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Mardi Gras in Cajun Country

Story and photos by Steve Giordano


One of the most colorful and unique pre-Lenten celebrations in the world is Mardi Gras in Lafayette, Louisiana. It's strictly a family affair. Flashing for beads is a no-no. Many families spend a day of it, cooking barbeque at their own family plot along the parades route. Yes, parades, in the plural, because on Mardi Gras Day (February 20 this year of 2007), beginning at ten in the morning, there is a new parade every two hours. That's a total of three parades in one day, plus there's an after-dark parade the night before.
Treasures of strung beads awaitng a toss

The parades are a throw-treasure for people along the route - costumed people on the floats all throw strings of beads to the sea of hands in the air. "Gimme me some throw, Mister" is heard above the din. Fancy beads like these are special.

Smokin' percussion


Mardi Gras is actually its own season, with weeks of parties, dances and other events (complete Lafayette schedule below). The music is lively and partiers dance their buns off, so to speak.

Revving things up

Various shades of pink wigs are the high fashion statement for this King Xanadu XVI ball.

Gettin' Down

There is no way to NOT have a good time in Cajun/Creole Country; good times are a cultural specialty. "Bon temps!" is the motto, which basically means, "Let the good times roll!"

King Xanadu XVI himself (Steve May), sharing a dance with a well-wisher. Even the King, well, especially the King, can step outside for a wee nip and a cigar.  


At the Friday night parade, the Queen's Parade, all hands are up for some "throw," the beads of plenty. A laundry basket reaches higher and maybe catches more. On Lafayette's day of three parades, a party and group costume contest are held in a park next to the parade route. The party and contest take place BEFORE the parades even begin. Seasonings are big in Cajun Country, and Lafayette is close to Avery Island where Tabasco Sauce is made.

No parking for a whole WEEK? Lafayette takes Mardi Gras seriously. Costumes can take a political turn. These three don't think much of levee construction and maintenance before Hurricane Katrina. Purple "throw" from the King's float.

It wouldn't be a parade without a saxaphone-playing unicyclist and his friends. "Why is everybody lookin' at me?" King "Golden" Tut seems unperturbed and worthy of the attention. Oysterman rules! Even by the half-dozen, you can't get enough of 'em.

Check out these elementary school band uniforms. The town of Sunset takes its music seriously. CHEER on, Number 22! Pretty scary. Good thing this float display is only seen in the daylight.

This display is on the Oilfield Chili Cook Off float. They throw pretty nice bead. The fire chief gives good throw too, to the applause of parade-watchers. Gotta love peppers in Cajun Country. Those Tabasco jars never seem big enough.

It wouldn't be a parade without majorettes. It's a sea of hands on both sides of the street, and throwing for a couple of hours can get pretty tiring. "Gimme some throw, Mister."

Louisiana Indian costumes. The Major salutes the reviewing stand. Ghostly apparitions meant to disguise the wearer.

This band knows what it means to "Let the good times roll!" Bon temps! The best costume of Lafayette Mardi Gras.  

For more information, visit http://www.lafayettetravel.com

2007 Lafayette Louisiana Mardi Gras Schedule
Jan. 12-Feb. 14

Zigler Museum "Mardi Gras Exhibit"
Mardi Gras exhibit featuring the Lake Charles Krewe de la Noblesse's "2006 Noblesse" Mardi Gras costumes.
Zigler Museum, Jennings
Adults $2, Students $1.
Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m.

Feb. 1-19

King Cake Cooking Demos
Learn how to make homemade King Cake.
Vermilionville, Lafayette
Adults $8, Seniors $6.50, Students $5, under 6 free.
Tues.-Sun 12:30 p.m.

Feb. 10

Krewe of Carnivale en Rio Mardi Gras Parade
Krewe of Carnivale en Rio is Acadiana's Mardi Gras Krewe with Brazilian excitement! The Ipanema Beach, the Copacabana, Futbol and the Rainforest. Experience all that Rio has to offer right here in Lafayette.
Downtown, Lafayette
6:30 p.m.

