This is a running blog of Mardi Gras-related news items from the Mobile area and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast:
Cruise Terminal No Longer an Option for MG Balls April 15, 2016 - While the Civic Center – for now – remains available for Mardi Gras balls, a different location has been taken off the table. Mobile Mask has learned that the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal will no longer be available for Mardi Gras balls or other social events, due to the return of a Carnival Cruise Line ship to Mobile.
“We’re just not going to be able to do it,” cruise terminal director Sheila Gurganus said. “I wish we could do it. It was fun having them here.” Even if a ball were held while the ship is at sea, Gurganus said, “our parking will be filled up.”
During the 2016 Mardi Gras season, the cruise terminal hosted seven Mardi Gras balls, as well as the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association’s New Year’s Eve party. Gurganas said all of the groups that previously held balls there have been made aware of the situation.
It’s not yet clear where all of those organizations will go in 2017, but the February 11 Joy of Life Mardi Gras Ball, which benefits St. Jude’s, has already made arrangements with Fort Whiting.
The other balls held at the cruise terminal in 2016 were Don Donas, Moonlight Maidens of Mobile, Mobile Mystical Ladies, Le Krewe de Bienville, the Prichard Carnival Association, and the Crewe of Columbus Queen's Ball.
The cruise terminal, opened in late 20014, became a location for small Mardi Gras balls after Carnival left Mobile in October 2011. In 2012, the terminal hosted one ball – Le Krewe de Bienville – and the number has grown since then.
Other efforts to put the $20 million cruise terminal to some use in the absence of an actual cruise ship have included wedding receptions, proms, and large meetings. Carnival will base the cruise ship Fantasy, the oldest vessel in the company’s fleet, out of Mobile for at least 13 months, starting with the first trip on November 9.
So far, Mobile has had Carnival Holiday and Carnival Elation based here. Carnival Fantasy was slated to be here in 2009, but Elation was brought in, and Fantasy was sent to Charleston, S.C.
Obviously having the terminal operate for a cruise ship is far more lucrative and important than providing an alternative to small Mardi Gras groups, but those groups will have to hunt down new locations.
BREAKING Last-Minute Route and Time Changes Confirmed January 20, 2016: Mobile Mask has confirmed with Mobile Police that last-minute route and time changes have been made, affecting the Lundi Gras night parades and the last parade of the season.
Route F, being used only by the Infant Mystics and the Order of Doves on Lundi Gras night (Jan. 8) has changed yet again. The route was created last year at the request of the IMs and changed radically earlier this year, again at the request of the IMS.
This new, new, new route, which has only emerged in the last couple of days, will not end at Government and Broad as the current maps show. Instead it will end at the Civic Center, turning down Claiborne after circling Bienville Square. That cuts off Government from Claiborne to Broad Street during the return trip.
The route still starts near the new IM barn and den at Conti and Broad. That will surely cause some logistical challenges as bands and other units in the IM and OOD parades try to get their vehicles from the starting point to the end point.
Also, the IMs have changed their start time again from 7 back to 6:30. 2015 was the first year the IMs intended to start at 7 but because of weather, they had to start at the standard time of 6:30. This year, they scheduled themselves again for 7, but changed back to 6:30 when the route change was made, according to police.
The other major change is to route C, which is only used by the Order of Myths. At the group's request, some changes were made to that route this year. Now, because of construction at Mardi Gras park, the parade will not go all the way down to Royal on Government and then turn up Royal on its return trip.
Instead, the parade will go back the way it came - up Conception from Government, right on St. Francis, left on Royal. It actually makes the new Route C look a little more like the old Route C.
Mobile Mask has already changed the parade schedule on its web site and will replace the old route maps by Monday. Changes to the Mobile Mask app will take longer and may or may not go through in time. We will send out notifications when those changes are made.
BREAKING Stimpson Gives Civic Center Two More Years of Life November 24, 2015: Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced today that the Mobile Civic Center will not be shut down on April 24, 2016. He has pushed that closing date to March 1, 2018, which will give the 15 Mardi Gras mystic societies that hold their balls in that facility two more years to do so.
Here's the full text of Stimpson's statement:
"In order to develop and deliver to the citizens of Mobile the best plan possible for the redevelopment of the Civic Center complex, I am delaying the closure until March 1, 2018. The reason for this decision is simply that we need more time to get this right, and we have too much at stake to rush it.
"(In) January, my Administration released a notional schedule for the redevelopment of the Mobile Civic Center, knowing that the deadline would create action. Because of the impending deadline, Mardi Gras organizations looked out over the next five years and defined their challenges. Our performing arts community also collaborated in identifying their needs. And, SMG stepped up utilization of the facility, reducing the building’s financial loss.
"Over the past year, we embarked on major pursuits and have delivered measured results that have also affected this self-imposed time frame, such as passing the Map for Mobile and the 2016 Capital Improvement Plan, as well as announcing Carnival Cruise Lines’ return to Mobile. We learned from these successes that collaboration is critical to finding the correct pathway.
"Following the success of Map for Mobile, the redevelopment of the Civic Center complex will be a very public process, and it is our expectation that stakeholders, developers and the public will be willing to share ideas about what we need as a community.
"We project that the time frame to deliver this roadmap will be approximately two years. Effective immediately, we are asking SMG to grant scheduling requests up until March 1, 2018, which is after the 2018 Mardi Gras festivities."
Mardi Gras Day in 2018 will be February 13. It's also important to note that 2018 will be the sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary of organized Mardi Gras in Mobile.
Stimpson Discusses Civic Center, Report October 16, 2015: In an interview today with Mobile Mask, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he does believe that Mardi Gras is deserving of some kind of capital investment by the city, he’s just not sure how much that investment should be.
And he said that while the city is “in conversations” with developers, there are no proposals on the table to do anything with the Civic Center.
The mayor gave some interviews to news outlets today after Mobile Mask published a story about a report developed and released by a task force of mystic society leaders. That report identified and examined the challenges that would be created for several Mardi Gras balls if Stimpson closes the Civic Center on April 24, 2016, as he said he would.
“It’s a very well-written report,” Stimpson said. “It’s well-thought-out and identifies the issues.”
Unlike the task force, though, Stimpson said he does not believe any of those issues are insurmountable.
The nine-member task force looked solely at the Convention Center as the only location downtown that could accommodate the city’s largest Mardi Gras balls. However, the report pointed out, there are a few nights when the Convention Center simply isn’t available because other organizations already have it booked.
“I don’t know that we can’t come up with other facilities to work out those conflicts,” Stimpson said.
The task force also pointed out a number of ways that the Convention Center is unsuitable for elaborate tableaus. “It may be that the acoustics are not that good, but I think that can be addressed,” Stimpson said.
The mayor did take issue with the task force’s stance that no mystic society should have to pay more to stage a ball than they currently do just because they can’t use the Civic Center anymore. “Oh, but they expect the city to keep on losing money on a facility that’s outdated,” he said.
