Back in 1978, some folks in Gulf Shores "decided that it was awfully quiet down here on Mardi Gras," according Judy Kaiser. So they got in their cars and put on something of a parade on Fat Tuesday.
"It was pretty simple back then," Kaiser said, "but there's been a parade every year since then. It's the oldest one in Baldwin County that I know anything about."
Now the City of Gulf Shores is in charge of the parade. Kaiser and the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Association decided to step aside, though she helped the city make the transition.
These days, the Gulf Shores parade is a far cry from that first simple caravan of cars. Nearly any group that wants to participate can, and the parade is now up in the neighborhood of 70 units that travel south on Alabama 59 to East Beach Boulevard. Groups from Pensacola to Foley are in the parade.
In 2017, the Gulf Shores parade had to be canceled before it ever really started after a terrible accident injured six middle school students and six high schoolers, all band members.
The students were hit by an SUV that was in the parade, and the driver inadvertently sped up and plowed into the band.
Most of the students were treated and released fairly quickly, but at least two of them have had long-term issues.
2018 marked the return of the Mardi Gras Day parade on a different route, due to construction.
In 2019 the parade returned to the beach road, where it will was held again this year on Mardi Gras Day, February 25, at 10 a.m. The parade included upwards of 35 floats and 70 total units.
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