Countdown on to MoonPie Over Mobile

December 27, 2011


MOBILE, Ala., December 26, 2011 – The corner of St. Joseph and St. Francis Streets in downtown Mobile will be the hot spot for New Year’s fun this year. Prepare for a “Fantastic Voyage,” as Lakeside warms up the crowd before legendary rockers Three Dog Night ring in 2012, along with the MoonPie Drop, a laser show and fireworks from atop the RSA BankTrust Building and in Mobile Bay. The event has caught the eye of Travel + Leisure magazine and USA Today, both of which are planning to showcase Mobile’s MoonPie in the coming days.

The events will kick off with a Mardi Gras-style parade at 7:30 that will parade through downtown. Lakeside and their funky “Fantastic Voyage” will kick off at 9:00 p.m. and be followed by Three Dog Night from 11:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The music will be both diverse and family-friendly taking revelers on a musical flashback. Whether you prefer RC Cola or a glass of champagne, ring in the New Year in downtown Mobile.

“We looked at several locations and wanted to bring the MoonPie Drop and stage location closer together,” said Mayor Sam Jones of Mobile. “The combination of the great entertainment, the uniqueness of the MoonPie Drop and an anticipated large crowd have the makings of one amazing evening,” said Jones. “Our sponsors are making this possible and we are delighted that nearly 20 media markets will be counting down the new year live from Mobile, Alabama.”

The new stage location, adjacent to Bienville Square, will allow for larger crowds, better protection from the weather and great views of the MoonPie and the fireworks shows. A new VIP area on the sixth floor of the RSA BankTrust Building parking deck will enable sponsors to get a bird’s eye view of the entertainment and the falling cookie. The 12-foot-tall electronic MoonPie will descend from the 34-story RSA BankTrust skyrise as the city welcomes 2012 and the beginning of Mardi Gras season.

This year’s MoonPie Over Mobile celebration will start with a Mardi Gras-style parade double the size of the 2010 parade and will feature floats, bands and a few surprises. Afterwards, a street party of live entertainment will help draw thousands of people downtown. Downtown Mobile will be one giant street party that will last into the early hours of the New Year.

“Mobile’s New Year’s Eve Celebration featuring the MoonPie Over Mobile has become a cultural phenomenon in the entire USA,” said Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson. “Last year we had more than 40,000 people attend MoonPie Over Mobile and we hope to make it even larger this year,” said Richardson. “I look forward to this New Year’s Eve being the best that has ever been in our city.” First started in 2008, MoonPie Over Mobile gives locals and tourists a chance to experience New Year’s Eve with a bit of Mardi Gras flavor. “It is time to ‘Celebrate,’ just like the Three Dog Night song.” Richardson is credited for creating the MoonPie Over Mobile concept.

“All eyes will be on Mobile this New Year’s Eve,” said Kent Blackinton, general manager of Renaissance Riverview Plaza and president of the Mobile Hotel Association. “We are going to make a great party even better this year, and we are looking to fill the streets of Mobile and the hotel rooms in the city. Television views throughout the Central Time Zone can watch MoonPie Over Mobile live in a 35-minute telecast on Raycom stations, but we would rather have you being part of the excitement.”

Why a MoonPie?

Mobile is the home of America’s first Mardi Gras celebration, and the MoonPie is the favored “throw” of the hundreds of Mardi Gras maskers riding the floats during the extensive Mardi Gras parade season. MoonPies were first thrown from Mardi Gras floats in 1952. Today, Mobile consumes more than four million MoonPies annually, and has adopted the delicious treat as an informal emblem. For the MoonPie Over Mobile celebration, this southern city has teamed up with Chattanooga Bakery, the maker of the iconic MoonPie marshmallow sandwich, to create the largest electronic MoonPie as the featured attraction for its New Year’s Eve celebration. This is the fourth year an electronic version of the delicious treat will light up downtown Mobile.

Mardi Gras was first discovered in the New World in 1703 at Twenty-Seven Mile Bluff, the first settlement in Mobile. The first masked parading society, the Cowbellion de Rakin society, was formed in 1830. Mobile currently has more than 50 parading and non-parading organizations. An estimated 850,000 people attend parades, parties and other organizations associated with the carnival festivities. This number will likely increase in 2012.

2011 MoonPie Over Mobile Fun Facts

• The giant MoonPie weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall.