Mobile Mask posed this question: Since study after study says that Mardi Gras is the city’s leading asset as a sales tool – our main attraction if you will. Doesn’t it seem reasonable, then, for the city to make a capital investment in this event, beyond the day-to-day expenses of security and cleanup?
“Yes,” was his answer. After a pause, he said, “Past yes, the question remains what is that investment? Just how much is Mardi Gras worth to us? I don’t know the answer.”
The mayor contends that the Civic Center, which was opened in 1964, is old and too costly to maintain. Most people would not argue with that assessment, but the argument seems to center on whether the Civic Center should be refurbished or done away with.
Stimpson made it clear in January that his plan was to entertain proposals from private developers to turn the property into living and/or retail space. By the winter or spring, he expected to award a contract and shut down the Civic Center on April 24.
That timetable, however, has not held so far, and Stimpson said no proposals have been made yet.
Stimpson also said that he can’t do all of that on his own, that the City Council will have to be brought into the process at some point.
“This is not just what I want,” Stimpson said. “This has to be something that’s in the best interest of the whole city, and it’s going to take input from council and many others.”
Task Force Releases Civic Center Report October 16, 2015: Leaders of the Mobile Mardi Gras community have stepped firmly into the fray over the Civic Center, issuing a report on the challenges they would encounter if the facility is shut down.
The report, completed in mid-August and delivered to Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office, was put together by a task force of nine prominent members of mystic societies. The group itself was convened by the immediate past president of the Mobile Mardi Gras Parading Association.
George Talbot, the mayor’s senior director of communications and external affairs released this statement to Mobile Mask today: “We have received a copy of the report and will include it as part of our ongoing review. We are working hard to achieve a successful outcome for all concerned. In this case, the administration must balance the needs those who use the Civic Center with our responsibility to the taxpayer.
"The fact is the Civic Center is an aging, underutilized structure with tremendous maintenance costs that will only increase in time. Sitting by and losing thousands of dollars each day is simply not an option. That said, we are committed to finding a winning solution and welcome the support of anyone willing to join us in that effort."
Wednesday night, the immediate past president distributed copies of the report to members of the Parading Association.
This marks the first united effort by the Mardi Gras community to address the future of the facility that has been the home of numerous Carnival balls since it opened in 1964.
The past president told the Parading Association that the task force based its report on Stimpson’s stated goal – to close the Civic Center in April 2016. From there, the task force enumerated the problems that closure would create for the mystic societies.
When Stimpson ran for office in 2012, the expense of running the Civic Center was repeatedly at the top of his list of things he wanted to change. By 2014, he said it was his plan to sell the property to a private developer, and in January of this year, he announced that the facility would be shuttered on April 24, 2016, with the hope that such a developer will have come forward.
It has not been made entirely clear whether Stimpson can do all of that without approval from City Council.
According to the task force report, 15 mystic societies hold their balls in the Civic Center. The only alternate downtown location for most of those groups would be the Mobile Convention Center, so the task force focused on the possibility of moving those balls to the Convention Center.
The report stated that while some issues the task force identified could be “easily remedied if processes are modified,” still other issues “may not have a positive solution.”
First and foremost, the report stated, scheduling alone would prevent between four and six mystic societies a year from using the Convention Center, including two of the biggest balls of the year: the Crewe of Columbus and the Mystics of Time, which have between 4,000 and 5,500 attendees.
There simply is nowhere for those groups to go, the report said. And cutting down on the size of the balls is not an option, according to the report, because that would cause a reduction in invitation revenue.
In its list of goals, the task force stated that no mystic society should have to pay more to use the Convention Center than it did to use the Civic Center, and many of the conflicts in the report involve that point.
For example, according to the report, the Civic Center charges a nominal catering-buyout fee, whereas the Convention Center’s buyout is based on the number of attendees. Switching to the Convention Center’s pricing would cause a price increase of about $10,000 for a ball with 2,000 attendees, a cost that would be “beyond the reach” of the mystic societies, the report said.
The report also brought up concerns with parking, security, and the Convention Center’s physical inability to properly stage an elaborate ball or to host so many balls in a row.
The report pointed out that mystic society members account for roughly 1,000 hotel rooms per night during the ball season, and that Mardi Gras itself generates more than $20 million in tax revenue in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
“This is not just about the big groups that have their balls at the Civic Center,” the immediate past president told the Parading Association Wednesday night. “I think there’s going to be an impact on everyone.”
He said that Stimpson’s office has indicated someone will appear before the Parading Association at its November meeting to discuss the points made by the report. Talbot confirmed that Chief of Staff Colby Cooper plans to be there.
Dauphin Island Will Go Back to Two Parades in 2016 August 13, 2015: The Island Mystics will be back in 2016, according to one of the Dauphin Island group's organizers. The Island Mystics did not parade in 2015 due to lack of interest by members. However, the group met recently and decided to put things back together for Mardi Gras 2016. They will parade on January 16 at 1 p.m. on their usual route on Bienville Boulevard, starting at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. The Mystics had already notified Town Hall that they were planning to parade that day, even before the membership made the final decision. The group member who spoke to Mobile Mask said the parade will certainly be modest - just four floats and five additional units, though more could be added. Incorporated in January 1992, the Island Mystics was the first Mardi Gras parading society to form on Dauphin Island and chose the Saturday before Mobile's Conde Cavaliers as the date for its parade and ball. The second group, the Krewe de la Dauphine, was also founded in 1992 and chose the Saturday before the Island Mystics as its parading day. Mardi Gras is on the early side this coming year, and KDLD will roll on January 9.
Hotel's Mardi Gras Murals Will Not Be Rescued July 10, 2015: The 2015 edition of Mobile Mask magazine included a story about the seven Mardi Gras murals in the restaurant of the Admiral Semmes Hotel. The hotel was purchased in the last year or so by Thrash Development, which has been doing a major renovation of the property. The 1991 murals by artist Dee Brown, each of them about 3 feet by 6 feet, were not part of the new design of the hotel. As reported in the Mask story, the plan was to remove the murals somehow and donate them to the Mobile Carnival Museum. Since that story was published, a private collector made an offer to Thrash, and the plan then became to sell the murals to that person. But the collector eventually backed down, so Thrash again turned to the Carnival Museum. Executive Director Judi Gulledge told Mobile Mask today that after having several experts examine the murals, it's been determined that they simply can't be saved without major expense - in the neighborhood of $10,000. The murals were painted on huge panes of glass, Gulledge said, and equally huge mirrors were cemented onto the back of them, facing the ballroom next door to the restaurant. To complicate matters even more, heavy wood frames were cemented around each mural-mirror sandwich. It's impossible to separate mural from mirror without destroying both, Gulledge said, and to remove the entire thing intact would take special equipment and lots of money. Even then, each framed sandwich would weigh in excess of 200 pounds, making display anywhere else a real hardship. Gulledge said she has informed the museum board that she has exhausted all of the possibilities and just does not see any way for them to save the murals. She emphasized that the Admiral Semmes has delayed demolition of that wall while she investigated the possibilities. But now, demolition is expected to proceed over the next week or so, and the murals will simply be lost in that process.
