Here is an archive of the Mardi Gras News items that appeared on the Mobile Mask web site in 2015.
2015 News Archive
Stimpson Gives Civic Center 2 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
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. This coming Mardi Gras is on the early side, 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.
MOT 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 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 2 Joes: Plain & 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
Mobile Mask 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.
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