MOBILE, Alabama (AP) – The port city of Alabama danced and screamed at the main event of Carnival season on Sunday, a bizarre celebration in honor of the man credited with helping make Mardi Gras’s first holiday the way it is – smaller, thinner – a lowered version of the mega- New Orleans parties.
Joe Kane Day, named after the clerk who started the modern Mardi Gras Mobile by getting dressed and strolling around town in the late 1860s after the Civil War, came back to life after taking a year off due to a pandemic. The marchers threw MoonPie treats, colorful beads, stuffed animals and plastic cups along a route more than 2 miles long, lined with huge oaks.
Like New Orleans, its much larger neighbor on the Gulf Coast in the west, Mobile has sophisticated, professionally trained tips and balls where women wear long dresses and men in tuxedos. Members of social groups called krewes spend thousands on costumes and items that can be thrown out of the floats.
But one of the biggest crowds of the season at Mobile is Joe Kane’s procession, a simple mix of fun and local fable where everyone can join the parade for free. The theme of the festivities allegedly comes from Cain himself: “Fun time, but not bad.”
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The day began, as always, with a group of women in a veil in all-black mourning dresses depicting “Cain’s Jolly Widows” gathered at his grave in the old city cemetery, followed by a street party at the house where he lived near downtown . With drinks in their hands, the widows threw beads with signed black medallions – the main prize of Mardi Gras in Mobile.
“He loved me best!” Cried one of the widows in a mocking cry.
City resident Sean McQueed got a seat in the front row for the procession and hooked up with beads, moonpies and more. He said Joe Cain’s Day is better than everything else in Mardi Gras, even Fat Tuesday.
“It’s everyone’s parade. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white, male or female. Everyone is having fun, ”McQuaid said.
Since most of the 2021 Carnival season has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a few events were held at Mobile last year. However, dozens showed up at Joe Kane’s house last Sunday before Fat Tuesday for a party smaller than usual.
While the celebration of New Orleans surpasses the festivities elsewhere on the coast, Mobile’s claim to notoriety is that it began celebrating Shrovetide in 1703, before New Orleans. More than 40 parades are planned in the Mobile District before the end of the festivities on Fat Tuesday.
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