It is that time of the year again: Mardi Gras. On a campus with numerous students from either side of Mississippi, the debate wakes from its hibernation: which Mardi Gras is better? When asking which city hosts the better Mardi Gras, Mobile is clearly the answer, and not just because Mobile is the celebration’s actual birthplace.
Like Southern sweet tea, Mardi Gras in Mobile is steeped in tradition. Mobile created the first mystic societies, which New Orleans reincarnated as “krewes.” Depending on which myth you believe, the Comic Cowboys introduced the idea of “moon pies” in the 1950s, or the Maids of Mirth introduced the pies in the 70s. On the Sunday before Fat Tuesday, Mobile unites to celebrate Joe Cain Day and the People’s Parade. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Despite this, Mobile Mardi Gras is not just tradition, but also community.
Does New Orleans have a Corporal Jack Bishop? Only retiring recently, Bishop stood on Jackson Street for over 20 years of Mardi Gras. He was tasked with managing the motorcyclist community that gathers on Jackson Street every year. Both young and old, the riders’ bodies creak with the sound of crisp leather. The parade lights reflect on polished paint and shining chrome engines. In the air above the crowd, the sound of purring Harley-Davidsons is something like a lullaby.
Or what about Pollman’s Bakery on Broad Street? Serving Mobile for over 100 years, the bakery offers a reprieve from the crowds; however, it’s sometimes just as busy inside. Regardless, imagine biting into the sugar deliciousness of a Mardi Gras themed donut while watching the People’s Parade travel down Broad Street.
Furthermore, New Orleans can’t brag about the Mystics of Time and their famous trio of smoke-breathing dragons: Vernadean, her daughter Verna, and son Dean. The dragon Vernadean made her first appearance in the Mystics’ first parade in 1948. Few other experiences rival the goosebumps from watching the self-propelled dragons roam downtown.
Mardi Gras in Mobile will always hold a certain place in my heart. When I was younger, my father attached a plastic chair to the top of a transportable ladder. Every year, we lugged the ladder down Royal Street to set up camp in front of Veet’s Bar. Even now, the same people at Veet’s Bar from 2002 remember us in 2019.
I was a trendsetter even in elementary school because ladders gradually appeared all over downtown Mobile. When I reminisce with my dad, I am always reminded of our fun times together during Mardi Gras. Some of my favorite memories include sitting on the top of my ladder and catching a variety of treasures: beads, stuffed animals and moon pies.
So whether you spend Mardi Gras on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, or you stand in front of Veet’s Bar on Mobile’s Royal Street, embrace the moment before both cities are lulled back into normalcy. Few things rival spending time with our friends and family.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
photo courtesy Alabama.com