The Mardi Gras season is just around the corner and soon our streets will be filled with revelers celebrating Carnival I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Joynt, the editor of the Mobile Mask, the foremost magazine for Mobile’s Mardi Gras season about his unique and treasured piece of Mobile’s Carnival Season.
Though Steve was not born under an azalea bush, he has spent a lot of time in Alabama. First, working for the Birmingham News and then for the Mobile Press-Register. He was first introduced to Mardi Gras when he visited New Orleans. It was there he discovered a whole new holiday, one that lasts two and a half weeks and isn’t just all about kids.
While working at the old Mobile Press building, Steve always appreciated that you could go see a parade then go back to work. He served as the Assistant City Editor at the Mobile Press and as the Mardi Gras coverage reporter. As the Mardi Gras reporter, he eventually runs out of ideas about the season. The running out of ideas was Steve’s spark of an idea. He began researching the history of the carnival season from the ground up. He wanted to try and answer all the unanswered questions about our Mardi Gras. “There are a lot of them,” Steve told me.
THE BEGININGS OF THE MASK
When Steve went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, he used the Arthur Hardy guides to steer his adventures. He discovered there was nothing like the Hardy guide for Mobile’s carnival season. He had in mind as a similar guide for Mobile when he began to create the Mobile Mask. He worked on the magazine at night and soon he had a decision to make, either do it or not.
In September of 2011, Steve took medical leave from the Mobile Press-Register. He returned at a time of upheaval at Press-Register. He took the buyout offered from the newspaper in 2012. Then during the 2012 carnival season, he took lots of pictures of the parades for what would be included in the magazines’ debut issue in 2013. “Why I thought one person could put out a magazine, I don’t know. It seemed doable.” He told me.
GETTING THE MASK ON ITS FEET
What Steve didn’t know at the beginning of the adventure was how difficult it would be to sell ads for the magazine. He is very grateful for his first customers and that they have continued to be customers through the ensuing years. “I can’t talk people into advertising but I can sell an ad for the magazine.” He decided against coupons in the magazine because “The Mask” is considered a keepsake publication.
MR. MARDI GRAS
The Mask has now become the “go to” guy for everything Mardi Gras, the media now calls Steve to see if the parade is going instead of checking with the local police. The Mask’s Facebook page is very active during the season and it has now become the source of all Mobile Mardi Gras information. Steve admits he doesn’t know it all but he does dedicate himself to the topic all year long. He attends all the association meetings in order to get the inside scope on what will be happening for all the parades for the carnival season. He was there when a new Saraland organization’s members showed up in costume, all so that the organization would get its parading permit.
Steve’s main objective with The Mask is to “Make it a Happy Place”. In a twist on his journalist roots, Steve has the organization’s review the articles before their stories are printed in the magazine. There are no ‘got ya’ stories. He wants people to be pleased with the articles. He wants people to enjoy the article and to “cut them out, put it in a frame and hang it in their den.”
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MOBILE AND NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL CELEBRATION
What’s the biggest difference between New Orleans and Mobile Carnival celebration, “If you want a good seat for a New Orleans parade, it’s pretty much an all-day affair. In Mobile, you can set your watch by the parade and go have dinner afterward.” Mobile has more days of parading than New Orleans and Mobile has more mystic societies. New Orleans organizations don’t rent their floats and Mobile does.
An interesting fact is that in Mobile, fire truck drivers do most of the float driving. There is also only one man in Mobile who pulls the floats in and out of the float barns. This is a highly specialized skill.
MOBILE’S BEST KEPT MARDI GRAS SECRET
“Nobody is in Charge.” Steve told me. Everyone thinks someone oversees but it’s a myth.
This year, over ten thousand copies of The Mask will be printed. Be sure to get your hands on this unique, Mobile original keepsake. The Mask is here to “enhance people’s fun.” Steve said. It will lead you to understand and enjoy the Carnival Season when it hits the streets of Mobile.
Be sure to have your copy handy for all the festivities and remember to Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler (Let the Good Times Roll) on Mardi Gras Day, Tuesday, March 5, 2019!