Apparently I am still stuck in that quagmire of ennui that people in my region suffer from between Mardi Gras & beach time. I can’t seem to get parades out of my mind. Here is a little history of a unique celebration from our area.
First of all, I live in a strange small city. Most of the year you can get a visit to the barred hotel for even appearing to drink in public. To go alcohol is outlawed & only recently have wine & beer sales on Sunday been tolerated. It is illegal to sell sex toys & fireworks (I don’t’ know what those two may have in common). So, we degenerates really appreciate Mardi Gras in this town, unlike New Orleans folks who get to act the fool all the time!
This is an old city, still with a somewhat small town atmosphere, surrounded on all sides by water & beautiful woodlands, despite big business’ attempts to destroy them.
Any way, during a time shortly after The Late Unpleasantness when the city was occupied by Union troops, all gatherings in public were banned. A young man called Joseph Stillwell Cain took exception to the rule that Mardi Gras could not be held that year. He broke into a friends’ hardware store & “liberated” a cowbell & a rake, dressed up like a Native American, and proceeded to wend his somewhat unsteady way down the street calling upon his friends to come out & join him. Thus was Mardi Gras started again after the Civil War!
Up until the late 70s this gathering was held in a cemetery where most of the graves date from the 1700s & old Joe himself rests. It got a little too rowdy & the head honchos tried to ban the procession. The graveyard was locked & guarded by RIOT POLICE! (Protected from a bunch of gentle drunks which included mostly artists, actors, historians, authors, hippies, intellectuals, you know, a scary crowd!
Now it is the largest celebration in our area, except for Mardi Gras Day. There is a much respected Society of Joe Cain’s widows, who dress all in black with their heads & faces covered with long black veils to hide their identity who wail & throw themselves on the grave. They are rivaled by The Mistresses, who wear the most appropriately sleazy red & are locked outside the cemetery gates to wail & protest their undying love for Dear Departed Joe. Then the Procession begins. (Never call it a parade)
It is all great fun, on the Sunday before Mardi Gras Day.