Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mardi Gras - Gulf Coast Style

Last week I had the pleasure of being down on the Gulf coast at Gulf Shores, Alabama for Mardi Gras. I know, the words Mardi Gras conjure images of New Orleans, drunks, and extreme parties but there are other celebrations on the coast that aren't so raucous. Most of the parades in other areas are more family-oriented and quite civilized. I lived in Mobile for years and attended quite a few parades. Mobile boasts some pretty good ones that rival those in New Orleans. I enjoyed it, catching beads and Moon Pies until a fellow lawyer on a float threw an entire box of Moon Pies at me, nearly rendering me unconscious. I went to parades thereafter with more trepidation.

According to Wikipedia, the term "Mardi Gras" is French for Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The tradition is a reference to the last night when people can eat rich, fatty foods before the Lenten Season. In other parts of the world, the season is also celebrated - like in Brazil where it's called Carnival and in the United Kingdom where it's called "Shrove Tuesday." A little history for Kathy is that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, not New Orleans. In 1703 the French colonists in Mobile had just survived a nasty bout with yellow fever so they decided to celebrate. The men painted their faces and acted crazy for a few hours. They had so much fun that they decided to make it an annual event. Mardi Gras in Mobile was transformed into a parade in 1840 by a group known as the Cowbellian de Rakin Society. In 1857 the Mobile "mystics" travelled to New Orleans to help them set up Mardi Gras in the Crescent City. So, you see, Mobile is the true Mardi Gras, though less famous.

Mardi Gras was put on hold during The War of Northern Aggression because Mobile was occupied by Northern troops. In 1866, a man by the name of Joe Cain wanted to bring back the fun. He dressed himself in full Chickasaw Indian regalia, proclaimed himself Chief Stacabamorinico ( I have no clue what this means so don't ask me), climbed into a coal wagon with six other men and road around town. Mardi Gras was reborn. To this day, Mobile still celebrates Joe Cain Day which is a parade for the people. It's fun and a bit more rowdy than the regular Mardi Gras Crewes.

I should also point out that I previously mentioned "Moon Pies." Yes, in Alabama, they are tossed from the floats and are prized more than the lovely, ten-cent beads and doubloons. Prior to 1974, food was thrown from the floats. Most of the time it was Cracker Jacks because it was a cheap alternative to beads. But, people kept getting injured by the boxes so Mobile outlawed them as a throw in 1974. The Maids of Mirth decided to throw Moon Pies and a grand tradition was born. Moon Pies are made in Chattanooga and special ones are made especially for Mardi Gras. They are smaller and have purple, green and gold decorations on their packages. The flavors are also unique - chocolate, banana, coconut, orange, vanilla, strawberry and apple. Yes, I know but they are good. If the pies are not Moon Pies, you have to call them Mardi Gras pies and NOT Moon Pies. You must follow proper etiquette.

So, you see there are lots of things about Mardi Gras in Alabama of which we should be proud. We were the first and we still celebrate. Few people know about this and I thought I would share the parade I attended in Gulf Shores. It was at ten in the morning, attended mostly by families and was quite sedate. Except for that Yankee standing next to me who kept sticking his hand in front of my face, catching the beads that were thrown to me. I almost declared another Civil War when I tried to tell him about proper Mardi Gras decorum - You do not SNATCH beads from another person's hands and live to tell about it. Extreme violence can occur over plastic beads, especially the larger ones. He backed off and hid behind his wife from then on.

This was the first float by the fire department. I was amazed by the smoking house as it went through. You can see one guy in aqua was all aghast over it too.

If any of you have been to Gulf Shores then you know about Lamberts - The Home of Throwed Rolls. This was their float and they actually threw their famous rolls wrapped in celophane. I didn't catch one because the kids were snatching them too quickly. Which reminds me, the next time I go to a Mardi Gras Parade, I am renting a kid - they get more stuff.

The Crewe of Misfits. My kind of guys. They were wearing bicycle helmets with brooms attached on the top like Roman Soldiers.

And what parade on the Coast would be complete without Pirates? This guys was a bit older than what Kathy would have in her book but he was great. He threw me a big necklace (not one of the small ones he's holding in his hands) so I liked him.

The Pirate Ship. I thought Kathy would like this so I put it in. LOL

These guys were from an RV park. I just like the Showboat float. They also threw me a big handful of beads.

The Chamber of Commerce. I liked the float and thought it was very well done.

The King and Queen. Every Mardi Gras parade has to have them.

These were the veterans and they looked grand!

Another Chamber of Commerce Float. I can't remember what city, but it was one of the local communities. I liked the shrimp on front with the jester hat.

Lulu's Float. Lucy Buffet, Jimmy Buffet's sister, owns this restaurant. It's got great food, good live bands and a great atmosphere set on the Intercoastal Waterway. I love the place!

Now, if you have suffered through all these pictures, you deserve a prize. I am giving this lovely COCONUT purse away to some lucky commentator. It is actually a coconut, artfully decorated and with all the shiny, ten-cent appeal of Mardi Gras. I just had to buy it for the blog (the picture was taken on the balcony of my condo - great view!).

So have you ever been to a Mardi Gras, Carnival, Shrove Tuesday or such a celebration? Have you ever caught a Mardi Gras bead or, be still my heart, a Moon Pie? Share your stories with us!


  1. I've never been to Mardi Gras, but I have been to the original Lambert's close to Springfield, MO. Those are some excellent rolls, thrown or not. (I know the traditional term is Throwed Rolls, but I just couldn't do it). The staff also walk around with these huge bowls of fried okra and fried potatoes, and shovel them out to any patron who actually thinks he or she needs more to eat. It's an experience. And the waiters could play in the major leagues, they're so accurate with those rolls.