Mystics of Time Float Will Lead Airbus Procession June 12, 2015: On Father's Day, June 21, the parts of the very first Airbus A320 to be constructed in Mobile will convoy from the port terminal to Brookley with the Mystics of Time's title float leading the way. Airbus wanted to give this historic occasion a bit of Mardi Gras flair, so the dragon float (not Vernadean or her offspring) will precede five giant flatbed trucks carrying the major components of the first Airbus plane to be assembled in the U.S. Four costumed and masked MOT officers will be aboard the float, as will the Excelsior Band, Mayor Sandy Stimpson, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, members of the Mobile City Council, and members of the Mobile County Commission, according to an MOT spokesman. Unlike Mardi Gras, however, there will be no throws coming off the float. The trucks, according to Airbus Americas Director of Economic and Community Development Michelle Hurdle, will proceed "in order," with the nose section of the plane on the first truck, and the tail section on the last. The three trucks in between will carry the two wings and the fuselage. The route of the procession will start on Ezra Trice Boulevard, but public viewing areas will essentially be limited to a section of Broad Street just behind Fort Whiting and 15th Street between Broad and Broad. To see a map of the route, including suggested parking areas, click here. The parade is expected to start at 2:20 p.m. that Sunday and will take about 45 minutes to complete, Hurdle said. She confirmed that the airplane parts - which are on their way by ship from Germany - will be quite visible on the trucks. An additional 40 containers of smaller airplane parts will not be part of the official procession.
2015 Champions of the Street Awards Delivered March 12, 2015: The marching bands of three Mobile County high schools claimed the first- second- and third-place awards in the Mystics of Time third annual Champions of the Street competition.
The first-place trophy was presented today to the Vigor High School marching band by several costumed members of the Mystics of Time Mardi Gras mystic society. The Vigor Wolves band also received a check for $500, the first pick of spots in next year’s MOT parade, and a banner declaring them to be this year’s winner. Band Director Epeval Taylor held the trophy over his head while his students applauded and cheered. To see a photo album from that presentation at Vigor, click here. Earlier this week, members of the MOT presented the second-place trophy and a check for $300 to the Baker High School Hornets marching band. Earlier that same day, they presented the third-place trophy and a check for $200 to the Williamson High School Lions band. Both schools also get automatic invitations to be in next year’s MOT parade. To see a photo album of the MOT visit to Baker and Williamson, click here. The Champions of the Street competition was devised by the Mystics of Time to get all bands in the parade to play their best, as well as attract new bands from outside the area. This year, 12 bands were included in the competition. The first competition was won by three Mobile County schools, but in 2014, schools from outside Mobile claimed second and third place. Baker – the only school to place all three years – won the competition in 2014. According to the MOT member who coordinates the competition, 10 bands from 6A and 7A high schools located from Louisiana to Florida have already signed up for the 2016 parade, which will be held on February 6. The parade itself is the competition. Each participating school provides one judge, who stands somewhere on the parade route and rates each passing band. The lowest and highest scores are tossed out, and the winners are determined from the remaining scores.
Live Parade Broadcasts Start Tonight on UTV 44 February 5, 2015: Starting tonight with the Order of Polka Dots, Local 15 will be live broadcasting Mardi Gras parades on its sister station, UTV 44. The roster this year will be night parades that are held on weekdays, tonight through Lundi Gras. Darwin Singleton will host the broadcasts, along with Colton Bradford of 95KSJ radio. The actual start time of the broadcast has been a little squishy, with the station now posting the time as 6:45 p.m., though Lundi Gras will have a start time closer to 7 p.m., since those parades will start later. Darwin has emphasized that this is something of an experiment and has urged folks to tune in if, for no other reason, than to see what happens, since they’ll be making it up as they go along. He told the Mobile Mardi Gras Parading Society late last year that all of this was hastily put together by a new producer who is from New Orleans and “gets” Mardi Gras. Darwin also said they won’t be covering weekend parades this year because they simply can’t afford the overtime, but the roster could grow by next year, depending on results. During the broadcasts, Darwin and Colton will be joined by special guests. For example, Steve Joynt, editor and publisher of Mobile Mask, is schedule to be with them for the entire broadcast on February 10 for the Order of LaShe’s parade. The broadcast location will be a large second-story balcony at 202 Government Street, directly across from Government Plaza. Given the location, the parades will not reach them until about 7:15 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. on Lundi Gras. And each broadcast will wrap up, quite simply, after the parade has passed their location. Here is the list of parades they will be broadcasting:
• February 5: Order of Polka Dots
• February 6: Order of Inca
• February 9: Order of Venus
• February 10: Order of LaShe’s
• February 12: Mystic Stripers Society
• February 13: Crewe of Columbus
• February 16 (Lundi Gras): Infant Mystics and Order of Doves
Stimpson Elevates the Profile of Mobile's Mardi Gras January 27, 2015: Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson allowed himself to be harnessed up and raised about 50 feet into the air to inaugurate a series of billboards proclaiming this to be the cradle of American Mardi Gras. The last sign to go up, 28 feet wide by 7 feet high, was installed today on the marquee of the Mobile Civic Center, which looms just above the westbound lanes of Interstate 10.
Stimpson climbed aboard the Victor Signs cherry picker, along with city spokesman George Talbot, to ride up into the bright afternoon sunshine and shoot a video right in front the sign, which reads, “Welcome to Mobile, Birthplace of Mardi Gras.”
In the video, Simpson recounted back on the ground, he said, “I’m standing about 50 feet in the air in front a brand new sign staking claim to Mobile being the birthplace of Mardi Gras. When you think about the history of Mobile, there are a lot of things that made us a great city, and Mardi Gras is certainly one of those. You look at the interstate highway behind me, you know it’s going to New Orleans. Now we know they have a great time over there, but I want Mayor Landrieu and them to know that this was the birthplace of Mardi Gras.”
Calling out Mitch Landrieu by name, Stimpson said, was not exactly a challenge, but “we want New Orleans to know we are the birthplace. We’re just sending a message: It’s Mardi Gras season, and we’re getting started just like they are.”
The fact that the sign was affixed just under the words “Mobile Civic Center” was not an attempt to make a statement about that facility, the mayor said. Over the last several weeks, the future of the aged Civic Center has been a topic of conversation among the Mardi Gras groups that hold their balls there. In a meeting with the presidents of those organizations a few months ago, Stimpson said they should start thinking about alternate locations because the Civic Center won’t be around forever. In fact, his office plans to begin hearing serious proposals from developers who want to tear down the facility to build something else.
