How many time have you been at a public event or parade and had a good view of everyone’s butt instead of what is happening? Or worse yet, nabbed the perfect spot only to have someone stand right in front of you? And then, when it’s time to leave, found that it’s almost impossible to move through the crowd? It’s very frustrating, which is why we’ve never attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans. If anyone has some insight about Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I’d love to hear about it. Until then I’m reluctant to spend the money and effort for what could be a disappointing trip. However all is not lost – we’ve discovered an excellent substitute in Mobile!
Mobile, Alabama claims to have had the first Mardi Gras celebration. I’m sure New Orleans would contest this, but Mobile does throw a good party. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the day before Ash Wednesday, so it marks the last big blowout before Lent, but the parades and celebrations start a month earlier. Each parade is sponsored by a krewe, which may be an organization of businessmen, a civic group, or just a gathering of friends. As the days count down, the parades get more numerous until they fill the entire day – five to six different parades from noon until after dark.
Mobile parades follow several different routes, but most follow the “A” route, which looks like a barbell with one end in the west side of town and the other end in the east. The east end of town gets a little more crowded with visitors from out of town because it’s right off of I-10. We usually park in the center of the west side barbell end, across from the Big Zion church. The streets are barricaded off for about half an hour before a parade starts to half an hour after it ends, which means that we’re barricaded in for a while, but since we stay for the whole day, it doesn’t matter. Using our RV makes events like this really nice. We can make lunch and dinner, drop off our loot and relax between parades.
Many of the sidewalks in Mobile are in bad condition, but with the barricades in place, it’s possible to roll down the middle of the street. This also makes it easy to get to a good section of the barricade without using a sidewalk. We’ve never found it to be too crowded to get to a good spot or move to a different one. The barricades don’t block the view or interfere with catching beads. Don’t forget to bring a bag.
Once you find your spot, sit back and enjoy! The floats are fantastic – huge flowers, dragons, pirates, fairy tales and other characters. You’ll get more beads than you ever want to keep, plus plastic cups, doubloons, stuffed animals and moon pies. Save some treasure for your favorite pirates and princesses, but excess loot can be donated to Goodwill and reused for next year’s parades. The people on the floats make an extra effort to throw things to anyone in a wheelchair, so be prepared to catch or duck! If possible, go to a night parade when the floats are lit up.
Of course, you can’t visit the south without sampling some barbecue or gumbo, but the food associated with Mardi Gras ( besides moon pies) is King Cake, which is basically a large cinnamon roll formed into a circle with icing and colored granulated sugar sprinkled on top – very sweet! The name comes from a small plastic baby that is baked inside, meant to represent baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby in their piece of cake will have good luck over the next year, but also has to buy the next cake.
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