Mardi Gras in Cajun Country
Communities across south Louisiana stage fantastic celebrations of Mardi Gras that are big hits with families.
A bird flying across south Louisiana during Carnival time would certainly get a fun view. He wouldn’t have to fly far across the quiet swamps to come upon one big party after another, each offering plenty of bright colors and joyful sounds.
The French heritage of Cajun Country demands a proper celebration of Mardi Gras. And Carnival organizations (called "krewes") will begin getting ready months in advance of February 12, 2013 – the date of Mardi Gras 2013. View the Cajun Country Parade schedules for 2013 Mardi Gras!
In the heart of Cajun Country, surrounding the city of Lafayette, Carnival custom revolves around Courir du Mardi Gras – the Fat Tuesday run. In small towns across south Louisiana, in a tradition that began in the early 19th century, local folk don homemade costumes and mount their horses for a ride around town to gather ingredients for gumbo. Their search, of course, ends with a party. For good examples, look to the towns of Eunice, Iota, Mamou and Vermilionville. As part of its annual celebration, Eunice also claims to make the world’s biggest King Cake.
Lafayette and its environs supply visitors with a steady diet of parades, put on by krewes that have colorful names like “Chic-a-la-Pie,” “des Jeunes Amis,” “Les Brigands de Lafitte” and “Tous Seul.” The celebrations range from the traditional courir in the small towns to New Orleans-style parades in Lafayette. That city also puts on the south Louisiana specialty – a festival – on Mardi Gras day.
Houma, meanwhile, claims to have the second-biggest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana. A dozen parades run in the Houma area during the Carnival season. To create a safe-haven for children, the city sets up an alcohol- and cigarette-free zone along parade routes. On Fat Tuesday, the city’s oldest club, the Krewe of Houmas, winds through the city.
In Lake Charles, the action centers around a single big event: About 50 carnival clubs come together to parade in the city’s gargantuan Krewe of Krewes parade.
The town of New Roads, an area whose settlement dates to French colonial times, boasts the state’s second-oldest Mardi Gras celebration, which began in the late 19th century. There, on a particularly scenic parade route, residents crowd Main Street at the banks of the False River to take in a pair of parades each Fat Tuesday.
Just downriver from New Roads, Baton Rouge proper holds a Carnival commensurate with the capital city’s size and stature. The Krewe of Jupiter usually gets things started, followed by a string of parades by krewes such as the Mystique de la Capitale (the city’s oldest) and culminating with the Spanish Town parade.
Meanwhile, in the bayou country to the southeast of Baton Rouge, the Krewe of St. Amant holds a boat parade, featuring elaborately decorated “boat floats.” While the parades and the types of celebration differ from place to place, what is common to Mardi Gras festivities throughout south Louisiana is that people of all ages are sure to have a lot of fun.