I'm sure it's all in good fun -- if not a bit of local pride -- but the cities of Mobile and New Orleans are having quite a row over the origin of Mardi Gras.
Which city can claim it?
It started this week when the Sweet Home Alabama Travel bureau paid for billboards in New Orleans that say, "Your are 114 miles from America's original Mardi Gras." Those are fighting words down there, obviously. The billboards are related to the historical belief that the first Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile in 1703, a belief the city swears by.
As you can imagine, New Orleans isn't taking this well. New Orleans and Bourbon Street are cemented in Mardi Gras' global lore, much more than Mobile. A story on The Times-Picayune's website, NOLA.com, says Alabama's claim ignores "evidence that the French Canadian explorer Iberville pitched camp in what is now Plaquemines Parish on Mardi Gras day in 1699, noting the holiday in his log book."
Somehow, I don't think the two cities will find a pleasant compromise.
-- Phillip Tutor