Don’t forget to duck.

That’s the key to enjoying the traditional Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile. Like New Orleans, the “Port City” celebration is parade-centric and float riders traditionally shower bystanders with beads and small toys (Nerf footballs are really popular at both). But if one is not careful, in Mobile, you might end up being concussed by the traditional parade accouterments that are uniquely southern—MoonPies and honey buns.


Former NFL player Terrell Owens once called honeybuns “the black man’s steak,” and during Mardi Gras parades in Mobile, they rain down like manna from heaven. However, you are not likely to catch many individual sweet treats because, in Mobile, they throw entire boxes of honey buns and MoonPies.

Chow Hound explains how the tradition started in Mobile:

Cracker Jack had long been a popular Mardi Gras throw; it was affordable enough to give away and delicious enough to appeal to most everyone, but the bulky boxes were hard to aim accurately and the corners could be painful when they hit people in the head. It was such a problem that Mobile banned the tossing of Cracker Jack boxes in 1972. Smaller, softer, blessedly round MoonPies were a safer option, and they were already a long-cherished Southern delight, so they became the standard sweet treat thrown off of floats in Mobile. Once again, New Orleans followed suit—so if you’re in the Big Easy for the occasion, you’re likely to catch at least one MoonPie when you cry, “Throw me something, mister!” And of course, you can still snatch them from the air in Mobile, too.


Unlike the Big Easy, the Port City streets are not packed with merrymakers until the wee hours of the morning. At Mobile’s black Mardi Gras balls, parasol-toting partygoers back dat azz up in gowns and tuxedos while participating in an unacknowledged competition to see whose table sports the biggest feast of seafood and liquor.

Everyone wins.


Although the French phrase Mardi Gras translates to “Fat Tuesday” in English, Tuesday is not the biggest day of celebration in Mobile. Monday features the MLK Parade, usually the largest black parade of the Shrovetide season. But the most well-attended day event during Shrovetide happens on Joe Cain Day—the Sunday before Mardi Gras—when the entire city participates in a faux-resurrection ceremony dedicated to the man who legend says reignited the Mardi Gras tradition in Mobile when he paraded through the streets and people joined in. Not sponsored by a krewe or civic group like all the other parades, for years, the Joe Cain parade was the only parade where everyone was allowed to join in.

“A lot of people, especially black people, have to work on Monday and Tuesday,” Spriggs explained. “So Joe Cain [Day] is usually the day when everybody comes out.”


And while everyone acknowledges that Mardi Gras is not a black holiday, per se, they also argue that it occupies a unique space in Mobile’s history. “It doesn’t belong to us. It’s everybody’s, to be honest,” said Spriggs. “If you want to want to have a wild time, I’d go to New Orleans.

“But if you’re black,” he added, “you gotta come to Mobile just one time.”