Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mardi Gras (-2)- Parades and Floats

Mobile, Alabama, was the capital of French Louisiana before New Orleans was less than a tiny village. Mardi Gras in Alabama is a BIG thing. It started in Mobile in 1703, 15 years before New Orleans was founded.

I have gathered some facts and trivia about Mardi Gras along with some of my pictures to take us through Mardi Gras. (Wikipedia Article: Mardi Gras in Mobile.)

At the heart of the celebration in Mobile are the parades with floats and masked riders and mystic societies. It is far too complex to get into in these articles. One of these years I'm going to get to the museum in Mobile and get it all figured out. Until then I just sit back and enjoy.

Many of the local towns in Baldwin County, the east side of Mobile Bay, also have parades. Some start as early as three weeks before Mardi Gras Tuesday. Dauphin Island, in the western Mobile Bay, starts the whole thing off. Dauphin Island is where the first explorers entered what is now Alabama. For the last 17 days before Lent, there are daily parades in Mobile itself.

From Wikipedia, the information on the floats:
The design, construction and decoration of Mardi Gras floats is a year-round business in Mobile. Several companies along the Gulf Coast do no other work than building floats. The larger floats in Mobile's parades are designed to hold about 15 or 16 adults and their throws. City regulations stipulate length, width and height of floats, to ensure that the floats can safely navigate the narrow streets and tight turns of downtown.

The floats are typically multilevel, with a lower and upper level, and one or two mezzanine stations (typically near the back of the float). The float "captain" typically rides on the upper level, which lets him or her see everyone on the float. For floats in night-time parades, the structures are wired for lighting, and a portable generator is towed behind the float to provide power. Each float also contains some type of portable restroom facilities. Although from the street, a Mardi Gras float might look like a dainty, flimsy contraption, the reality is that they are quite sturdily built and are capable of withstanding a good rocking by the riders.
Different societies and organizations address the different themes each year. Since I have not yet been to a parade in Mobile (maybe next year?) I haven't seen any of their traditional floats in their home base and themes which include:
  • Order of Myths Emblem: Folly chasing Death around the broken pillar of life.
  • Knights of Revelry Emblem: Folly dancing in the goblet of life.
  • Infant Mystics Emblem: A black cat atop a cotton bale, the foundation of Mobile's antebellum wealth
  • Mystics of Time's Vernadean: A giant, rolling, fire and smoke-breathing dragon float
  • Mystic Stripers Society: Two large 40-foot-long (12 m) emblem floats, one a ferocious and "strong" Tiger, another a sleek and "fast" Zebra.
  • Crewe of Columbus' Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria: Three floats built to resemble Columbus' famed ships.
  • Order of Polka Dots: Famed emblem featuring three winged sons of Pegasus bearing the Golden Chariot of the Gypsy Queen through rainbow enveloped clouds
  • Order of Inca Messengers and Sun Worshippers: Some of Mobile's largest moving structures.
  • Conde Cavaliers Emblem: Swashbuckler points his sword right at Mobile.
  • Comic Cowboys: Series of satirical comments on current events, locally and nationally.
  • Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA) The Mollies
Here are some pictures from a couple years ago in Orange Beach, Fairhope, and Gulf Shores:

[Note: It was VERY cold that Mardi Gras Tuesday in Gulf Shores. Air temp was 38 with a wind chill of 22. Even this Minnesotan was cold!]

One thing that has not yet been mentioned- throws.
With this last picture for today, we will hold onto the throws until tomorrow.

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