“The thought that goes through my mind is that there will be a lot of public conversation about this,” Stimpson said today. “We’re not going to try to suppress anybody’s thoughts or ideas. It’s open for all ideas. When I think about putting an RFP (Request For Proposal) out and what’s been going on with this property, one of the things that you can say is we have presently using this facility our symphony, our opera, our ballet. We also have these Mardi Gras organizations having their parties – those are things we really don’t want to give up, so what is your idea? What can replace it? So we’ll just see what they come up with.”
The sign at the Civic Center is not the only one touting Mobile Mardi Gras. Three other designs, one of which is shown here, have been put up on billboards along Interstates 10 and 65. Talbot said he expects to have the video he shot of Stimpson posted on the city’s web site by Wednesday.
To see a gallery of photos by Mobile Mask of Stimpson and Talbot making the video, go to the Mask's Facebook page by clicking here.
Single-Serving Ways to Get Your King Cake Fix January 26, 2015: Unless you have a hungry horde to feed, buying a whole king cake can be a commitment. Sometimes all you want is a taste, a little king cake flavor to Mardi Gras-up your busy day.
Luckily, there’s plenty of places around Mobile where you can get such a thing, and the Mask has put a few of them together.
• Probably the newest take on king cake to hit the area is from Frios Gourmet Pops. Based in Gadsden, Frios makes all-natural frozen treats on a stick, and they’ve created a purple, green, and gold king cake pop just for this area. (They also have a Moon Pie pop.) Frios Pops are available at the Windmill Market in Fairhope and Urban Emporium on Dauphin Street. Or they can deliver a pack of them – just call Kari at 251-581-1909.
• Sticking with cold treats, you can’t beat the king cake ice cream at Cammie’s Old Dutch on Old Shell Road. Get it in a cone or let them pack a quart or half gallon for you. It’s got real king cake in it, and it’s oh-so-creamy. Cammie’s also has three kinds of Moon Pie ice cream: chocolate, banana, and salted caramel moon pie.
• Going from cold to hot: You won’t find this on the menu board at Starbucks, but at any Mobile location, they will make you a king cake latte for the asking. Not kidding. It really does taste like a king cake.
• If you’re near the Oakleigh Garden District, you should stop at Cream and Sugar Café and try their king cake flavored cake balls. They’re elegant looking and really tasty. If one isn’t enough, they can pack you a box of six or 12 to go.
• And if you’re on Dauphin Island, make sure you go by the Lighthouse Bakery. In addition to amazing king cakes, they have something they call a mini king cake. Mrs. Mask says it’s awful big to be mini - kind of like jumbo shrimp. But it is gooey and yummy and makes a heck of a breakfast.
• This next one is a Mobile Mask favorite, and, honestly, they don’t advertise it much – the king cake doughnut at Krispy Kreme. It’s their glazed doughnut with cinnamon mixed into the batter. And it’s covered with purple, green, and gold sugar and a drizzle of white icing. Take a dozen to the office!
• If it’s classic king cake you want, though, both Rouses and Atlanta Bread offer single servings of their crowd-pleasing cakes. Get a slice in a little clamshell box, and, buddy, you've got a snack that goes anywhere.
James B. Martin III, a Founding Member of Inca January 24, 2015: The Order of Inca lost one of its four founding members this weekend. James B. Martin III, the organization’s first emblem and first full-term president, died Friday at the age of 82. “It’s a huge loss for us,” the current Inca president said. “He was a great friend to everybody.” According to one of the other founders of the group, the four young men, all in their 20s, met in the kitchen of Martin’s house in 1955 to hash out the first details of what would become the Order of Inca. Martin was a 1951 graduate of McGill Institute and a Korean War veteran. He retired from International Paper after 35 years. Survivors include three sons, one daughter, and 10 grandchildren. Funeral services will be held at the Radney Funeral Home chapel on Dauphin Street, Tuesday, January 27, at 10 a.m. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Monday, January 26, from 5 to 8 p.m. Interment will be in Magnolia Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society. Condolences can be offered at www.radneyfuneralhome-mobile.com
Cain Day Revelers Will Get Two Joes: Plain and Chief January 20, 2015: Clearly there have been changes made to the Joe Cain Procession for this year, and another of those changes was announced today by Jim Baldwin, Parade Chairman of the Joe Cain Parading Society: Revelers will get not one but two versions of Joe Cain depicted in the Procession this year. Thomas Watts, 28, will ride a wagon near the front of the Procession dressed as Citizen Joe Cain, if you will. In black wig, mustache, period clothing, mimicking the often-printed photograph shown here, Watts will greet the crowd as Joe Cain. Watts, it was pointed out, is the great-grandson of Louis Diemert, who was something of a Mobile Mardi Gras tradition himself. From the 1920s through the 1950s, Diemert delighted crowds with his elaborate costumes, depicting characters and people from Scarlett O'Hara to Neville Chamberlain. Since the Joe Cain Procession began in 1967, Cain's Mardi Gras alter-ego, Chief Slacabamarinico, has led the festivities. As he has for the last 29 years, Wayne Dean Sr. will portray Chief Slac, but this time he will be riding his wagon much farther back in the Procession. This is all the result of a split between the Parading Society and the Joe Cain Marching Society, after the two sides could not agree on several topics. The Marching Society - composed solely of foot marchers, including the Wild Mauvillians, DSD, and The Mistresses of Joe Cain - obtained its own parading permit this year and will conduct its own promenade right behind the floats of the Joe Cain Parading Society. Wayne Dean stated that he would lead the Marching Society, not the Parading Society. So the Parading Society, "out of respect for Wayne," Baldwin said, has someone portraying Cain, rather than "an imposter Chief Slac." Both organizations said that their main concern at this point is putting on a good show for the revelers on one of the most popular and certainly the most uniquely Mobilian day on the Carnival calendar. It's much like divorced parents both attending a child's wedding, promising to get along for the day for the sake of the newlyweds. Both organizations are asking for foot paraders in their portions of the Procession, and Mobile Mask will soon post information on how to be a walker in the Procession, either at the front or the back.
