Mardi Gras isn’t a day; it’s a season. Okay, officially Mardi Gras is specifically the Tuesday before Lent begins in the Catholic liturgical calendar, but it’s the culmination of carnival, a period of revelry that stretches back to Thanksgiving eve of the preceding year. And in Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras isn’t just a celebration—it’s a lifestyle.

Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the US, launching the tradition some 16 years before it marched over to New Orleans, and while many outsiders have long forgotten that Mobile still hosts the original Mardi Gras, Mobile certainly hasn’t. The multi-month blowout is a booming industry in the small, coastal Alabama city where costumes are hand-sewn year-round, “float builder” is a full-time profession, and behemoth Mardi Gras depots sell supplies all year to the 70 mystic societies who host balls and parades throughout the carnival season. Read Full Story