Most of Southern Louisiana has pre-Lenten activities. While Mardi Gras festivities roll in New Orleans, to the West small towns like Mamou, Eunice, and Church Point are doing a “Fat Tuesday Run” or Courir de Mardi Gras.
To go on a run, one must wear the traditional dress- loose suits, a capuchon (the pointy hat) and a mask that covers the face. (And in some cases, like Church Point, be male. Women can attempt to do the run in disguise.) Many suits are hospital scrubs with fringe or suits made from patterned fabric from Walmart.
The runners meet early morning at the Community Center. About half ride in trailers and half are on horseback. They drink heavily and go house to house on a route pre-determined by Le Capitaine. Between stops bands play and fun is had. When the “Mardi Gras” gets to a home, they beg for gumbo ingredients from the farm. Generally at each stop a live chicken is thrown and the masses run and jump and try to grab the fiesty bird while falling in the mud.
Meanwhile, in downtown Eunice, couples are Jitterbugging and kids are ready to get some beads and candy. Decidedly less rowdy, the townsfolk line up to see the ride come in.
The Mardi Gras arrives. Drunk and slightly worse for the wear with bandaged hands and tired gaits. The Mardi Gras interacts with the crowd. There are shouts of “Hey Mom”, “Boss!”, “What’s up Cuz”. There is a blur of creatures real and imagined.
Most start walking to their cars while the horses get loaded up behind the grocery store. Festivities must wrap up by midnight and a couple people are headed straight to bed. Tomorrow will mark the start of 40 days of fasting or giving up a vice.