by Preston Brady III 2023
One recent Sunday I decided to drive downtown, mainly to visit Mardi Gras Park. The park opened in 2016 and was an effort paid partially by the citizens of Mobile, with private funding from the Hearin-Chandler Foundation. The late William Hearin (2021) was publisher of The Mobile Press Register. What I found most impressive about the park were the colorful, realistic statues of famous Mardi Gras figures such as Joe Cain, a city clerk who in 1896 basically created Mardi Gras in America. He dressed as a Chickasaw Indian chief – named Slacabamorinico, parading with a few friends down the streets of Mobile with cowbells and trumpets. They called themselves The Cowbellion Society. I can think of no better example of the “Mobile humor” we still see today in some of our citizens and establishments. Later, Julian Rayford was one of such characters who loved Mardi Gras in Mobile and came to create Joe Cain Day, now known as The People’s Parade and held on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. If you’ve never seen the parade, in the spirit of Joe Cain most of the floats carry signs that poke fun at the political topics of the day. The statues were created by KernStudios.com. Yes, they are based in New Orleans, and no, New Orleans did not invent Mardi Gras – Mobile, Alabama did and, most of us will take every opportunity to remind folks where it all began.
Also impressive about this park is the open green area, or playground where on the day of my visit children played. The open expanse of the park makes it feel accessible, explorable on a typical day. It feels like a good place to have a picnic, especially in early Spring or Fall, and even most days in winter since with the exception of isolated days when Canada’s winter weather reaches our area – and it can get very cold on those days – our winters are mild and some of the most enjoyable of the year. If you visit Mardi Gras Park during the week you can walk across Royal Street and visit the HistoryMuseumofMobile.com. The Exploreum.com sits next to the museum, and Fort Conde is right there in the mix of all of this activity. On any day you can head up Royal Street and swing onto Dauphin Street and visit one of the restaurants or bars, several of which were open on the Sunday I visited. Most locals will make a stop at the restaurant SpotofTea.com – popular for Sunday Brunch and nestled up to Cathedral Park where on this day I found a few people socializing.
This one few hours trip did not make a dent in what can be enjoyed in downtown Mobile. I will be going back many times, so for those sites and businesses I missed in this post, don’t fret – I will get to you yet. FYI – this site is not associated with the official City of Mobile Web site. It can be found here.