For many Christians, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of a 40-day fasting period of Lenten repentance, ending the season of Carnival and Mardi Gras festivities.
In the United States, the first thing people think of when imagining Mardi Gras celebrations are New Orleans parades and king cakes stuffed with creamy filling and plastic babies. Beyond the bayou crowds, the American South is home to multiple centers for Carnival entertainment that occurs in the weeks leading up to the famous Fat Tuesday.
So when choosing where to catch your beads and eat your fill of fried pastries, consider celebrating in America’s sub-capitals of Mardi Gras entertainment found in Alabama, Texas and Missouri.
Home to the original Mardi Gras madness that began in 1703, Mobile, Alabama, begins its parades and parties nearly three weeks before its climax on Fat Tuesday. On the Sunday before Lent begins, the city pays tribute to Joe Cain who restored the Carnival tradition 149 years ago by leading the first post-Civil War parade in celebration of Mardi Gras. Millions come to Mobile each year to catch Moon Pies thrown from decked out parade floats.
In St. Louis, Missouri, the French district of Soulard hosts one of the largest, if not the largest, Mardi Gras festival in the U.S. Beginning Jan. 6, a variety of events are held before two weeks of daily parades leading up to Fat Tuesday. While the Bud Light Grand Parade is the most popular parade for visitors to attend, the most unique events cater to four-legged revelers. The Weiner Dog Derby pits dachshunds against one another in the cutest race of the festival, and in the Beggin’ Pet Parade, all pets and owners come dressed to impress.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including Carnival. Hundreds of thousands flock to the island of Galveston, Texas, to enjoy the two weeks of numerous parades, parties and concerts leading up to the beginning of Lent. This year Galveston held its 106th festival with entertainment that catered to interests of every age in order to make it a celebration for everyone.
This post was written by Gabrielle Cowand. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellecowand.