About Mardi Gras
As a celebration, Mardi Gras has spread throughout the United States. Today the revelry can be found from California to Pennsylvania. Still, no where is more closely associated with Mardi Gras than New Orleans, which is understandable since it is certainly the largest and wildest carnival celebration. However Mardi Gras neophytes are often shocked to learn that New Orleans owes much of her carnival traditions to her smaller Gulf Coast sister city, Mobile Alabama. As French found cities, New Orleans and Mobile both share many Creole traditions and distinct traits; both were capitols of the Louisiana Territory, both are gritty seaports, and both know how to throw a party. Still, it is Mobile that can stake the claim as "Mother of the Mystics."
Noted New Orleans Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardyis not short to give Mobile its due in his book, Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Hardy writes,
"Although their parades on Fat Tuesday did not begin until 1866, the claim that the city of Mobile makes as the motherland of Mardi Gras parades in the United State is a viable one.
Some Alabama historians view the annual Masque de la Mobile feasts as Carnival celebrations. These events were presented annually on August 25 by the Societe de la Saint Louis (1704-1842). A stronger case can be made for two other groups: the Boeuf Gras Society (1711-1861), which gathered on Fat Tuesday, and the Spanish Mystic Society, which appeared on Twelfth Night (1793-1833). But Mobile's most significant contribution to Mardi Gras dates from New Year's Eve 1830. Pennsylvania-born Michael Kraft and a group called the Cowbellian deRakin Society (named after the cowbells and rakes used as noisemakers) walked the streets in a spontaneous celebration. The Mobile party grew in size and fame each year to point that in describing a local foot parade of boisterous masqueraders in New Orleans in 1837, The Picayune called them "Cowbellians." In 1840 the Mobile Cowbellians added floats and paraded with the theme Heathen Gods & Goddesses. Two other "mystic societies" were founded in Alabama before New Orleans joined the parading fraternity: the Strikers (1842) and the Tea Drinkers (1846). In 1852, members of the Cowbellians marched in New Orleans, and the next year the men participated in a local bal masque."
For over three hundred years, in good times and in bad, Mardi Gras has grown and thrived in Mobile and New Orleans. Now shouts of, “Let the good times roll,” and “Throw something to me” can be heard across this vast country. Like the city it was founded in, Toomey’s has done its part to help spread the tradition of Mardi Gras. For over 25 years Toomey’s Mardi Gras has been supplying revelers with their Carnival supplies, and as the new century begins, it is helping to start new Mardi Gras Traditions all over the country. Is your town next?