Just as the title suggests, here are a few of my favorite people shots from the second day. The Joe Cain Parade is deliberately more of a “people’s parade” and the floats are less spectacular. That said, the day is absolutely fantastic for people watching. I’m posting a few here and within the next half hour I will have the full Mardi Gras 200+ photos on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook page. If that sounds like too much, enjoy these few shots of interesting people at Mardi Gras. Enjoy.
The last time I attended a Mardi Gras parade or event was, I think, 1974. I grew up in and around Mobile, Alabama and it was part of the culture. I thought everyone had Mardi Gras and took the parades, music and revelry for granted. I moved away in 1980 and was shocked to find that my new city didn’t close schools and shut down businesses for the two days before Ash Wednesday.
It’s an odd thing about Mobile, Alabama. It’s a conservative, mostly Baptist city – but with a French Catholic heritage. Mardi Gras (of sorts) started there in 1703 which, for those of you keeping count, is fifteen years before New Orleans was founded. The annual celebration has continued since with a small interruption during the conflagration in the early 1860s. Joe Cain is credited with bringing the debauchery back to the city and it’s been a presence ever since, despite the fact that the city is much less Catholic these days and Frenchmen are hard to come by.
Urban Brother and I decided our collective 70 year gap in Mardi Gras was enough. It’s been hard for either of us to make it there over the years due to distance and other obligations, but we found ourselves with a little window this year and grabbed it. We drove into Mobile Saturday morning this past weekend and stayed until Sunday afternoon. The timing is good because, in addition to afternoon parades on Saturday, one of the very best parades – and the one we most remember from childhood – the Mystics of Time parade on Saturday night before Mardi Gras Day.
Additionally, the Joe Cain parade is on Sunday afternoon and it’s steeped in as much Mobile tradition as about anything the city has to offer. Joe paraded through the city in 1868 dressed as a Chickasaw Indian and was joined by some Confederate veterans riding a coal wagon. The tradition grew rapidly and Mardi Gras resumed. The Joe Cain Parade started in 1967 and the jazz funeral marched to the re-burial site of Joe Cain in downtown Mobile. The parade now includes Joe’s widows dressed in black and his mistresses dressed in red, along with many Mardi Gras Indians.
The photographs you are seeing here are from Saturday, though I may throw out a post later that includes Sunday’s Joe Cain parade. The parades run for two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday with multiple parades staged each day in downtown Mobile. Happily, I can report that downtown Mobile is undergoing a similar resurgence to ours and to that of many cities across the country.
Interestingly, a large swath of downtown Mobile on Dauphin Street, which is not on the parade route, was closed for the entire weekend to automotive traffic making an Open Streets sort of effect, though with alcohol allowed throughout. To say it was fun would be a significant understatement. It made me wonder why and how Mobile can do this and Knoxville can’t afford to very often close streets.
I took 476 photographs on Saturday alone and I’ve now trimmed them to a bit over two hundred, most of which I will post to Facebook later today. If you like what you see here, be sure to check the Inside of Knoxville Facebook page for the others. These aren’t event necessarily the best, they are just some good ones I could quickly grab. I will try to hit Joe Cain later today so we can keep it all on Fat Tuesday.
Knoxville implication: The photographs you see here and will see on Facebook help explain why I grumble about our floats at Christmas, our biggest parade of the year. I know it’s not directly analogous, but see what can be done? From two story floats to self-propelled, fire breathing dragons, it’s very spectacular.
Happy Fat Tuesday, everyone.
It might seem like a bit of a stretch: Mardi Gras in the Appalachians. Even short of that, for those of us with a little purple and gold, floats and doubloons in our blood, September seems like a pretty strange time of year for the event. Combine them both and you’ve got a fun Knox Heritage Party on the streets of our little city. You’ve also made a pretty potent gumbo of things I love.
The party is one of a series of Summer Suppers sponsored by Knox Heritage to raise money for their on-going preservation efforts in Knox County. The parties typically carry a theme complete with food, drink, music and often costumes to complete the tableau. See, even preservation nerds know how to have a good time.
Light foods and decorations greeted guests in the courtyard at Kendrick Place, a space which reminds more than the occasional passerby of New Orleans. After partying in that space for a while, a marching band greeted the gathering with a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
A parade ensued, crossing Locust Street walking past Pete’s Coffee Shop onto Union Avenue. Unfortunately for my photographic efforts, they departed early and I ran into them in a constricted space on the street which assisted me in attaining just the right impressionistic look in the pictures I hoped to attain. Or it made the photographs blurry, you decide.
The group meandered their way past the, no doubt, startled movie goers as they gathered on the Square giving them a shot of better music than any they likely heard in the soundtrack to “Footloose,” which happened to be the movie du jour. After crossing the great divide to the north of the city (Summit Hill – sort of a redundant name if you think about it), they settled into another very cool space beside the Emporium at the original level of Gay Street for more revelry.
There party goers enjoyed New Orleans style jazz, more festive beverages, a shrimp boil, jambalaya, and red beans and rice from the Shrimp Dock. I don’t usually talk about businesses and such outside the center city, but this gives me an excuse to say, “People don’t buy seafood anyplace in Knoxville but the Shrimp Dock and think you are getting the real thing.” I don’t usually quote myself, either, but there you go. It’s the real deal. They own the shrimp boats and the trucks that bring the food straight to our city. We’re very blessed to have them.
So, you never know with this crazy bunch up here just what you’ll get on a Friday night in the city. For those of you who haven’t read this blog for very long or haven’t taken the time to go back and read each and every one of my six hundred posts, you might be surprised to learn that Mardi Gras belongs to Mobile, Alabama. I’ll wait until you get back from Wikipedia . . .
So, there you go. Not that New Orleans hasn’t done a decent job with it, but Mobile owns it and still rocks it. Here’s a video to prove it and to give you a preview of why I get cranky when I see lame floats in our Christmas Parade. But that’s a post for December.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!