  2. I love this parade! What amazing photos. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I learn so much about this area and the state of Alabama when I read your blogs. Now I have a list of new things to do while I live here!


  3. Hey Maven Linda! Yeah the waiters can hit a fly at twenty paces with those rolls! The place also gives waaaay too much food so it's a good bargain. I went there once with my mom - she's a picky restaurant eater. This place was just her style because of the home-cooked food. The waiters do carry around those buckets of fried okra and potatoes but they also carry buckets that have surprises. My mother was leaning over to inspect the offering when a stuffed weasel jumped out at her from the bucket. I nearly fell under the table laughing. Needless to say I got in a lot of trouble.

  4. Christine, we are very glad to have you here with us now! Please try to attend a Mobile parade if you ever go. They are done with extreme pageantry and are a lot of fun. I should mention that each Crewe has a ball after the parade and those are fun too!

  5. I haven't been to Mardi Gras stateside, but I attended a Fasching parade in Germany. Same thing -- lots of people, ornate floats, stuff thrown. It was crazy!

    Speaking of Moon Pies, have you ever been to the RC and Moon Pie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee? It's a hoot!


  6. I've never been to Mardi Gras, but am very tempted to go to the one in Mobile. We have kids living in Foley now, so that would make for a very fun and festive time. Thank you for sharing these pictures with us!

    I love the coconut purse. How cute is that!

  7. Cheryl-Thanks for sharing the GREAT pictures with us. I have always heard that the Mobile Mardi Gras was the best and now I have it confirmed!

    Great purse! Good luck to everyone on winning it!

  8. PM, you need to go to at least one Mardi Gras parade! Fun time! No I haven't been to the RC and Moon Pie Festival. When do they have it? I would love to go!!

    Crystal, with the kids so close you should try to go to one next year in Mobile. And living in Foley? Wow, I love the outlet mall there! It has the best stuff! I thought the purse was something different and it can be used for a weapon. LOL

    Hey Stephanie. Maybe next year we can do a blog party at the Gulf and go to some parades!!!

  9. Great pics and history, Cheryl! I love it! Like PM, I've been to a Fasching parade but not Mardi Gras. Definitely need to rectify this. :)

  10. Haven't been to Mardi Gras. Not sure how that happened. I'd love to go to the Gulf next year!

    Confession: I don't like Moon Pies. Of course, I would like to catch some, because that's winning. You don't have to eat what you catch.If you did, well, there would be some sick people right about now. Think of the beads.

  11. Cheryl, believe it or not, we actually haven't been to Foley yet. Just never seems to be enough time to get away that far. BUT I would welcome the opportunity to pay the kids a visit and go to Mardi Gras. I bet the outlet mall there would make a nice shopping adventure.

    The coconut purse as a weapon, huh? Good to know. I had not considered that a viable option for this particular handbag. However, you never know when you might need to knock someone in the head.

  12. The RC and Moon Pie Festival is on June 18 this year. Just Google "RC and Moon Pie Festival 2011" and you'll get the link for the Bell Buckle chamber of commerce. They have deep fried Moon Pies there!

    And I'm with Jean. I don't like Moon Pies either. My mother calls them "cardboard sandwiches."

  13. I'm not a big Moon Pie fan, although I've eaten them. But deep fried? Hmmm...not sure I can go there.

  14. My roommate in college was from Mobile, and I went to Mardi Gras one year. Since she was a pro at this, most of what I remember was zipping in and out of alleyways and buildings in order to maximize the number of floats we could see. She and her husband are members of a Crewe (though I don't remember which) and have a formal ball and other parties during Mardi Gras. I think I need to visit with them again!

  15. Ok Lynn, you and hubby need to go to one parade and enjoy the ambiance and thrill of catching beads. I bet I caught at least a hundred this year - they all went to my sister's fourth grade classes. The kids loved them. I did keep the orange and blue ones - they look great on my tiger. And no Jean, I honestly did not catch any red ones. You know, that is strange. Why weren't there any red ones? That is a matter to be checked out.

    Oh Jean, I don't like Moon Pies either. Like PM said, they're kind of like cardboard. You are right: it's all about winning. That Yankee didn't have a chance. I laughingly gave his children some of my beads, just to show I could be a good sport.

    PM - Deep fried moon pies. I guess the saying is right: if a Southerner can fry it, you can eat it. I recently heard about fried Snickers. Now that I would also like to see and try.

    Yes Crystal, no mugger would get that purse. Imagine swinging a coconut and connecting - surely it would be worse than the Moon Pie box I got hit with.

    Cathy, you really have to go to a ball. It's fun and rowdy - once the champagne starts to flow. I loved the parades and watching all the people go crazy over cheap beads. I must admit, I did.

  16. Blackbeard's ghost! To be sure I could do me worst with a ship such as this and a bearded heathen at my beck and call. ;)

    Thanks for sharing the pirate and pirate ship, Cheryl. :D

    I'm very impressed with the history of Mardi Gras. I did not know it had such an impressive past and a connection to Mobile. I can see why you had such a great time and recommend it so much. :)

    I'm not big on Moon Pies, though my hubby and most of the kids love them.

    Oh, and I just don't get the desire for beads thing with Mardi Gras. I can buy my own beads. Why do I need to expose myself for them? Which I just learned was a BIG deal in New Orleans. Can you explain this? LOL!