Signing Events for New Mobile Mardi Gras Book January 15, 2015: The Mobile Carnival Museum will host the kickoff event for a new book titled "Mardi Gras in Mobile" on Saturday, January 17. The book is by renowned Mobile architect, L. Craig Roberts, and it's 160 pages, plus 16 pages of color photos (several of them proudly contributed by Mobile Mask). Published by The History Press of Charleston, S.C., the book retails for $21.99. Roberts volunteers as a docent at the Carnival Museum and has been a highly sought public speaker on the subject of Mardi Gras, as well as Mobile architecture. The book officially went on sale January 12 and is available through Amazon and all Mobile-area bookstores, including Bienville Books in downtown Mobile and Page & Palette in Fairhope. Amazingly, this is the first comprehensive look at Mobile's Carnival traditions to come along in the last 20 years, and plenty has changed in that time. Visitors to Mobile, as well as Mardi Gras veterans will find valuable information in "Mardi Gras in Mobile." Saturday's book launch and signing will be held from 2 until 4 p.m. at the Carnival Museum, 355 Government Street in downtown Mobile. Other signing events include:
• January 21, 4-6 p.m., fundraiser and book signing, Mobile Ballet, 4351 Downtowner Loop North, Mobile
• January 22, 6:30 p.m., lecture and book signing, Ben May Main Library, 700 Government Street, Mobile
• January 25, 3 p.m., lecture and book signing, Mobile Museum of Art, 4850 Museum Drive, Mobile
• February 4, 10:30 a.m., Winter Wednesday Program, Bellingrath Gardens & Home, 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road, Theodore
• February 7, 9-10:30 a.m., book signing, Carpe Diem Coffee & Tea, 4072 Old Shell Road, Mobile
• February 7, 2-4 p.m., talk and book signing, Page & Palette, 32 South Section Street, Fairhope
Listen to the Mask's 2015 Commercial From 92 ZEW January 8, 2015: For the third year in a row, Mobile Mask is advertising on 92 ZEW radio, Mobile's only independently own station. The 2013 ad featured Joe Cain, back from the dead. Last year's ad had the voice of Vernadean the dragon. You can find MP3 files of both of those ads in the Mask's Mardi Gras News Archive. (Click here for the archive.) This year's ad features Folly. Give a listen here:
Mobile Mask Feature Story Changes Tale of Joe Cain January 6, 2015: The following is a news release issued today by Mobile Mask: MOBILE, Ala. – The 2015 issue of Mobile Mask magazine, which went on sale today, includes two stories about Joe Cain – the patron saint of Mobile Mardi Gras – that will forever change the way his story is told.
According to the often-repeated tale, Joe ushered in the era of modern Mardi Gras by parading through the streets of Mobile in 1866 and again in 1867 in the guise of a fictional Indian chief. Then in 1868, everyone agrees, the newly formed Order of Myths joined Joe on Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras was well on its way.
After years of research, however, Mobile Mask editor and publisher Steve Joynt has determined that Joe did not parade through the streets of Mobile on Mardi Gras Day in 1866 or even 1867. In fact, Joe was in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day 1867.
Joe and the Lost Cause Minstrels, according to Joynt’s article in Mobile Mask, first rolled through the streets of Mobile on Mardi Gras Day 1868, just a few hours before the first-ever OOM parade, not two years before.
About the Mobile Mask article, David E. Alsobrook, director of the History Museum of Mobile, wrote, "In this lively, meticulously researched essay, Steve Joynt slices through the thicket of legend and lore surrounding Mobile's own Joseph Stillwell Cain, the founder of the Port City's modern Mardi Gras. While debunking Cain's recollection of precisely when he and his ragged coterie of Lost Cause Minstrels paraded through the streets of Mobile, Joynt faithfully memorializes the puckish spirit of Chief Slacabamorinico that has been passed down to us today.
“Dedicated Mardi Gras aficionados, historians, folklorists, and casual readers will find much to savor in Joynt's work, which above all else is a significant contribution to the rich literature on the origins of Carnival on the Gulf Coast."
And Wayne Dean Sr., a local Mardi Gras historian who has depicted Chief Slac in the Joe Cain Procession for going on 30 years now, wrote, “Over time, we create stories based on, as Martin Johnson was fond of saying, ‘sometimes fact, sometimes fiction or a combination of the two.’ Research at times confirms our stories, debunks them or brings more questions. Mobile Mask has brought another element of fact into the already larger-than-life story of Joe Cain."
In addition to the question of the year Joe Cain first paraded, Mobile Mask addresses several other aspects of the prevailing versions of Joe’s story, including whether or not he was a Confederate veteran and whether or not he was the OOM’s first Folly to chase Death around the broken column.
Joynt will be delivering a presentation on his findings during the Learning Lunch program at the History Museum of Mobile, noon, January 14.
Marcus Johnson, Founder, Bay City Brass Band December 24, 2014: Marcus Johnson, founder and director of Bay City Brass Band, is being remembered as a master musician, keeper of the brass band flame, and mentor to dozens of aspiring horn players. Marcus died December 20, 2014, just four days before his 44th birthday. Marcus grew up in Mobile and started playing tuba in middle school, just like his three brothers. After college, he joined Mobile Olympia Brass Band, a fixture in south Alabama Mardi Gras parades. “He taught himself to play trombone and piano,” said George “Mac” McIntosh, manager of Olympia. “I’ve even seen him play drums. He was a great musician.”
After four years with Olympia, Marcus decided to start his own band for younger players. “I used to think you had to be old to be in a brass band,” Marcus said in an interview for public radio several years ago. He formed the Bay City Brass Band in 1997, and it quickly became a presence in local Mardi Gras parades. The band’s style, he said in the interview, was imported directly from New Orleans. “I get my knowledge from studying the New Orleans sound,” he said. “They have so many brass bands there, it’s a way of life, and I wanted to bring some of that to Mobile.”
In 2006, Marcus was selected to participate in the Community Scholars Institute. He was also awarded a continuing grant under the Alabama Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program, administered by the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture. “The master artists in the Apprenticeship Program represent some of Alabama’s true cultural treasures,” according to the Center.
Tony Covin of Mobile remembers Marcus as a musical mentor to his 10-year-old, trumpet-playing son, Aaron. Two years ago, Tony Covin said, Aaron’s grandmother “bought him a Bay City Brass Band CD from Toomey's. Every Sunday morning, he and I would put on some jazz CDs and listen to them. Bay City Brass was one of his favorites. At that time, he was playing in the Texas Street marching band. One Mardi Gras parade, we were lining up to start, and he spotted Mr. Johnson and the Bay City Brass Band. He begged me to let him go over there and talk to them. We did, and Marcus was so gracious, accommodating, and positive in talking to my son. Before we left, Marcus gave me his card and said to call him. I called a few weeks later, and Marcus invited us to his house to play. It was a seminal moment in my son's young life. He was in heaven. He learned some basic songs that day, played them all the way home in the car and played them for hours after we got home. From that point, we would go over and practice almost weekly, and Marcus invited my son to play with them at various events. We were always treated with such warmth and kindness.”
