you want to stay on the city streets.
Other Beloved Parade-Watching Areas Bienville Square is a favorite area as it is a large square shaded with large live oaks seemingly guarding your children as you chat with friends. Dauphin Street borders it so you will be able to make a quick walking getaway to eat or imbibe. Walk West down Dauphin a few blocks to take the children to the Three George's Candy Shop, an old-time candy and ice cream soda shop. Or duck into the Crescent Theatre to watch movies while the crowds clear out.
Hang Around Dauphin Street
If you aren't ready to head out, take Claiborne north and head to Dauphin Street, an area of bars and eateries that stretches from Royal Street to Washington Street. Some of my favorite places to grab a bite are the Mediterranean Sandwich Co., Spot of Tea, Wintzells for seafood, and the O.K. Bicycle Shop. Great bars are the O.K. Bicycle Shop, Boo Radley's, Veet's, and the Royal Scam.