Mardi Gras News
This is a blog of Mardi Gras-related news items from the Mobile area and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast:
From the 2022
bowl game parade
Change in Bowl Game Sponsorship
Will Not Affect the Parade
May 15, 2023: It was announced today that Mobile’s bowl game, heading into its 25th meeting, has changed general sponsors for the fifth time. And for the first time, the sponsor is local: a Daphne-based company known as 68 Ventures.
The immediate question for the Mardi Gras community is whether or not this change will affect the popular Mardi Gras-style parade that usually rolls the night before the game.
The short answer, according to Mike Laird, who oversees the parade for the bowl game, is, “No. The parade will go on as it has.” In fact, Laird said, work has been underway to improve the parade for mother the riders and the revelers. Specifics are still being worked out, he said.
68 Ventures, according to a news release, “is the parent company for numerous operating businesses along the Gulf Coast which focus on development, investment and construction …” It is “the largest single-family developer within the region, deploying well over a billion dollars in capital, and reaching the ranks as one of the top 100 private home builders.”
The parade also usually has sub-sponsors, Laird said. As of last year, those sub-sponsors were Greer’s Market and Cashsaver as well as This is Alabama, a division of Alabama Media Group.
The parade is usually made up of floats from Mobile Mardi Gras organizations, and riders usually come from those organizations and their family members. There’s plenty of throws, and for seven of the last eight years, the parade has had a decidedly Christmas-y feel since it was held just a few days before Dec. 25.
The actual date of the first 68 Ventures Bowl will be announced “sometime later this month,” according to the news release, but it did refer to the upcoming contest between a Sunbelt Conference team and a Mid-American Conference team as a “December matchup.”
Just to review, the bowl game itself began its life in 1999 as the Mobile Alabama Bowl. By 2001, it was the GMAC Bowl for nine years. Then it was the GoDaddy Bowl for six meetings, the Dollar General Bowl for the next three contests, and the Lending Tree Bowl for the last four.
“We have gone through sponsorship change a few times, and the parade has continued on,” Laird said. “The general sponsor really doesn’t get involved in the details of things like the parade."
Pains, Strains, and Automobiles
December 8, 2023: The Civic Center is still being used for Mardi Gras balls, construction of the new bridge has not yet started, and train service has not yet resumed in downtown Mobile.
But a few big changes and logistical challenges lie ahead this year, even before those humongous things happen.
A quick list:
• Bienville Square will remain closed
• RV City is kaput
• No parking at the Civic Center
• Cruise ship is back
Bienville Square was closed in August for a refurbishing that had been planned for years – since shortly after Hurricane Sally took down a bunch of trees and limbs in September 2020.
As part of that, the famous Ketchum Fountain was removed in August 2021 to be refurbished. At the time, officials said the fountain would likely be gone for “several months.”
It’s been gone for about 2.5 years now.
When Bienville Square was closed this past summer, and tall chain-link fencing was put around it, officials said the plan was to have the park reopened in time for Mardi Gras. They recognized, they said, how important that spot is to generations of Mobile revelers.
Even if all of the work wasn’t finished, they said, the park would largely be reopened.
In December, it became clear that timetables had not been met, the park was still torn up, and it simply wasn’t going to be ready until later in the spring.
“We are currently working with the contractor to see what might be possible in terms of limiting the amount of fencing to allow for some access, perhaps on the sidewalks,” city spokesman Jason Johnson told us at press time. “That will depend on the status of the project at the time.”
Our advice – just stay away from Bienville Square. If your family is used to camping and grilling there, find another spot this year.
For those who have made use of RV City since 2000, that little stretch of camper nirvana is gone, likely for good.
The Alabama Department of Transportation actually owns the land under Interstate 10, starting at the northeast corner of Water and South Jackson streets, and the city of Mobile “borrowed” the land to rent out more than 100 camping spots – no water, no electricity hookups.
There was always a waiting list, largely of locals, who enjoyed setting up camp on the Saturday of the first Civic Center ball – the Etruscans – nearly two weeks before the first downtown parade, the Conde Cavaliers.
For them, it was a party spot and a base of operations. Go up the street, catch the parade, then head back, sit around the fire, have some dinner, that kind of thing.
Last year, though, ALDOT said they were going to withdraw permission for the city to use that stretch of land because the state was going to use it as a staging area for bridge construction.
That $2.5 billion project hadn’t started as of December, and no one was offering a start date, but ALDOT made good on its promise to shut down RV City.
Construction has begun, as promised, on a new headquarters for the Army Corps of Engineers in the parking lot of the Mobile Civic Center.
That construction, including a new 1,000-spot city parking garage, is expected to reduce the Civic Center parking lots 1,400 spaces to just 150 by the time Mardi Gras balls begin this year, officials said.
And that means that ball attendees will not be able to park at the Civic Center this year. Period.
“We are working with event organizers to get out information about all the parking options downtown,” Jason Johnson said. “We are also recommending that organizers start making alternative plans now, such as using shuttling services from off-site parking or encouraging ridesharing services, carpooling or public transportation options.”
He suggested that ball-goers also frequently check the city’s website at http://www.cityofmobile.org/mardigras/ for updates on traffic and parking.
It’s been a few years since Mobile had Mardi Gras and a cruise ship downtown at the same time. But the Carnival Spirit started sailing out of the Mobile Cruise Terminal on October 6.
The 963-foot long Spirit, launched in July 2000, is the longest ship to sail out of Mobile, but its capacity of 2,124 passengers is the second-smallest of the four Carnival ships that have served Mobile since 2004.
Carnival said the Spirit offers more amenities, such as restaurants, shops, and attractions, than the previous ships.
The Spirit will be in Mobile on a seasonal basis, from October through March, taking six- and eight-day cruises through the Caribbean.
Of note, the Spirit will be sailing in and out on Saturday, February 3, which is the day of the Senior Bowl and a full slate of afternoon parades (Mobile Mystics, Mobile Mystical Revelers, Mobile Mystical Friends) and evening parades (Maids of Mirth, Order of Butterfly Maidens, Krewe of Marry Mates).
And the ship will be sailing in and out on Joe Cain Day, February 11.
That’s nothing the city hasn’t handled before, but again, it’s been four Fat Tuesdays, and it simply adds to the traffic logistics of a couple of very busy days.
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