Most recently, Marcus assisted with the musical portion of the Family Festival held at the Mobile Museum of Art in November to celebrate the Museum’s 50th anniversary and the opening of the exhibit, The Art and Design of Mardi Gras. Angie Gulledge, who was chairwoman of the festival’s music committee, said Marcus was a huge help and “a great friend to me” during the planning of the festival. “Marcus was passionate about the art of brass band music, and he wanted to share that passion with everyone else,” Angie said. “He was very gifted musically, and he knew so much about the history and heritage of brass bands. He taught me a great deal in the months I worked with him.” One of her favorite memories of the festival weekend, she said, occurred when Mobile Olympia Brass Band arrived early, Bay City was wrapping up onstage, and the venerable Excelsior Band was preparing to start its set. “I panicked momentarily, afraid that I had double placed them and wondered if they would be irritated,” Angie said. “But as I started toward the orchestra shell, where they were performing, they all began pulling chairs toward each other, enjoying their shared love for the music and catching up – fun and friendship of Mardi Gras with the brass tunes in the background.”
According to Mac McIntosh, a number of those musicians are planning to play during the funeral service for Marcus, which is scheduled for Saturday at Church of God Pentecostal, 818 Telegraph Road. Visitation will be 9 to 11 a.m., and the service will start at 11. Burial will follow at Gethsemane Cemetery North in Eight Mile, on South Shelton Beach Road, between Bear Fork and Myers Roads. Reese Funeral Home in Prichard is handling arrangements. Marcus is survived by his wife, Shere Johnson; twin sons, Markel and Markes Johnson; three brothers; and two sisters.
Joe Cain Marchers Will Have Their Own Parade December 5, 2014: The Joe Cain Marching Society, which has experienced some friction with the Joe Cain Parading Society for the last couple of years, has obtained its own parade permit, according to Mobile police. As of right now, the Marching Society is scheduled to parade on Route A right behind the Parading Society on Joe Cain Day, February 15, 2015. "This changes the tradition, but we're just happy to be parading," said Ted Flotte, vice president of the Marching Society. Made up of established marching groups, including the Wild Mauvillians, DSD, and the Mistresses of Joe Cain, the Marching Society plans "to make our parade open to anyone who wants to march at no cost," Flotte said. Previously, the foot marchers led floats in the procession, which was overseen by the Parading Society. The marchers, however, complained about rules being put on them by the Parading Society, and a series of meetings failed to find a real solution. "We were just kicking the can down the road," Flotte said. "It was clearly leading to this - two separate groups." There is at least one more meeting scheduled, according to those involved, so some details may still change. Wayne Dean Sr., who will portray Chief Slacabamarinico for the 30th year, said he will lead the Marching Society from his mule-driven wagon. If the marchers go second, as the police department has it scheduled now, that means Dean will appear after all of the floats. The theme for the Marching Society, Dean said, will be Slac is Back Where He Belongs. If all goes well, Flotte said, Revelers will hardly notice the difference - except the parade may seem a little longer. "We're waiting to see what number the police department is going to cap us at. We're hoping for 600," Flotte said. For scheduling purposes, Mobile Mask will continue to refer the Joe Cain Procession as a singular event, even though it will be made up of two separate groups.
Big Changes on Tap for Lundi Gras Night 2015 November 25, 2014: Lundi Gras night is due for some big changes this Mardi Gras. The biggest change will be the addition of a new parade, but the route and start time have also changed. The night had been solely occupied for decades by the Infant Mystics, but now the Order of Doves parade will follow the IM. On one hand, the Order of Doves is a new men’s mystic society founded in 2012, holding its first ball on Lundi Gras 2013 at Bishop State. On the other hand, according to the OOD vice president, the group is a reboot of Mobile’s very first African-American Mardi Gras mystic society, founded in 1894. And though they adopted the name and history of the Order of Doves, and the 75-member group is almost entirely African-American, it also has an open-door membership policy, the vice president said. “This is a group of young men, who are active in the community, and we embrace the mayor’s ‘One Mobile’ motto.” Most histories state that the original Order of Doves lasted until 1914. The other changes due for Monday, February 16, came at the request of the Infant Mystics, according to the police department. The IM and OOD parades will follow a new route, dubbed Route F (Route E is the one used by the King Elexis I parade on Joe Cain Day). Route F is essentially Route A minus the loop down Washington Street then up Canal to Broad. Instead of turning off Government onto Washington, the two parades will continue straight down Government to Broad Street, where they will pick up the usual Route A path. Mobile Mask will soon post a Route F map. And the Infant Mystics will not roll until 7 p.m. instead of the usual 6:30 start time, and the OOD parade will follow.
'Treme' Mardi Gras Costumes to Join Mobile Exhibit October 27, 2014: When the Mobile Museum of Art opens the doors to its massive exhibit of Mobile Mardi Gras art and artifacts on November 8, a second exhibit, depicting part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans will also open. "Well-Suited: The Costumes of Alonzo Wilson for HBO's Treme" is a traveling exhibit that focuses on the phenomenon of Mardi Gras Indians. While the Mobile exhibit, titled "The Art and Design of Mardi Gras," put together in conjunction with the History Museum of Mobile and the Mobile Carnival Museum, will occupy the entire second floor of the Mobile Museum of Art, the Alonzo Wilson exhibit will be displayed in the Regional Gallery on the first floor, just to the left of the front door. The portion of "Well-Suited" that will be in Mobile includes 14 Mardi Gras Indian costumes - referred to as "suits" by the Indians themselves. All of the "Well-Suited" costumes were made for the "Treme" series on HBO, which lasted for three full seasons and a fourth partial season, airing between 2010 and 2013. One of the main characters of "Treme" was Albert Lambreaux (played by Clarke Peters), the Big Chief of a Mardi Gras Indian gang. The Mardi Gras Indians have been a phenomenon of the African-American communities in New Orleans for decades. At first, they were true gangs that battled each other on Mardi Gras Day. Today, however, they wander their neighborhoods on Fat Tuesday dressed in their glorious feathered suits. Each gang boasts through song that their chief is the "prettiest" of all and will not bow down to any other chief. Each gang's procession is made up of Spyboys, Flagboys, a Wild Man, and, of course, the Big Chief. The chants and songs of Mardi Gras Indian gangs, such as the Yellow Pocahontas, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and the Wild Magnolias, have been the basis of many popular Mardi Gras songs, including "Iko Iko," "All on a Mardi Gras Day," and "Indian Red." Like the Mobile Mardi Gras exhibit, "Well-Suited" will run through May 3. To learn more about Mardi Gras Indians, try the House of Dance and Feathers web site by clicking here.
