Everybody knows that America’s version of Mardi Gras originated in New Orleans, right? Wrong. Actually, it began in, of all places, Mobile, Alabama, then the capital of the Louisiana Territory, in 1704. It wasn’t until some 150 years later, when a group of merry Mobilians visited New Orleans, that the Crescent City took Mobile’s masked ball and ran with it.

Mobile, however, is more than just a festive footnote. It’s a stately port city that treasures its status as the American birthplace of pre-Lenten street parties, as well as a place where the event struts and swaggers with more tradition and sanity than you’ll find on Bourbon Street.

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