Mardi Gras Like An Expert

As a new Carnival season rolls into the Bay area, let’s take a peek into how a few seasoned insiders celebrate the festivities in style.

Photo by Keyhole Photo

Alyson Cain

Mobile native and UMS-wright alumnae Alyson Cain has a long history of family traditions with Mardi Gras. When not donning her go-go boots or catching her favorite throws, Cain works with her husband Cy at Cain Real Estate and is a mother of two. Her son Trip is an 8th grader at St. Ignatius and daughter Anna Grace is a senior at McGill-Toolen who plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and attend the University of Alabama in the fall.

“I get in the Mardi Gras spirit on the Epiphany, which is January 6. That first slice of King Cake lets you know it is time!”

How I Mardi Gras

1. What to wear 
This obviously changes depending on the day. For general parading, I opt for comfortable shoes, jeans and a loose-fitting top so you can wave your arms around.  For special days, I bring out my gold sequin go-go boots.  For extra special days: a costume.

2. Drink of Choice
My go-to cocktail is Captain Morgan and soda with lime. If I am in a big hurry and will be on foot, I have a beer tube sling that can hold six cans.  

3. Park like a Pro
When the kids were smaller, we would park in the garage at the Renaissance (we still call it the Riverview) for a quick exit after the parade rolls. This spot is fantastic if you need to leave early and don’t want to stay Downtown all night. You can get out anytime and hit the interstate.  

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I love Rua Flores Inspired Hats. They are all fabulous!” Phot by Elizabeth Gelineau

4. Snack Time
We enjoy The Joe Cain Cafe for pizza and cocktails before and right after the parade. If we have more time, then we like Moe’s BBQ.  You can’t beat the Bama-Style pulled pork sandwich and the wings are also
a solid choice. The parades roll
by later at this spot.  

5. Good Company  
We usually go as a family, but the best part of Mobile Mardi Gras is that if you just go Downtown, you will run into someone you know.  

6. Favorite Throw
Anything that lights up! I will crawl on the ground and wrestle it away from a small child. And of course, the first MoonPie of the season caught mid-air must be immediately eaten…or bad luck follows.

7. Favorite Parade & Spot
I love them all but my favorite parade is probably the MOTs. We usually pre-game that day at “The Pink Hotel.” It is a great people-watching spot and it is next door to the Mobile Civic Center. We have a giant cooler of Dew Drop dogs that someone picks up on the way Downtown that we eat all day. Family and friends know to stop by and visit. The MOT floats are always impressive…. who doesn’t love a sparkly fire-breathing dragon?

8. Parade Tip
Just enjoy it. Dance to those bands. Talk to the people standing next to you. Don’t get wrapped up in trying to be somewhere in a hurry. Just take it all in.

9. Mardi Gras Memories
As a kid, I remember going Downtown to a group of RVs with my parents and their friends. In high school and college, “the square” was the happening spot.  

10. Ride or Die
In the spirit of a true “masker,” you know I cannot divulge any mystic affiliations! 

George March

Lifelong Mobilian and husband to wife Katrina, George March is enjoying introducing his 15 month and 4-year- old sons to the magic of Mardi Gras festivities. When not catching throws for his kids, this busy dad is Manager for Workspace and Development at USA Health. His advice for revelers? The age old Joe Cain saying, “Have a good time, but don’t get bad.”  

“If you get a chance to go to a Mardi gras ball, make sure you get a real bowtie. When you untie it at the end of the night you will look like Frank Sinatra.”

How I Mardi Gras

1. What to Wear 
It depends on the year. Some years, it’s shorts and flip-flops. Other years, it’s as many layers as possible. If you go to a ball, make sure you get a real bowtie. When you untie it at the end of the night, you will look like Frank Sinatra. 

2. Snack Time
Nothing like a Callaghan’s burger and a beer before or after the parade.

3. Drink of Choice
Mardi Gras day starts off with a Guinness. At a ball, my go-to is whiskey and soda. 

4. Bag your Loot
If you have kids, strollers are a great place to stash the good stuff. 

5. Good Company
These days, my two boys are my preferred companions.

6. Favorite Throw 
To catch: Roasted peanuts are the best snack to catch, and I need to catch and eat at least one MoonPie a year.
To Throw: Something handmade that is special stands out and  makes everyone want it.

7. Favorite Parade
Mardi Gras day is my favorite day. We get downtown around 6 a.m. with the smoker and start cooking. There is nothing like watching the crowds grow as the day progresses. By the time the first parade rolls, the excitement is uncontrollable.  

