The Civil War brought on a hiatus, and Mardi Gras was not celebrated in war-torn Alabama. However, in 1866 Joe Cain unexpectedly brought back the traditions when he dressed up as a fictional Indian and paraded up and down the streets, proclaiming that Mobile’s suffering had ended. Cain also succeeded in moving Mardi Gras celebrations back to before Fat Tuesday, rather than around New Year’s. Today, people still celebrate Cain’s contributions to the event with the annual Joe Cain Parade, led by a man dressed as an Indian, accompanied by several women in black claiming to be his weeping widows.
Over the next several years, more and more societies began forming in an effort to participate in Mardi Gras, and Carnival season exploded. Over the course of several decades, minority groups attempted to break into the Carnival scene, but the event remained largely reserved for upper-class white, Christian men. The Joe Cain Parade offered a way in for many minorities, who saw the lively parade as a break from more stifling Mystic Society events. Then, in 2003, the Conde Explorers became the first multi racial group to march in the parades.
Today Mardi Gras remains a largely popular event, and for the most part, citizens of the city look forward to the weeks-long festivities. While some may find the celebrations a nuisance, the overall attitude is one of merriment. Parades and music fill the streets and everyone has a chance to compete for toys being strewn about. It’s a must-do if you’re thinking of visiting Mobile and an integral part of Alabama’s culture.