MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama likes to boast that it's the site of America's original Mardi Gras, and now it's advertising that claim in the city that made the celebration epic: New Orleans.
Alabama's state tourism agency has purchased 10 billboards around New Orleans and southern Mississippi to promote the Carnival season in Mobile, director Lee Sentell said Tuesday.
The billboards are subtle: Rather than mentioning Mobile, they tell drivers how many miles they are from "America's original Mardi Gras." That forces people to "do some math" and figure out it's Mobile, said Sentell.
"We just wanted to have some fun with it," he said.
So does Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who tweeted a photo of one of the billboards at New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landreiu and said Mobile would love to "show you how it's done!"
The pre-Lenten celebration was first held in Mobile in 1703, or 15 years before New Orleans was established along the Mississippi River. New Orleans' rowdy celebration is now far larger than the one in Mobile, which bills itself as having a more family-friendly Carnival season.
The billboards, which will remain up through Mardi Gras on Feb. 13, are the latest jab in a friendly rivalry between the two Gulf Coast port cities. Alabama previously parked a Mardi Gras float in New York's Times Square to promote tourism and the state's version of the event.
In New Orleans officials didn't seem too bent out of shape by the billboards.
Mark Romig, who heads the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, said Mobile has a "great history of Mardi Gras" and the two cities have "probably learned from each other over the years." He did note that the New Orleans' celebration is known the world over and extended an invitation to people from Alabama and Mobile to come to New Orleans for the upcoming celebrations.
"Competition is always good and healthy but we stand by our Mardi Gras. We've done it for a long time and we have a lot of good traditions," Romig said.
When asked whether he'd be putting up any billboards in the Mobile area, Romig replied: "I don't think we need to."