8. Mardi Gras Memories
My dad would take us to the parades, and we would stand at the Courthouse on Royal Street, which is no longer there, and is currently the Mardi Gras Park. It has been amazing getting to experience my children’s excitement and enjoyment of Mardi Gras
just as I did as a child with
my parents. 

9. Getting in the Spirit
Not long after New Year’s, a breeze blows into the city. You start to catch faint whiffs of funnel cake and chicken on a stick and, if you sit very quietly in Cathedral Square, you start to make out the sound of the Excelsior Band’s trumpet belting out the beginning of “The Second Line” off in the distance. That’s when you know Mardi Gras has started. 

10. Mardi Gras Decor
I fly the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Mobile Mardi Gras flag. I recommend everyone get one. It supports a great organization in our community. 

Charlene Alexander

For Charlene Alexander, Mardi Gras is all about having fun and making sure that those around her do, too. From donning gaudy gowns and hitting the town in a trolley filled with septuagenarians to decorating her home with mannequin legs, this mother of three and grandmother of four brings a playful spirit to the season. “You can do whatever you want at Mardi Gras. It’s fun for everyone,” she says. 

“I decorate my house with lots of Mardi Gras items. I have jesters, beads, MoonPies, and serpentine.  I have flags that hang from my cabinets and, then there are my mannequin legs…”

How I Mardi Gras

1.  What to Wear 
I rode on the same float with a group of ladies for over 30 years. After that, we started getting together to go to lunch, which evolved into going to thrift stores to find dresses to wear on our trolley — the tackier, the better — and then we wear them to the balls. This year I’m going to wear a bridal dress and veil. Sometimes there are fake booties and bosoms. I was “pregnant” a couple of years ago. It’s always just us ladies. Our husbands got tired of going to balls years ago.

2. Snack Time
In Mobile, I go to the street vendors for chicken on a stick and funnel cake. In Fairhope, I opt for any of the nice restaurants along the parade route. 

3. Drink of Choice
Milo’s zero-calorie tea (by the gallon), La Marca Prosecco or sparkling Cava.

 4. Bag your Loot
Coat pockets are enough for me, but each grandchild should definitely have his or her own bag.

5. Good Company  
My children and grandchildren, as well as their friends.

6. Favorite Throw
To catch: Stuffed throws from Rock the Float. Past favorites have been the Bienville squirrel, Middle Bay Lighthouse and Crichton Leprechaun. I also like the Mystics of Time’s dragon, the Infant Mystics’ cat and the Order of the Myths’ pig bladder. MoonPies are always good — the original ones, of course.

To throw: Anything that lights up, from beads to glow necklaces and swords. Our group of ladies walks into stores and passes out beads. The trolley pulls up at Trinity Presbyterian Church and the minister and staff greet us as we hand out MoonPies.

7. For Out-of-Towners
Don’t eat MoonPies from the middle of the street! 

 8. Insider Tip
Get in position early and hold your place. Be sure to show the maskers your enthusiasm! 

9. Mardi Gras Memories
Although I wasn’t conceived under an azalea bush in Bienville Square on Mardi Gras day in Mobile, I treasure the traditions. There is the iconic memory of Folly chasing Death. And riding on the firetruck with my grandchildren. I rode on the Maids of Jubilee parade for 32 years and sometimes us ladies only see each other once a year for Mardi Gras and we pick right up where we left off.  

10. Favorite Parades
In Mobile, the Ashland Place school parade, Mystics of Time, Infant Mystics, Maids of Mirth, Order of the Myths and Comic Cowboys. In Fairhope, the Knights of Ecor Rouge, Maids of Jubilee, and the Order of Has-Beens. In Daphne, I enjoy the Firetruck Parade.

Johnathan Horner

Johnathan Horner is a proud member of the Conde Explorers and has a long history of involvement with MAMGA. He served as a knight in 2002 and was crowned King Elexis I in 2009. The Mobile County Schools language arts teacher, who is currently working on his Master’s degree in Education and Media Technology, briefly sets the books aside during Mardi Gras each year to have a good time with family and friends, stating, “Mardi Gras is my favorite time of year. It’s all about having fun for a little over three weeks. I believe that there is something for everyone to do no matter what age they are, whether it’s riding on a float or reigning over a mystic society or just going to the parade and having a good time.” 

“Mardi Gras has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, it was the one time when the rules could be broken. ”

How I Mardi Gras

1. What to Wear 
As a child, my parents made us dress in layers, and I still do to this day if it’s cold enough. During the season, I will put every type of clothing in the car. This ranges from jeans, thermals, scarf, an overcoat, a tuxedo and a pair of shorts. But the key is to always dress for comfort. 

