Downtown Mobile Mardi Gras parading season begins tonight (gallery)

MOBILE, AlabamaMardi Gras is officially in full swing.

With the Condé Cavaliers set to hit the streets of Mobile tonight at 6:30, and 3 parades scheduled for Saturday, the countdown to Fat Tuesday has begun.

And though the forecast is for continued warm weather and as much as a 40-percent chance of rain throughout the weekend, the city is primed to continue the tradition it started in the New World more than 300 years ago.

For more than a week, Mobile has been bustling with the signs of its impending celebration: miles of streets are lined with barricades, RVs and campers are filling every available space, and corner food vendors — the unofficial ambassadors of Carnival — are frying up everything from candy bars to steak.

This will be the first of 3 weekends of celebration, leading up to Mardi Gras Day, and it all starts with more than a dozen floats from the Condés, all united in their 2012 theme, “Condés Rock the Jukebox.” and joining the fun will be Chief Slacabamorinico, riding his Joe Cain Coal Wagon through the city along Route a.

2012 Parade Route A

Like the Condé Cavaliers, Saturday’s parading societies will all travel Route a through the city. The fun starts when the Bayport Parading Society rolls at 2:30 p.m., led by Ol’ Slac once again, as their special guest. Two parades follow in the evening: the Pharaohs at 6:30 p.m., with their theme, “Pharaohs in Da-Nile” followed by the Condé Explorers at 7 p.m. who chose the theme, “Exploring the USA with the Condé Explorers.”

According to WKRG meteorologist Alan Sealls, southeastern winds raise the possibility of rain today and Saturday, with temperatures staying in the lower 70s. a cold front is expected to come through on Saturday night, however, which will drop temperatures slightly and lower the chance of rain going into next week. Both Friday and Saturday carry a 40 percent of rain.

Parade-goers are losing 2 favorite free parking areas this year, as the Mobile Police Department announced Wednesday that officers will be enforcing the “No Parking” signs at 2 locations on Water Street usually packed with vehicles before each downtown parade.

Citing “safety concerns and an increase in available public parking,” police will no longer allow parking on the median between Government and Dauphin streets, or along the edge of city rights of way on the east side of Water Street north of the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center.

Paid parking nearby will be available south of the convention center at the site of the former CSX and Amtrak station, as well as at the Alabama Cruise Terminal. The cost is $10 for parades except for Joe Cain Day and Mardi Gras Day, when the charge will be $15.

For Mardi Gras information, city officials ask that citizens call 311, the city’s information line. A full schedule of area parades can be found here.

Downtown Mobile Mardi Gras parading season begins tonight (gallery)

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