MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Folks like to say the corner of Jackson Street and Government in Mobile is the safest spot in town during Mardi Gras. That’s because of a Mobile Mardis Gras tradition that is a piece of the season’s hidden history. For decades, this city block has been the territory of the town’s reveling riders. During any parade, you’ll find dozens, sometimes even hundreds of motorcycles gleaming in the sunshine or sparkling in the city lights at night. And you’ll find as many bikers having fun, catching beads and partying.
No one I spoke with was sure of exactly when or how this tradition was started. But lifelong Mobile resident and biker, Ward Davis, says he’s been riding to this spot for more than 30 years, “it’s always been a safe place, the bikes are always pretty and shiny.” His kids are all grown up now, but he remembers putting them on his bike when they were little and bringing them down to Jackson Street, “I have 37- and 34-year-old sons and they were 8 and 4 coming down on my motorcycle with me. So we’ve been coming down a long time.”
A few blocks down Jackson Street is another popular spot for bikers, Bob’s Downtown Diner. Owner Tony Sawyer is the unofficial “Mayor” of Mobile’s biker community, “this right here is where all of the motorcycle enthusiasts hang out. This has been a landmark for Harley riders for as long as I can remember.” Sawyer says motorcycles and Mardi Gras is a no-brainer, “we like to party and have fun, be kids, bring our inner child out.”
That’s not the only biker tradition during Mardi Gras. The Abba Shrine Ball, until this year actually known as the “Biker Ball,” is a casual contrast to the tails and gowns of the other balls in Mobile. Instead, folks wear casual rider attire and keep it comfortable while they celebrate.
But perhaps the most visible biker tradition to those who don’t ride, is the annual Joe Cain Day ride. Bikers once again meet up at the Abba Shrine, as many as 300 depending on the weather, then ride downtown to take part in the Joe Cain Day procession. Joe Cain Day is the Sunday before Fat Tuesday, which is this Sunday, Feb. 23. “I love it, this is the best time of the year. It’s when a lot of adults can let loose and have fun and laugh. We all have each others’ back and we all are kids again. That’s what makes this all great.”
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Chris Best is the News Director for WKRG. He’s a husband and father of four. He’s also a motorcycle enthusiast.
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