• The MoonPie will drop 317 feet in 60 seconds from atop the 34th floor of the RSA BankTrust Building.

• The original MoonPies are made by Chattanooga Bakery in Chattanooga, TN. Mobile consumes more than 4 million MoonPies annually.

• Chocolate flavored Moon Pies are the #1 best seller at Toomey’s, a Mardi Gras business located in Mobile. Chocolate is followed by the newest flavor Coconut for a close second. However, the Peanut Butter and Mint flavored Moon Pies are growing in popularity. Toomey opened in 1978 and sells over 3 million MoonPies during Carnival Season.

• Knight Sign Industries from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, built the giant MoonPie which is made of plastic and features LED lights. The retractable MoonPie is completely weather resistant.

• RSA is the Retirement Systems of Alabama – the state teachers’ and workers’ pension fund. RSA has invested more than $600 million in Mobile. BankTrust is headquartered in the RSA BankTrust Building. The building will have a Mardi Gras theme year-round.

Mobile – Birthplace of American Mardi Gras

• Mardi Gras first appeared in Mobile in 1703, the first location in the United States.

• Carnival season starts on January 6th and lasts until Ash Wednesday. Mobile has several weeks of parades leading up to Mardi Gras Day. The first parade rolls on January 21 and the excitement builds until Mardi Gras Day – Feb. 21, 2012.

• The glittery and pageantry of Mardi Gras can also be found year round at Mobile’s Carnival Museum.

• MoonPies were first thrown from Mardi Gras floats in 1952 and have become Mobile’s favorite “throw” ever since.

• The meaning of Mardi Gras? Its French meaning “Fat Tuesday.” Some say the term means the over-indulgences of the day. While others believe the word “fat” refers to a fattened ox that was paraded through town before being sacrificed at a mid-winter, pagan fertility celebration.

• Mardi Gras is big business in Mobile. More than 12,811 jobs are directly related to Mardi Gras in Mobile and Baldwin counties. The annual economic impact is more than $227 million in direct carnival spending.

• The Cowbellion de Rakin Society was the first Mystic Society in Mobile. This group marched the streets of Mobile on New Year’s Eve and are still considered the first mystic society and a predecessor of modern Mardi Gras.

• Mardi Gras after the Civil War: Joseph Stillwell Cain, affectionately known as ‘Joe Cain’, donned Chikasaw Indian clothing and climbed onto a decorated coal wagon pulled by a mule. The Sunday before Mardi Gras is still celebrated as ‘Joe Cain Day,’ where anyone who wants to can join in the parade. (Michael Kraft led the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, and Daniel E. Huger and Ethel Hodgson reigned as the first king and queen of Mobile’s carnival.

• The Polka Dots were the first women’s society in Mobile, holding their first parade in 1949. They still march today, along with several other women’s societies, including the Order of Athena. Le Krewe de Bienville holds balls for tourists to Mobile during Mardi Gras.

• Today, Toomey’s is more than a Mardi Gras store – selling beads, moon pies, decorations, masks and other fun items to people across the globe. MoonPies are Toomey’s most requested item.

MoonPie Over Mobile

• The first MoonPie Over Mobile celebration was held on Dec. 31, 2008 and was the idea of Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson. Councilman Richardson continues to serve on the Mobile City Council.

• The now-famous Three Dog Night name came from a story about Australian natives who, on cold nights in the outback, sleep with their dogs for warmth. The coldest evenings are known as a “three dog night”. Hopefully Mobile’s New Year’s Eve weather will be a bit milder for the MoonPie Drop.

• Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage” boasts to be the only song to knock Michael Jackson’s “Heartbreak Hotel” from the number one position on the Billboard Charts in 1980.

• An elaborate laser show will be incorporated into the MoonPie Over Mobile festivities. The laser show will be produced by Lasertainment, a national laser company. Lasertainment has produced high-tech laser productions for events like the Olympics, Super Bowl, Final Four and All Star Games. The laser projection on the RSA BankTrust Building can be 50 feet wide by 150 feet tall.