Organizer: Island Mystics Will Not Parade in 2015 October 24, 2014: One of the core members and organizers of the Island Mystics has told Mobile Mask that the Dauphin Island group will not parade or hold a ball in 2015. He cited lack of interest by other members and potential members. "I hate to hear that," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said. "But I know they were having some struggles over the last year or so." The last Island Mystics parade, held on February 8 of this year, had just four floats and 13 total units, without any marching bands or truck bands. Despite the parade's small size, it continued to draw thousands of revelers to Dauphin Island on that Saturday. Collier said there has been discussion of trying a number of different things to keep the struggling Mystics rolling, including having them parade on the same day as the larger Krewe de la Dauphine. Incorporated in January 1992, the Island Mystics was the first Mardi Gras parading society to form on Dauphin Island and chose the Saturday before Mobile's Conde Cavaliers as the date for its parade and ball. That would have put the 2015 parade on January 31. There is no word on whether the change will alter the plans of the Krewe de la Dauphine. Starting in 1994, KDLD has always paraded on the Saturday before the Island Mystics, and the next KDLD parade is currently slated for January 17. The Island Mystics organizer told Mobile Mask that this is not necessarily the end for them. Taking a year off, he said, will hopefully give them the opportunity to regroup and return in 2016. Mardi Gras Exhibit Opens With Festival in 1 Month October 8, 2014: One month from today, the Mobile Museum of Art’s mammoth exhibit, The Art and Design of Mardi Gras, will open with a Mardi Gras themed festival that has been months in the planning. All of this forms the centerpiece of the Museum’s 50th anniversary. Admission will be free to the 50th Anniversary Family Festival, being held on the museum grounds November 8 and 9 (10 am to 4 pm each day). The festival will be divided into venues that accent the “sensory components of the overall Carnival experience,” according the festival committee. The taste and smell venue, of course, will contain concessions that are representative of Carnival cuisine, including hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, and funnel cakes. In addition, “a number of interactive, food-related activities will take place in this area,” according to the committee. Music will be highlighted in the sound venue, where visitors will find a band competition for local high school marching bands or music by local brass bands and interactive programs, such as second line dancing instruction and an “instrument petting zoo.” The visual venue will showcase the parading organizations and people that make Mardi Gras happen. It will include floats from various organizations, emblems, maskers, a tiny float parade, and a costume photo booth. The sense of touch venue will provide arts and crafts and will utilize the educational facilities and staff of the museum as well as a number of volunteer artists. Children at the festival will be issued “passports,” which they can have stamped at each of the venues. A full passport will lead to prizes for the kids. All along the way, the festival will encourage folks to be among the very first to visit the Mardi Gras exhibit that takes up the entire second floor of the museum.
To Prevent Confusion, Order of Isis is Now OOI September 16, 2014: According to the president of the Mobile Mardi Gras mystic society Order of Isis, the ladies' group will now be known simply as OOI. Because of the rise of the notorious Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, the members of the Mardi Gras group decided to boil its name down to OOI. Here is the full statement released by the president: "Due to recent events in the Middle East, there has been unfortunate confusion over the name of our group versus the terrorist army that has invaded Syria and Iraq. Our organization, founded in 2008, was named after Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and nature. Our name, of course, has nothing to do with the ISIS acronym that the media has applied to the terrorists. Our organization does not intend to change its name, but to avoid any confusion, it will be referred to simply as OOI for the foreseeable future. Those who know Mobile Mardi Gras know our name and our group, but those who do not understand Mardi Gras could react badly to our name, and that’s understandable. At our own expense, we have changed our logo and our emblem throws for Mardi Gras 2015 to say only OOI. In light of the horrific events taking place in the Middle East, especially at the hands of the Islamic State, the problem created for our women’s group is less than insignificant. However, we wish to go on doing what we’ve been doing for almost seven years now, simply spreading Mardi Gras cheer and goodwill. We certainly don’t want the name of our organization creating any confusion or bad feelings." The president said members were recently confronted by people who did not understand the "Order of Isis" printed on their T-shirts, and the organization simply did not want to be targeted by people who do not realize it was named after an Egyptian goddess. According to stories in the media, at least one company has changed its Isis name, while another is keeping it. When contacted by Mobile Mask, the captain of the Krewe of Isis, a ladies Mardi Gras group in Metairie, Louisiana, said her group will make no changes. She wrote in an email that "for 43 years, our name has represented a wonderful group of women, who are proud
Americans and who will not give in or give up a title we have created and
maintained with dignity and pride." Mobile Mask will refer to the local group as OOI in all schedules and other materials until the group decides otherwise.
No More New Year's Eve Parade September 3, 2014: Mobile Mask has learned that the annual Mardi Gras-style New Year's Eve parade that has been part of the downtown Moon Pie drop festivities for the last four years has been cut. According to Carol Hunter, president of Events Mobile, the parade has been eliminated because of logistical reasons. The parade route had to go around stage areas throughout the downtown area, and that meant much of the route was unattended. "That's no fun for anybody," she said. Also, Hunter said, the timing just wasn't working out. Organizers wanted to move the start time to at least 8 p.m., and that would not have worked for the paraders. With city belt-tightening, Hunter said, organizers had to look for ways to reduce expenses for the city, and that included the police and emergency responders needed for an early parade. "This is not a reflection on the parading groups," Hunter said. "They did a great job. It just wasn't working out." Much of the parade was made up of floats and riders volunteered by several area parading groups, including the Infant Mystics, the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association, the Conde Explorers, the Mystics of Time, and the Mobile Mystics. A board member from one of those groups told the Mask that the group was disappointed to see the parade canceled. The group was planning on turning the event into an all-night affair for all the members. Hunter did hint that there may still be a way to include Mardi Gras and even a couple of floats in the New Year's Eve festivities, though that has not been firmed up yet.
Help the Cain Footmarchers and Have Fun Doing It! June 23, 2014: How about some genuwine Mardi Gras hoopla in
the summertime? The inaugural Joe Cain Footmarchers Ball will be this
Thursday, June 26, 7 p.m., at Moe’s Original BBQ downtown, 701 Spring
Hill Ave. Featured entertainment will be Kansas Bible
Company, with opening act Alanna Royale. Both bands hail from
Nashville and have previously performed at Bonnaroo among other
festivals. Chief Slacabamarinico hisself will make an appearance along
with Joe Cain Day favorites the Mistresses of Joe Cain, the DSD Pirates,
the Wild Mauvillians and many more. Net proceeds from the Ball will go
to the nonprofit Joe Cain Marching Society, Inc. to cover costs for ALL
marching participants in the 2015 Joe Cain Procession. Tickets are
available online at eventbrite.com and at Moe's. Cost is $20 in advance
or $25 at the door.
Piece of Mobile Mardi Gras History Up for Bid April 18, 2014: There's almost always some Mobile Mardi Gras items for sale on eBay, from posters to doubloons. On a rare occasion, something truly old, even historical shows up. Right now, there is an Order of Myths brass brooch from 1917 up for bid on the web site. The actual pin on the back is missing, and the brooch is in fair to good condition, but the bas relief of Folly, Death, and the broken column are clearly visible. On the back, the manufacturer stamp reads "Whitehead & Hoag Co., Newark N.J." The pin was most likely a ball favor - a small gift from the OOMs to members' wives and other ladies. The eBay seller, who is located in Carver, Massachusetts, told Mobile Mask that he purchased the pin from a vendor at a flea market just south of Boston. "I don't know who he was, and I
don't know where the pin originated from. I had no idea what OOM was until I
researched it. I just thought it looked unusual and early." The Order of Myths, of course, is Mobile's first and oldest Mardi Gras mystic society, founded in 1868. Clearly, the seller, who said he puts things up on eBay as a hobby, has a good eye. As of noon today, the price on the pin was up to $152.50 after 36 bids. He did not tell the Mask how much he spent on it, but it was surely not that much, since neither he nor the previous seller knew what it was at the time. UPDATE: The auction closed Sunday afternoon, and this item sold for an impressive $536.50.
