1868 – 1881 Joe Cain first took to the streets on Mardi Gras in front of his Lost Cause Minstrel Band to revive the spirit of Mobile following the War and to create a festival for the people, one that anyone could participate in without joining a “mystic.” He led his merry band for some thirteen years.
1881 -1942 The free and open concept of footmarching continued on Mardi Gras up until World War II began. Dozens of groups large to small and individual merrymakers costumed and took to the streets.
1946 – 1966 Following World War II this spirit of the people was greatly diminished and threatened to die out completely.
1967 Julian Lee “Judy” Rayford revived a great “people’s celebration on Shrove Sunday after an eleven year effort. He brought Joe Cain’s remains back from Bayou la Batre to be reburied in the Church Street Graveyard. A small group of footmarcher accompanied him.
1971 – 1976 On the first Sunday following Mardi Gras a group of interested citizens, with the purpose “to promote more interest in the annual pilgrimage to honor the man who revived Mardi Gras” organized The Joe Cain Marching Society. It was noted that the Joe Cain Procession “will continue to be a family affair with each and every member of the family encouraged to take an active part.” Officers were Al Owen, Julian Lee Rayford, and Wayne Dean. Society became the organization that obtained the parade permit and coordinated the procession without cost to any participant, all fees and expenses were paid from solicited donations.
1977 – 1980 As the Joe Cain Procession continued to grow perceived damage to the Church Street Graveyard during the post-parade celebration was expressed. The Society for the Restoration and Beautification of the Church Street Graveyard, Inc. was formed. Officers of the Society were Julian Rayford, David Cooper, Wayne Dean, and Jimmie McWhorter. The new organization took over the task of securing the permit and soliciting donations to pay for the expenses of the Procession. The Joe Cain Marching Society continued to do its thing as footmarchers. As Commissioner Robert Doyle noted, “nothing was to change the focus of the people’s parade”.
1981 In a news release prior to the 1981 event, officials remind “everyone, especially newcomers to the realm of His Majesty King Felix III, that all may participate in Joe Cain Day festivities”.
1980s In the early 1980s, the city of Mobile placed a limit on the number of units making it necessary for The Society to require registration but no fee for all units. A contact person was all that was required.. These people became known as the ‘permit holders’ within the procession. The marchers continued on as the free and open ‘people’s’ portion of the Procession.
1990 An accident during the procession brought the requirement for insurance to the forefront. Units were given the option of obtaining its own or could buy into the policy purchased by the society which covered the footmarchers, band and wagon. As in ALL previous years the autonomy of the original procession of footmarchers continued unchanged and was not violated.
1992 – 2007 When the celebration ceased its post-procession party in the graveyard, the Graveyard Society dissolved. The Joe Cain Parading Society was formed as the coordinating organization and the units began to pay a prorated portion of the costs of the parade replacing the donations previously solicited. Officers were Jim Baldwin, Teresa Saad and Wayne Dean. This covered the minimal expenses for the Chief’s wagon, footmarchers and Excelsior Band. As always the original footmarchers procession remained unchanged.
2008 – 2014 In 2008 the procession saw the unthinkable – a limitation of the number of foot marchers and a $20 fee and requirement of registration to participate as well. This was based on erroneous or misleading information that it was being required by the City of Mobile and the insurance provider, both claims later proved to be false. Over the next several years numerous attempts were made to push the Marching Society out of the parade. One year they were told they couldn’t have wagons or “anything with wheel” to carry their throws. This proved to be false as well. One year the Parade Society said that they needed to cut either the Excelsior Band or the footmarchers because of the city limiting units, again proved false. Things finally came to a head in 2014 when the organizers kept hundreds of footmarchers, the original Joe Cain Procession, out of the parade.
2015 Negotiating failed and it became apparent that the Parading Society was not going to back down despite the falsehood of the premise for registration and payment. Members of the original Joe Cain Marching Society decided to go ahead and incorporate in order to seek justice for the true “spirit of Joe Cain” –and to continue to insure the inclusion of all the people. Returning to the ideas and methods of the original organizers all costs will be funded by individual donations and fundraising. No footmarcher will be asked to register or pay a fee to participate in the true “people’s parade”. The Marching Society secured a separate parade permit and put on the first ever People’s Ball. However, they were forced to parade behind the trucks at great peril.
2015 – 2016 This year marks the Golden 50th anniversary of the Joe Cain Marching Society and their footmarchers. We held our 2nd annual People’s Ball/50th Anniversary Kickoff Party this fall and continued working on finalizing the 50th anniversary book that will be published in the Fall of 2017. We continued working on efforts to return Chief Slac and the Footmarchers to the front of the parade.
2016-2017BACK IN THE FRONT!!! After 3 years of displacement we successfully won our efforts to return to the front of the line of march in this year’s Joe Cain Day celebration. Chief Slac once again led the day, followed by the footmarchers. We would like to thank Mayor Sandy Stimpson, The Mobile Police Department and all of the footmarcher’s who have worked so diligently over the past years to keep tradition alive.