Mardi Gras hits Mobile, Alabama

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – The port city of Alabama danced and shouted at the main event of its carnival season on Sunday, a quirky party honoring the man credited with helping make the first celebration of the Country’s Mardi Gras what it is – a smaller, toned-down version of New Orleans’ mega-party.

Joe Cain Day, named after a clerk who started Mobile’s modern Mardi Gras by dressing up and parading around town in the late 1860s after the Civil War, came back to life after taking a year off from cause of the pandemic. Walkers tossed MoonPie treats, colorful beads, stuffed animals and plastic cups along a 2-mile course lined with towering oak trees.

Like New Orleans, its much larger Gulf Coast neighbor to the west, Mobile has elaborate and professionally produced parades, and balls where the women wear long dresses and the men dress in tuxedos. . Members of social groups called krewes spend thousands of dollars on costumes and items to throw from floats.

But some of the biggest crowds this season in Mobile are for the Joe Cain Procession, a mix of entertainment and local fable where anyone can participate in a parade for free. The theme for the festivities supposedly comes from Cain himself: “Have a good time but don’t be bad.”

The day began, as always, with a group of veiled women dressed in all-black mourning dresses who depict the “Merry Widows of Cain” gathering at his grave in an old city cemetery, followed by a street party. in the house where he lived near the city center. Drinks in hand, the widows threw beads with signed black medallions – a Mardi Gras top prize in Mobile.

“He is the one who loved me the most!” one of the widows moaned in a mock cry.

Town resident Sean McQuade secured a front row seat for the procession and hung beads, MoonPies and more. Joe Cain Day is better than all the rest of Mardi Gras, even Fat Tuesday, he said.

“It’s everyone’s parade. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, male or female. Everyone is having fun,” McQuade said.

With most of the 2021 Carnival season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a few activities took place in Mobile last year. Yet dozens of people showed up at Joe Cain’s house on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday last year for a smaller-than-normal party.

While the New Orleans celebration dwarfs festivities elsewhere on the coast, Mobile is famous for having started celebrating Mardi Gras in 1703, before New Orleans. More than 40 parades are planned in the Mobile area before the festivities end with Fat Tuesday.

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