A Special Mardi Gras Moment April 4, 2014: It was a Mardi Gras ride worth waiting for. This is the story of a dad and a son, but it's much more than that. The son joined the Crewe of Columbus back in 2012, just as soon as he was old enough, making him the fourth generation of his family in the Crewe. He was also told that he was eligible to ride on a float his first year - 2013. But dad, a National Guardsman and a 12-year member of the Crewe, was deployed to Kuwait for a year and was going to miss Mardi Gras 2013. "I told him he couldn't ride until I got back," the father said. "He was initially disappointed, sure, but he understood. I wanted to be there for that first ride." The father essentially married into the Crewe. His wife was a COC queen two years before they even met. Her grandfather was a charter member. Her father, of course, was a longtime member, and her two brothers were in the Crewe, as well. "My kids were at the parades when they were three weeks old," the dad said. "I'm hoping that both of my daughters will get to be queens." So dad returned from Kuwait Thanksgiving 2013, and the plans were on for Mardi Gras. When Float 15, "Climbing the Matterhorn," rolled down the streets on February 28, father and son rode side-by-side on the lower tier. Grandfather and uncles were stationed just above them on the upper tier. "It was special, it really was," dad said. "He was a bit throw-happy, but I knew he would be. We brought plenty and never ran out." In the end, both father and son were happy that they waited. "His first ride, that's something he'll always remember," dad said. "I'll never forget mine. And now, I'll never forget his either."
Widows, Mistresses, and Chief Slac - Oh My! March 29, 2014: Mobile's Mardi Gras went into extra innings at the Church Street Graveyard today, producing some sights and situations never before seen. The impetus was the final day of filming for a new British-produced reality show that combines travel and magic. The show, currently being called "Road Trick" - though that's apparently not set in stone, follows three New York magicians from one American city to another. The magicians get to know the city and perform feats of magic for the people they meet along the way. For the Mobile episode, Mardi Gras was the focus as the magicians visited Toomey's Mardi Gras store, the Mobile Carnival Museum, and the Conde Cavaliers float barn. At midday today, a dozen members of Cain's Merry Widows, a dozen members of the Mistresses of Joe Cain, Wayne Dean, who has portrayed Chief Slac for nearly 30 years now, Theodore Arthur Jr. of the Excelsior Band, a half dozen Wild Mauvillians, several members of DSD, and assorted hardcore revelers converged on the final resting place of Joe Cain. This was all terribly interesting, since for years, the Graveyard has been all but owned by the Widows, who make an appearance there every year on Joe Cain Day. To have them and the Mistresses together in the Graveyard is unheard-of, and it's been years since Chief Slac has appeared there as well. And when the Widows and the Mistresses do cross paths, it may as well be the Jets and the Sharks in a dark alley. There's plenty of insults, hissing, and even mild violence involved. The menagerie of Mardi Gras characters first witnessed and reacted to an illusion performed in the Graveyard (we all actually had to sign a confidentiality agreement, saying we wouldn't reveal anything about the illusion itself). Then they were all corralled to the top of Scott Street and paraded into the Graveyard, which hasn't happened since the Joe Cain Procession was banned from that Graveyard many years ago. The Widows then renewed their vows, if you will, over Joe Cain's gravesite as the Mistresses watched from a safe distance. The whole thing culminated with a bit of a melee between the Widows and Mistresses, with Chief Slac and the magicians caught in the middle, and Arthur providing the soundtrack with his saxophone. One Widow held up a small sign that read "Mistresses Smell BAD! (Really)," and more than one instance of using red or black roses as weapons was witnessed. Through it all, however, no one spilled their libation. It was just another Saturday in Sweet Lunacy's County Seat. If you'd like to see the Mask's photo album of these extraordinary events, click here.
The Rare Occasion in Which Everybody Wins March 21, 2014: With the amazing success this year of Krispy Kreme's Beads for Doughnuts program, the Mask thought the whole thing deserved some more explanation and accolades. First, some numbers: Over three days, March 17-19, 9,116 people brought in 12 or more pounds of Mardi Gras beads. Each of them received a certificate good for a dozen glazed doughnuts. At a retail price of $8.49 per dozen, that means the Mobile Krispy Kreme gave away $77,394.84 worth of its product. The company also paid for the trucks to deliver 78 so-called gaylord shipping boxes full of beads - weighing a total of something between 58 and 70 tons - to a Mobile public schools storage building. From there, the beads will be sorted, cleaned, and packaged for resale by 27 special-needs students at the Augusta Evans School. The proceeds will go right back into school programs. Last year, the then-record 45 bins of beads collected by Krispy Kreme yielded about $48,000 for the school, according to special education teacher Susan Mulvey. This year, she said, she's a tad apprehensive about whether the students will be able to get through all those beads, "but somehow it always seems to work out," she said. About 20 percent of the haul will be discarded - broken beads, beads that are in terrible shape or too tangled to be sorted, along with Moon Pies and whatever else people tossed into their contributions. "We've found bricks before," Mulvey said. "People do that to make the bag weigh enough to get their doughnuts. We even found a wrench that had to have been worth more than a dozen doughnuts." As for the flying discs, footballs, and other throws people include, much of that is saved for the kids to throw when they get to ride with the Bayport Parading Society during the next Mardi Gras. The program, she said, helps these special kids learn about the value of work, how to follow instructions, and it gives them pride, knowing they can do something that has worth. Area maskers benefit because they can purchase the repackaged throws for a little less money than new throws. And we all benefit because of the recycling that's done. This was Krispy Kreme's 11th year collecting Mobile's unwanted beads, and all the folks out there - Bob Glidden, Chris Brooks, Joe McAleer, to name just the top guys - truly seem to love doing it, and they want to break the record every year. Full disclosure, Krispy Kreme is an advertiser in the Mobile Mask magazine, and the Mask could not be prouder to have them on board. Their product is all about the taste of the South, and it's all about the indulgence of Mardi Gras. And the Beads for Doughnuts program is so ingenious that it would be difficult to come up with something else that spreads so much good with the simple lure of dough and sugar. Next Mardi Gras, don't forget to put aside a couple of bags of beads and haul them out to Krispy Kreme a couple of weeks after Fat Tuesday - the Mask will let you know the exact dates when they are announced. You'll get some doughnuts, and your beads will do some good.