Feb. 16 - 20

Le Festival de Mardi Gras à Lafayette
Cajun Field, Lafayette
" Fri., 5 p.m.-midnight; Saturday, noon-midnight; Sunday, noon-midnight; Monday, noon-midnight; Tuesday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
" Admission is free, parking $10
Live music grandstand featuring the best in local, regional and national talent, gigantic midway and food. Mardi Gras parades pass through fairgrounds.
337-235-2471, www.swmardigras.com
Tentative Soundstage Schedule:
Friday: 6 pm - Midnight
Lil Nathan
Bon V
KMDL presents Josh Gracin
Damon Troy & Cheap Shots
Saturday: 2 pm - Midnight
Full Circle
Mike & the Rockets
Terry & the Zydeco Bad Boys
KXKC presents Brian Larson
Jamie Bergeron
Sunday: 1 pm-11 pm
Gospel Hour
Leon Chavis & Zydeco Flames
Hunter Hayes & Louisiana Hot
Planet Radio presents Coby Hebert, Gloryhole, and Cracker Jackson
Planet Radio & KTDY present The Molly Ringwalds
Monday: 1 pm - Midnight
Battle of the Bands competition
DJ-Rex Broussard
Travis Matte & the Zydeco Kingpins
KRRQ presents Robin Thicke
KSMB presents Cupid (Smash hit ?Cupid Shuffle?)
Tuesday: 11 am-6 pm
Gumbo Zydeco
Kira Viator & Bayou Beat
Andy Smith

Feb. 16

Friday Night Parade
6:30 p.m.

Feb. 17

Courir de Mardi Gras
Traditional family-friendly Mardi Gras run will take place in the village.
Vermilionville - Lafayette
Adults $5, Children under 6 Free.
11 a.m. & 2 p.m.

Krewe of Bonaparte Mardi Gras Parade
6:30 p.m.

Children's Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras parade featuring Lafayette's children's krewes.
12:30 p.m.

Feb. 19

Queen's Parade
6 p.m.

Mardi Gras Day! - Feb. 20

King's Court at Mardi Gras
Food, fun and family entertainment with live music and costume contest right on the parade route in downtown Lafayette.
Corner of Polk & Vermilion, Lafayette
8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

King's Parade
Mardi Gras parade honoring King Gabriel, reigning royalty for the Lafayette Carnival.
10 a.m.

Lafayette Mardi Gras Association Parade

Independent Parade
Sponsored by KADN Fox 15/KLAF UPN TV
2 p.m.

Greater Southwest La. Mardi Gras Ball & Pageant
Honoring King Gabriel and Queen Evangeline. Formal attire required for attendance at the ball.
Heymann Performing Arts Center, Lafayette
Free. Tickets at Heymann Center Box Office.
8 p.m.

Tips for watching Mardi Gras parades
" Go early to pick your spot along the route.
Bring plenty of water.
" Never run in front of a float to catch throws.
Don't attempt to cross the street while a parade is in progress.
" Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.
" Be careful where you park - some streets are off-limits during parade season.
" Know where the restrooms are located.
Make friends with people along the parade route who might open a bathroom to you.
" Have fun, but realize that lewd behavior or drunkenness can get you arrested.
" Don't throw things at the float riders.
" Don't hang on with a vengeance if you jointly catch a string of beads with the person standing next to you. First, you'll probably break the beads. Second, it's nice to be nice.
Safety tips for families
" Keep an eye on children. Don't let them wander off in search of beads.
" Sew or pin your child's name, the name and telephone number of someone who is at home, and your cell phone number inside the child's clothing in case he or she gets separated from you.
" Stay behind barricades along the parade route and don't tilt children over them to retrieve beads.
" Don't drink and drive.
" Remember the celebration is a fun, family affair. Don't take the struggle for beads too seriously.
" Some items are prohibited along the parade route:
o Weapons
o Fireworks
o Bicycles
o Glass containers
o Pets


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