Never mind New Orleans' Mardi Gras parades, Mobile's party was first
By Kaija Wilkinson
MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - When it comes to Mardi Gras, New Orleans gets all the attention -- and most of the tourists.
But people in Mobile, Alabama, where the U.S. tradition of pre-Lenten parades got its start, said they are too busy enjoying their own raucous Carnival season to worry that they celebrate in the shadow of their fellow Gulf Coast city.
"We love New Orleans," said Craig Roberts, a tour guide at the Mobile Carnival Museum. "They're like our younger sister that married very well and got everything she wanted, and now we have had to deal with that all our lives."
The cities, about 140 miles apart, each host multiple parades in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, when the partying reaches a fever pitch on the eve of the penitential Lenten season.
New Orleans' festivities are bigger, with about three times the number of Carnival organizations and parades that feature longer routes, more floats and larger crowds.
About 1 million people will pour into New Orleans for Fat Tuesday next week, compared to a crowd of 250,000 in Mobile. Dual Mardi Gras and Super Bowl hosting duties this year are expected to result in a nearly $1 billion economic boost for the Louisiana city, according to the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.
But locals and tourists say Mobile holds its own with a unique mix of family-friendly events, lavish dinners hosted by so-called Mardi Gras "kings" and "queens," and colorful parade throws such as Moon Pies.
More than 3 million Moon Pies - the marshmallow-cake treat that has become Mobile's signature throw - were tossed from floats last year, Roberts said. Continued...