About Lakeside

“The Lakeside journey began when a group of high school students from Ohio formed a band made up of talented musicians and has sustained them for more than 27-years. Recording moguls Motown, ABC and Solars have felt the Lakeside vibe producing many of the “Fantastic Voyage” mega hits that took the music industry by storm. The sound of funk hits such as “All The Way Live”, “Raid” and “Outrageous”, are known to draw people to the dance floor like a magnet to metal. And of course, there is the Lakeside anthem that sets the band apart from all the rest. Brought back by Coolio, “Fantastic Voyage” boasts to be the only song to knock Michael Jackson’s “Heartbreak Hotel” from the number one position on the Billboard Charts in 1980. The hit single “Fantastic Voyage”, continues to entertain new and seasoned fans.

About Three Dog Night

Legendary music icons, Three Dog Night, celebrate their 4th decade, performing to sell-out crowds and bringing along some of the most astonishing chart statistics in popular music including 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including three #1 singles, 11 Top 10′s, and 12 straight RIAA Certified Gold LPs.

Perfectly re-creating their larger than life songs, Three Dog Night will perform their hits including “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”, “Joy to The World”, “Black and White”, “Shambala”, “One”, “Liar”, “Celebrate” and many more songs that drive their success. Three Dog Night, which is made up of founding members Cory Wells and Danny Hutton on lead vocals, original band mates Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards) and Michael Allsup (guitar) and completed by Paul Kingery (bass and vocals) and Pat Bautz (drums), now perform for audiences spanning several generations. After nearly 40 years together, Three Dog Night continues to grow its fan base and develop new ways of doing business. Since 1986, they have performed over 2,000 shows including two Super Bowls.

Where Will MoonPie Over Mobile Be Televised?

Raycom Media will be doing a live 35-minute telecast from MoonPie Over Mobile. It will be telecast on the following stations: WAFF – Huntsville, AL; WBRC – Birmingham, AL;
WSFA – Montgomery, AL; WDFX – Dothan, AL; WTVM – Columbus, GA; WPGX – Panama City, FL; WLOX – Biloxi, MS; WDAM – Hattiesburg, MS; WLBT – Jackson, MS; KAIT – Jonesboro, AR; KTRE – Lufkin, TX; KLTV – Tyler, TX; KCBD – Lubbock, TX; WAFB – Baton Rouge, LA; KPLC – Lake Charles, LA; KSLA – Shreveport, LA; WMC – Memphis, TN; KFVS – Cape Giradeau, MO and KYOU – Ottumwa, IA. Locally, WKRG in Mobile will air the telecast. Other stations are certainly welcome to create their own live telecast.

MoonPie Over Mobile Timeline

New Year’s Eve – Saturday, December 31

7:30 p.m. – New Year’s Eve Parade
The downtown parade will feature some of Mobile’s best Mardi Gras floats and marching bands. As America’s first Mardi Gras, Mobile takes great pride in this family-friendly celebration.

8:45 p.m. – Opening ceremony and remarks on Main Stage
Mobile’s elected officials will officially kick off the MoonPie Over Mobile celebration and help prepare the crowd to welcome the New Year and Mardi Gras season. Street vendors will offer a variety of food and drink options for the revelers.

*** No glass containers will be allowed on Mobile streets during these events.***

9:00 p.m. –Lakeside performs on the Main Stage.
Get ready for a “Fantastic Voyage” as Lakeside hits the stage. Dauphin and Royal Streets will become a funky party full of fun.

11:00 p.m. – Three Dog Night performs on the Main Stage.
International hits include “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”, “Joy to The World,” “Black and White,” “Shambala,” “One,” “Liar,” “Celebrate,” and many more.

11:30 p.m. – Light show begins downtown
Three Dog Night will continue to perform as the lights of RSA Battle House Tower and the Renaissance Riverview Plaza put on a light show for the crowd.

11:59 p.m. – Countdown starts as the giant MoonPie descends from atop the RSA BankTrust Building.

Midnight – MoonPie Drop reaches 6th floor of building. Laser and fireworks show over downtown Mobile.
In addition to the giant MoonPie and laser show on the RSA BankTrust Building, Mobile will have two synchronized fireworks shows to help properly welcome 2011.

12:30 a.m. –Three Dog Night performance concludes.
Crowds enter downtown bars, restaurants and hotels to continue celebrating the New Year.

Media Contacts:
Bill Lang, Director of Public Relations
PCH Hotels & Resorts

Barbara Drummond, Communications Director
City of Mobile
251/208-7807 (phone)