It's unlike any ladies luncheon we've seen before.
Step inside the ballroom of the Queen's Luncheon in Mobile, Alabama, and you'll be greeted with what looks like the scape of a wedding reception. Elegant florals cascade from the ceilings, a stunning head table sits on a raised platform in the center of the room, and each of the attendees – ladies from around Mobile and some who travel in just for the occasion – are decked out in their Sunday best. Enormous, colorful hats float around the room, and gloved Southern belles float around chatting with ladies they haven't connected with since last year.
Although many folks associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, the beloved tradition actually began in Mobile, Alabama in 1703, about 15 years before NOLA. And, make no mistake in pushing Mobile to the side when planning your Mardi Gras celebrations; this bayside town hosts thousands and thousands of visitors each year for special events like parades, balls, and coronations (really!).
One of the Mobile Carnival Association's most special, celebrated traditions is the Queen's luncheon on Lundi Gras. This year's queen, Lucy Mostellar, has been pulling together the luncheon's details over the last 10 months with the help of her mother and grandmother. And, the elegant luncheon certainly proves that the work has paid off. The luncheon begins with the Queen and her ladies of the court being announced, one by one, as they walk through the tables in the room, showing off their dresses. Mid-way through the luncheon, the ladies are met by their knights, who bring each girl a stuffed animal wearing a hand-stitched dress train that matches her own.
Although the tradition may seem unusual for those looking in, this highly anticipated event is one of the local ladies' favorite reasons to break out their gloves and hats. Almost unanimously, the ladies agreed that this tradition – some of them having attended for over 25 years – is one of the important reasons that Mobile Mardi Gras stands apart from other celebrations. Some ladies have hosted their own Queen's Luncheon, while others have had daughters in the court. The guests agreed that they enjoy watching the luncheon change from year to year, as different Queens take the throne.
While you won't be able to pick up beignets and café au lait at Cafe du Monde, Mobile offers another side to Mardi Gras often overlooked in the February/March celebrations – the family friendly side. There's a reason that ladies come from their transplanted locations back to their home on the coast to attend these events: their community pulls them back.