New Orleans gets a lot of credit for Mardi Gras in the South, but you'll need to go about 150 miles east, to Mobile, Alabama, to find out where the tradition actually began. Come Mardi Gras season, thousands of visitors descend on Mobile to take part in the many colorful parades, the prestigious coronations, and the family-friendly festivities.
One of the town's most time-honored traditions, however, is the Queen's Luncheon. Chosen by the Mobile Carnival Association, the Queen – this year, Auburn student Lucy Mostellar – hosts a luncheon with the ladies of her court, attended by Mobile's best-dressed ladies. All of the Southern gals show up in (sometimes hand-made!) hats, tailored dresses, and elegant gloves. The luncheon, planned for almost 10 months by Lucy, her mother, and grandmother, features stunning floral arrangements (including ones hanging from the ballroom ceiling!), glittery centerpieces, and coronation-worthy draperies. To add to the affair, each lady of the court has a knight who marches in mid-luncheon to gift his lady with a stuffed animal. But, these aren't just any teddy bears; the girls' new toys feature hand-stitched dress trains – a few feet long – that match each of their dresses. Children dressed as medieval pages run around, and the Queen's 17-foot satin train, beaded with her monogram, is shown off to attendees. The event, a legacy and tradition to the Belles of Mobile, is truly an affair to behold.