In 1703 the first celebration of the American Mardi Gras or the “people’s day” was held in Mobile, Alabama. It is a family event that delights those of all ages from all over the country unlike its counterpart held in New Orleans each year which is geared toward a more mature crowd and not exactly kid friendly. The event which starts the day before Lent on Fat Tuesday lasts for two and a half weeks. During this time downtown Mobile’s streets are full of floats, marching bands and thousands of people.
The riders on the Mardi Gras floats were masks, sequins and stain while throwing items such as candy, doubloons, moon pies and beads into the crowds that line the streets of the city. The parades, buildings and virtually everything else along the parade route and in the city of Mobile is decorated for the festivities.
The first celebration to be considered Mardi Gras in the United States was held during 1699 when Pierre La Moyne declared his camp to be Pointe du Mardi Gras which translates to Mardi Gras Point. This was when the Gulf Coast Region of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi’s Delta were first entered into by the European settlers.
In 1700 French colonist began to celebrate Mardi Gras with group singing and feasting as they missed home. Mobile was officially named as the capital of the French province Louisiana during 1704 and until 1709 there was the celebration of Masque De La Mobile. The French soldiers found Societe de Saint Louise at Fort Lois de la Mobile and Mardi Gras became a holiday for the French colonists to remember their home.
Mobile’s festivities came to a halt with the Civil War which left the city both discouraged and disillusioned. Joseph Stillwell Cain was on a mission to raise Mobile’s spirits on Fat Tuesday, 1866 and put on Chickasaw Indian regalia. Cain dubbed himself Chief Slacabormorinico and climbed onto a decorated coal wagon with a mule to pull it and had a single float parade in the streets of Mobile. This brought Mardi Gras back to life.
A number of mystic societies and traditions surrounding the parades during Mardi Gras where founded by Cain and continue in the current celebrations. The Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday is known as Joe Cain Day and used to remember him. The Joe Cain Procession and parade finds people decorating every possible object since he participated in the activities personally until his death at the age of seventy-two.
The Mardi Gras celebration held in Mobile has undergone numerous changes over the years that included stopping the use of National Guard vehicles and changing the route to no longer include Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Anyone in Mobile, Alabama during the celebration of Mardi Gras should make it a point to go as the festivities are kid-friendly, so you feel comfortable watching all of the festivities with your children.
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