The aptly named campground under Interstate 10 in downtown Mobile, Alabama, has been home to 197 trailers and RVs for almost a decade.
And although she’s been coming to Mardi Gras her whole life—and even been a guest in RV City several times—2015 will be the first time Jenny Richardson has her own spot, in-between her two uncles, according to AL.com.
When she picked out her expansive new camper trailer, she was sure of its primary destination, just a few months away.
When she bought her camper, “90 percent of it was because of Mardi Gras and the beach,” Richardson said.
She and her uncles, Mike Wilson and Larry Eubanks, are part of a group of early arrivals to the campground.
“Everybody’s family here,” Richardson told AL.com.
Now taking up a huge swath of land under the Interstate—bordered by Water, Canal, and Jackson streets—RV City is the Mardi Gras brainchild of Ike and Peggy Jimenez.
In 2000, with nowhere for them and their fellow campers to safely congregate, Ike started writing letters to then-Mayor Mike Dow seeking space. Eventually, Dow arranged a piece of state land under I-10.
According to Peggy Jimenez, that wedge of land was home to the first RV City tenants, who numbered about 60. And most of those folks have continued to come ever since.
Now, 14 years later, the number is at a static 197, and folks come together in November of each year to pay their dues, which are $399 per spot, with an extra $25 for those who want to bring a golf cart, said told AL.com.
The spots are grandfathered in—for one to come available, one of the existing campers needs to bow out. There’s a waiting list of 30 to 40 on average each year. And about 30 folks drop out each year, with 30 newcomers then slotted in.
“We enjoy it, we really do,” Jimenez told AL.com. She and Ike are considered the “mayor and first lady” of RV City, according to the campers.
For the first nine years, she said she and her husband—who own a construction business locally—handled all the logistics and organizing without compensation. But recently, they have been getting reimbursed by the city and state.
SMG, the management company that operates the nearby Civic Center, handles the details.
Very few, if any, of the campers in RV City are from out of town.
According to Jimenez, most of the “citizens” belong to one of eight different parading societies, including the Order of Venus, Neptune’s Daughters, Conde Cavaliers, and Mobile Mystics.
Those belonging to certain crewes group together and can be identified by their flags, she said. And yet they all come together for parties each Saturday night during the season, when a DJ plays music for RV City.
Mike Wilson, who considers himself a campground veteran, said last Saturday’s kickoff party is his favorite event of the season, followed by Joe Cain Day, on February 15.
A member of the same mystic organization Wilson belongs to provides the music starting around 6:30 p.m., after their float barn party wraps, he said. It’s a family-friendly event open to the public, and “we watch out for everybody else’s kids,” Wilson told AL.com.
But now, they’ve been told by a representative of the state this is the last year RV City will be allowed to occupy that land; that in 2016 it will be unavailable due to upcoming construction.
As for possible relocation, some sites have been discussed by various campers, but Ike and Peggy haven’t heard anything concrete.
“Until the mayor or the city ventures out and tries to locate something else, it’s never going to be this big,” Jimenez said.
But for now, the party is on, and folks will continue to fill their spots and decorate their “homes” in RV City over the next week or so, Jimenez said.
“It’s nice to see families and to be able to get with friends and come down here and enjoy yourselves in a safe environment,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this place here, they’d have no place to go.”
Mardi Gras is a thing that could hardly exist in the practical North….For the soul of it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-sounding titles, and Mardi Gras would die, down there in the South.
—Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (Harper & Brothers, 1896)