It’s No Secret–The First Mardi Gras Celebration Wasn’t In Louisiana
The next two weekends feature the biggest parades in Shreveport's annual Mardi Gras celebration. The Krewe Of Centaur is one of the largest parading krewes anywhere in the state of Louisiana, including New Orleans, and their annual parade is this Saturday. It's so big that in 2005 it was named one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association.
While Mardi Gras is traditionally associated with New Orleans there are celebrations in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Houma and, of course, Shreveport. But Mardi Gras was celebrated for the very first time in America in 1703 in the little settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile just a couple of hours east of New Orleans. That would be what is now Mobile, Alabama.
In fact, according to MardiGrasNewOrleans.com, Carnival was primarily celebrated within the Roman Catholic Creole community until 1856 when 6 Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus. Comus was based on a secret society in Mobile called the Cowbellion de Rakin Society which is credited with being the first formally organized and masked society to celebrate with a parade which was in 1830.
Mobile continues to have a significant Mardi Gras parade schedule. When I was working for WABB-FM radio in the 1990's, we had a giant Boom Box mobile studio that we set up along the route of every parade. We had the best seats in the house, because we'd sit on top of the Boom Box high above the crowd and yell, "Throw me somethin', mister!" The throws in Mobile consist mainly of beads and Moon Pies. The secret societies used to throw out all kinds of candy and treats, but the city of Mobile banned cracker jacks boxes as throws because the sharp corners could prove harmful if you caught one in the eye. So, in 1974 the krewe of The Maids Of Mirth began throwing Moon Pies because they had rounded edges. The tradition is still going strong today.
Other throws that are popular throughout Louisiana are candy, doubloons, commemorative cups and, of course, the main throw for all Mardi Gras parades--BEADS! In New Orleans alone over 12, 500 TONS of beads are thrown each year. But whatever throws you reach for in the next couple of weeks, just be careful if you're picking them up off the ground. It's amazing how crazy people will go for a simple, cheap, trinket. You might just find someone's boot planted on the back of your hand.