2. Snack Time
Sometime in the season, I have to have a chicken on the stick and a Polish sausage.

3. Drink of Choice
It depends on the event, but one thing’s for sure: there’s always time to toast to the occasion!

4. Bag your Loot
Most of the time, I’m going to just view the parade and will just wear a light backpack. If I’m trying to hustle (MLK Avenue Parade) or if I know someone riding, I will bring a potato/peanut sack to catch throws in.  

5. Good Company
Usually, family and friends, which has been a tradition since I was a child, or with a few friends from my Mardi Gras organization. 

6. Favorite Throw 
Anything thrown by someone who made eye contact with me from their float, stuffed animals or anything that is in a large package. If it hits the ground, the kids can have it. If kids are around, l usually let them have what I catch.

7. Favorite Parade
My favorite parade has always been the Mystic Stripers. They’ve always had the best-looking floats on what I call the first night of the “big parades.” When I was in the marching band at LeFlore High School, this would be the first night that we would march. I remember everyone anticipating us and seeing the crowds react as we came marching down the street. The Stripers always have a good theme as well.

8. Favorite Spot
Standing across the street from the Mobile Carnival Museum on Government Street, you eventually get to see the parade twice. Once when it goes down, and again when it comes back to the Civic Center to disband. 

9. Parade Tip
If you want to watch the parade, get there early, and stand on the barricades. If you want to catch a lot of throws, stay off the barricade and stand behind the people on the barricades or next to someone with a sign with someone’s name. 

10. Ride or Die
Mardi Gras has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, it was the one time when rules could be broken. I remember coming home from school and not having to do homework or follow regular routines. I also enjoyed spending time with my family. 

Michael Druhan

Michael Druhan, co-owner of Rock the Float Mardi Gras Throw Co., thinks about Mardi Gras everyday. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Druhan, a graduate of McGill-Toolen High School and Loyola University, has fond memories that carry from his childhood to celebrating with his wife Catherine, daughter Ellen and son Joe. Meanwhile, Catherine decorates the house with mementos from Mardi Gras past and ever-changing wreaths for the front door. For Druhan, Carnival Season is truly a family affair.

 “as a kid, Our dining room transformed from formal to a throws staging area around Epiphany. The house smelled of Pal bubble gum, banana moon pies and Cracker Jacks the first few months of
the year.”

How I Mardi Gras

1. Drink of Choice 
The night before: Hydrate heavily with water. The morning: Spicy bloody mary and hydrate with water. Mid-Day: A cold Bud Light and hydrate with water. Evening: Bourbon with very little water.

2. Best place to eat after parades
My new go-to is Grace on Dauphin Street. Their rooftop is spectacular, along with their food. 

3. Bag your Loot 
I like to catch my throw bag as well. I typically wait for a masker to throw a bead bag off the float and recycle it.

4. Good Company
My family and I watch parades with our “Mardi Gras Family,” which is comprised of members of my mystic society

5. Favorite Throw 
To catch: I love the plush displaced Bienville Squirrels. A new Christmas tradition finds the plush squirrel on my own Griswold tree to repurpose the Mardi Gras throw.
To toss:  A nice turbo football that you can really put your arm into.

6. Parade Tip
Don’t lose focus once the firetruck ends the parade. The Mobile Sanitation Department will blow you out of Mobile, or worse, you’ll have a barricade propelled at your body.  Just get out of their way because they are in a real hurry.

7. Favorite Parade to Watch 
I love to watch the joy a parade brings to a child, so the Floral Parade is a most rewarding sight. 

8. For the Out-of-Towner
Mardi Gras is not seasonal; it’s a year-round business. The floats are torn down right after Fat Tuesday to begin their transformation for the following year. The costumes must be designed and made. The throws must be ordered, many from foreign lands, a few months after Carnival ends. 

9. Mardi Gras Memories
My father was a learned gentleman of the old school, a serious man who commanded your respect. But he let down his guard during the Mardi Gras season. Our dining room transformed from formal to a throws staging area around Epiphany. The house smelled of Pal bubble gum, banana MoonPies and Cracker Jacks the first few months of the year. Our favorite day was float-loading day. I would memorize the floats and board each one to find the best ride in the parade. One year I was rescued after a fall through chicken wire into the cavity of the float.  

10. When do you start getting in the MG spirit and what gets you in the spirit?
Ash Wednesday.  I think about Mardi Gras every day of my life. What gets me in the spirit, is waking up on Ash Wednesday with soreness in muscles that I never even knew I possessed.

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