The Conde Explorers is Mobile’s first integrated Mardi Gras society. Founded in 2004 to bring together men and women of all races to celebrate Mardi Gras, the Conde Explorers are featured in The Order of Myths, the 2008 award-winning documentary on Mobile’s Mardi Gras.
Our parade rolls through downtown Mobile ten days before Mardi Gras Day. The society’s ball is held the same night at the Mobile Convention Center after the parade. The organization currently has about a hundred and fifty members and welcomes men and women of all races.
Terrance is our president and one of the founding members of the Conde Explorers, which formed in 2004 and held its first parade in 2005. A drum major at Blount High School, he still says it’s not a Mardi Gras parade without the bands. He’s also a firefighter for the city of Mobile.
One of our younger members, Andrew Lawrence graduated from St. Paul’s and recently got his master’s from the University of Montevallo. He teaches civics at Chickasaw Middle School and is a Mobile native. Andrew joined Condes in the footsteps of his mom and dad and started riding as soon as he turned 21.
Stefannie is a native Mobilian who has always loved the Carnival season. She served as the MAMGA Mardi Gras queen in 2007, and was featured in the documentary “Order of Myths.” She has been a member of the Conde Explorers since 2012 and can always be quoted saying “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”
Jonathan Horner is a member of the Conde Explorers board and has participated with the CE for the past five years. In 2009, Jonathan served as King Elexis I for the Mardi Gras season.
Conde Explorers membership is reasonably priced. You can ride right away if you want. There’s only one costume to buy. The ball is laid-back, with no tableaux or call-outs—we eat, drink, and dance. That’s it. Conde Explorers is inclusive. Membership is not limited by gender or religion or skin color or sexual orientation or who your granddaddy was. We show our children what “One Mobile” looks like.
Download and print an application here and bring it to a meeting with a check for your dues. If you have more questions, call president Terrence Bridges at (251) 689-1471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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There are lots of Mardi Gras organizations in Mobile, but the Conde Explorers are unique. We are creating a new Mardi Gras tradition here in Mobile. Here’s a few more reasons why you should wear the Conde Explorer crest.
So you think you’re interested in joining the Conde Explorers? Great! Come to one of our meetings to ask questions and meet people. The most appealing thing about our organization is the welcome we extend to all. There are no waiting lists to be a float rider, and many out-of-towners fly in for the weekend to throw beads and party at the ball. There is no need to wait to be invited to join—just jump right into things.
We meet at 5 pm on on the third Sunday each month from September to January, with extra meetings as Mardi Gras approaches. Join us in Stirling Hall behind All Saints Episcopal Church in Midtown. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Parade day is a long! It starts with loading floats and ends after the ball. Here are some tips to make it more relaxing.
Let’s start with the date. To find the parade date, Google the date for that year’s Mardi Gras and count back 16 days to Saturday. In 2016 we roll in the second parade on Saturday January 29. Write it on your calendar with a big fat marker.
Float loading gets the day started. We have a cookout at Calloway-Smith Middle School, 350 N. Lawrence Street while riders unpack their boxes and load throws onto their float. Beads are hung from racks, stuffed animals are placed in plastic bags, and any boxes are removed from floats. The tunes are pumping from our DJ, and the red beans and rice give you fuel for a long day. It’s time to get in the parade spirit!
Suit up and get ready! Float rider attend a pre-parade party at the Mobile Civic Center. Riders come in mask and costume to take last-minute photos, get a bite to eat, and get “fired up” by a live marching band. Finally the doors open and we head outside into the cheering crowd and waiting parade floats. For the next two hours our riders riders have the time of their life in an experience unique to the Gulf Coast.
How can friends spot me? The crowd noise is such a rush, but it can be tough to spot friends in the crowd. Make sure you know where they are standing, and that they know which side of what float you are on. Also, it helps to have a sign. If you are throwing something special, put it in a soft bag—not a heavy bundle or hard box. We don’t want to hurt anyone.
What’s the ball dress code? The Conde Explorer Ball dress code is tails or tuxedos for the men and full-length gowns for the ladies. Members may come in costume. Last-minute riders may get off-the-rack costumes like this one at Toomey’s. Once inside, members and guests are seated together and there are no call-outs. Live music, tables of food, and an open bar guarantee that nobody is left out.
It’s party time! After a two-hour ride through roaring crowds, it’s time to party with the Conde Explorers! The parade returns to the Mobile Civic Center, where riders leave the floats to head for the ball. Some members rent hotel rooms where they may change clothes, but many of us simply drive to the Convention Center directly from the parade.
I know what you’re thinking: isn’t it expensive to put on a parade and ball? So what’s it going to cost me?
No! Although most of our members are local, we have many non-resident members who come into town for a weekend of fun and revelry. You can easily purchase your throws on Saturday morning, load them on a float that day, ride in the parade, and have a great time at the ball Saturday night. There are also parades on Friday night that you can enjoy while you’re in town. Mobile has plenty of fun things to do and see–come on down!
Board members support the Conde Explorers, often becoming float captains, selling ball tickets, and guiding the Explorers in financial and organizational decisions. Our 2015 board includes Mike Walker, Marty Starks, Ed English, John Sylvester, Jason Craig, Roderick Shoots, Kendall Gunn, Edward Lee, Brian Scott, Terrell Smiley, Terence Bridges, Henry Callaway, Bryan Maryland, Jonathan Horner, and Ronald “Rocky” Horner.