Football and Mardi Gras

Tailgating on the Grove at Ole Miss before a football game is like Mardi Gras in Mobile, AL.

I am a displaced coastal resident spending time in a Southern college town where my husband works and my son attends school. It’s football season and Ole Miss is the place to be this season. So, while visiting with friends at their party spot on the Grove (a section of the campus designated as a tailgating area), I noticed the similarities to Gulf Coast Mardi Gras season.

Mardi Gras consists of Krewes boldly named with wide range and number of members or participants. You’ll find the Mobile Mystics, Krewe de la Dauphine, Knights of Ecor Rouge, Order of the Polka Dots, to name a few. But you don’t have to be a Krewe member to join the fun. Just show up at a parade and join in. There are private parties around town and if you know anyone, you may just get invited. The region parties on either designated days (scheduled parades) or on any day of the Mardi Gras season.

Krewe members and party goers dress fantastically, individually or to a group theme. Food, decorations, and designated spots to meet are arranged like a wedding reception. Party goers clutch their beloved Solo Cups. Alcohol flows and doubloons are tossed. Parade attendees collect their booty in bags, like children on Halloween night. The noise level reaches untold decibels. You can hear music, laughter, and maybe a Krewe or organization’s chant or cheer can be heard above the revelry. “Hey Mister, throw me something” is the thing to say to the passing parade floats. Everyone shouts it.

It’s all over by midnight.

Mardi Gras in Mobile and the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay is a highly recommended tourist experience. It is family friendly (compared to New Orleans) and a lot of the parades are during the day on the weekends.

Ole Miss Rebel football tailgating in the Grove is another experience for your bucket list, if you have one.

Tents are set up the night before each home game and each tent is boldly named so the participants can find each other. You will find “Black Jack Rebels”, “The Dixie Dozen”, “The Groove Tent”, “Aging Rebels”, to name a few. Some groups simply have the family last name printed on the tent. But if you don’t know anyone, you can usually find a hospitality tent to join, grab some food and just hang out and make some friends. Each tent contains a buffet table with planned menu items or pot-luck selection, flowers in vases, flags, lighting, and other decorations. Some tents house a large flat screen to watch pre-game shows and for those left behind to party during the game. Not everyone gets a ticket for a seat in the stadium.

Ole Miss football fans dress fantastically but according to traditional Oxford-Southern style; a theme. This means on designated home-game days you’re instructed to wear either red or blue. It’s not a choice; you wear the color of the day and you wear it in style: dresses (short or long, sleeveless or sleeved); heals, cowgirl boots or sandals; done-up hair and lots of hairspray and makeup. Guys can get away with khakis, an Ole Miss polo shirt or dress shirt and bow tie. Of course, some do show up a bit more casual but for the most part you dress up like you’re going to church.

Alcohol flows and those of drinking age (wink, wink) clutch their red or blue Solo Cups. Women carry their necessities in stylish purses usually of school colors to match their outfits. No doubloons here, but half-pint Rebel fans toss footballs where ever there’s a clear area to do so. Be sure to keep your drink in your hand and your eyes up in case a tossed pigskin flies your way.

The noise level reaches untold decibels. Music plays, fans chatter, the marching band parades by and fans cheer while the team heads down the Walk Of Champions. And don’t forget to memorize the Rebel Yell. You’ll need to be prepared when someone in the crowd just randomly yell “Are you ready?” at which point everyone responds:

Hell Yeah! Damn Right!
Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty,
Who The Hell Are We? Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
Ole Miss By Damn!

The Grove closes at midnight following the game.

The party atmosphere, named groups banding together to celebrate in high style, dressing up, drinking from Solo Cups, parades, tossing stuff, shutting down at midnight and a distinct seasonal chant tie Ole Miss football and Gulf Coast Mardi Gras together. So, if you enjoy revelry and the excitement that only crowds can provide, try them both: Ole Miss football in the fall, and Gulf Coast Mardi Gras in late winter. Football and Mardi Gras … two amazing Southern traditions.

Mardi Gras

The Mardi Gras season is hitting both its high note and end note along the Gulf Coast. Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras, yet the biggest celebrations are held in New Orleans. Perhaps the city lends itself to more of a party atmosphere than Mobile, but Mobile does its share of celebrating. You can check out the schedule at this link: http://www.marriott.com/hotelwebsites/us/m/mobbr/mobbr_pdf/MG_routesched2011.pdf

You can find New Orleans’ parades here: http://www.mardigrasparadeschedule.com/

Mardi Gras is celebrated all along the Gulf Coast.  The farthest east I could find a current schedule of events is Destin, FL although I read a history of Mardi Gras in Apalachicola.  They stopped their festivities in the early 1900’s.  The farthest west the Mardi Gras is celebrated is Galveston, TX.  We went to a parade there in 2007.  It wasn’t planned.  My husband was working in Houston then and we spent some time day-tripping.  Galveston was a cool town.  We haven’t returned since Hurricane Ike.  I’d like to see it again.

The schools and businesses along the Gulf Coast close for the long week (Friday through Tuesday, usually) returning on Wednesday. It’s hard to get to work or school if you’re on a parade line so basically whole municipalities and local businesses shut down. 

Since we homeschool, it doesn’t affect us. My husband works at home that day, the boys keep on learning and I do what I do.  Most families that get this holiday take this opportunity to take a short trip out-of-town away from the crowds, but we’re staying here this year.  Our big vacation is in the summer.

Parades can be fun but if you do them too often they’re no longer that exciting.   The Gulf Coast does host a parade for just about everything: schools, most holidays, the entire Mardi Gras season just to name a few.  My 4H club participates in a Christmas parade.  Every small town has one so if you’re really addicted to beads, candy and other throwables you can hit several in one weekend; like Mardi Gras. 

How many beads can a person own?  Don’t know but I’d like to meet the person that claims to have the largest collection of Mardi Gras beads caught at parades throughout his or her lifetime.  We went to a few parades, years ago when we first moved to the Gulf Coast, so I have my beads saved.  They fill a shoe box.  They’ve moved from Alabama, through 5 other states and back.  I don’t know why.

Enjoy the Mardi Gras season, if you desire.  If not, take this time and enjoy what you enjoy.

Daphne Christmas Parade 2009

Our 4H club had a float in the Daphne Christmas parade this year.  The members worked hard decorating it to no theme in particular; just Christmas.  They wrapped lights around the sides of the trailer which was pulled behind a pickup truck.  There was also garland and red bows.  We plugged the lights into the truck’s cigarette lighter and there was a festive float.  The members huddled in the cold on top of bales of hay.  There were signs on the sides and back telling all of Daphne who we are.

The club, the Creative And Performing Arts Club, had just come off of a production of Robin Hood the week before Thanksgiving so the members dressed up in their costumes donning santa caps as well.

It was a lot of fun, even on probably the coldest night yet. 

They threw out candy, cups and stuffed animals.

One thing the other mom on the truck and I learned about the parade is that a lot of goods go to waste.  The crowd stood beyond barricades yet tons of beads, candy, and moonpies were on the inside of the barricades; in the street.  We watched the truck in front of us and the truck behind us and notice everyone was throwing down.  The stuff they paid for to hand out wasn’t making it to the crowd.  So she and I encouraged our crew to toss as far as possible.  She (other mom) was at the Spanish Fort parade the next day and told me later that she noticed the same thing.

Mardi Gras is coming up soon.  I hope those beads and other treats get tossed far enough to reach their crowds.