While my kids and I were visiting my parents in Pensacola earlier this summer, we made a trip across the bay to Mobile, Alabama to meet up with my niece and her family and visit the Mobile Carnival Museum. I know most people associate Mardi Gras in the US with New Orleans but Mobile, Alabama is actually the birthplace of Mardi Gras in North America. Before founding the city of New Orleans, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, a French Commandant and explorer, was headquartered at Fort Louis de la Mobile where he had established a small settlement. It was here in 1703, that the French soldiers/settlers first observed Mardi Gras.
The following year they held the first Mardi Gras masked ball and seven years after that a group of rowdy revelers pulled a papier-mâché bull (Boeuf Gras) on wheels down Dauphin Street, beginning the carnival parade tradition. As the years passed, secret societies and krewes developed, with each group trying to outdo the others in imagination and magnificence. Mobile’s Carnival Museum has a wonderful collection of old costumes and memorabilia – and a great gift shop where we couldn’t resist picking up a few Mardi Gras masks and Moon Pies.