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Mardi Gras hits Mobile, Alabama

MOBILE (AP) – Alabama’s port city danced and squealed to the prime event of its Carnival season on Sunday, a quirky bash honouring the man credited with helping make the nation’s first Mardi Gras celebration what it is – a smaller, toned-down version of New Orleans’ mega-party.

Joe Cain Day, named for a clerk who started Mobile’s modern Mardi Gras by dressing up and parading through town in the late 1860s after the Civil War, roared back to life after taking a year off because of the pandemic. Marchers tossed MoonPie treats, colourful beads and stuffed animals along a more than two-mile route.

Like New Orleans, Mobile has elaborate, professionally produced parades, and balls where women wear long gowns and men dress in tuxedos. Members of social groups called krewes spend thousands on costumes and items to throw from floats.

But some of the biggest crowds of the season in Mobile are for the Joe Cain Procession, a down-home mix of fun and local fable where anyone can join in a parade for free. The theme of the festivities comes from Cain himself: “Have a good time but don’t get bad.”

The day began with a group of veiled women in all-black mourning dresses who portray ‘Cain’s Merry Widows’ gathering at his grave followed by a street party at the house where he lived near downtown. The widows threw beads with signed black medallions – a prime Mardi Gras prize in Mobile.

“He loved me the best!” one of the widows wailed in a mock cry.

City resident Sean McQuade got a front-row spot for the procession and snagged beads, MoonPies and a lot more. Joe Cain Day is better than everything else in Mardi Gras, even Fat Tuesday, he said.

Wayne Dean, dressed as Joe Cain, waves during a Mardi Gras parade in Mobile, Alabama. PHOTO: AP

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