Cajun Country Mardi Gras - Street Dances, Trailrides, and Chicken Runs!
Here, Mardi Gras is not your typical festival with congested crowds, beads, and doubloons. At certain festivities, these trinkets are rarely in sight. Instead, locals trade floats for horses, beads for bells, and rowdy streets for a day of revelry in rural areas. Still, different cultures within the parish celebrate Mardi Gras in their own unique way, establishing their own traditions.
In the Zydeco Capital of the World, Opelousas, a range of events take place from a dance the Friday before Mardi Gras called the Downtown Opelousas Mardi Gras Celebration, to the Annual Half-Fast Krewe of Frank Mardi Gras Parade, taking place on Fat Tuesday. No blues here, just the upbeat sounds of accordions and fiddles coming from local zydeco musicians. In fact, one of the biggest players in the zydeco genre, Lil’ Nate, host the Annual L'Argent Trailride, Chicken Run & Parade. Trail rides are an important part of the creole culture in St. Landry Parish, a place with a thriving equine industry. The modern cowboy, or girl, rides on horseback followed by a procession of eager participants in trailers, with food and music along the way.
Further west of this creole tradition, a century-old celebration takes place in Eunice, Louisiana where men and women are on horseback, donned in handcrafted masks, tall hats called capuchons, and very distinctive costumes. This unique five-day celebration begins the Friday before Mardi Gras Day, but the main event is the Courir de Mardi Gras procession which includes traditional chicken chasing and silliness by revelers all day long. Throughout the weekend, experience the town’s Cajun traditions with Cajun music jam sessions, street dances, cooking demos, and a special Liberty Theater show. Lil' Mardi Gras, a run for children ages 0-14, is held Sunday as well as an old time boucherie (hog butchering).
What is Courir de Mardi Gras?
The Eunice Courir de Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday Run) dates back from when the town was first established in the late 19th century. The traditional rural Mardi Gras celebration is based on early begging rituals. Riders go from house to house soliciting “donations” of food items to culminate in a community-wide gumbo. The Courir was abandoned for a few years during World War II, but in 1946, a small band of riders revived the tradition. Today, the Eunice Courir de Mardi Gras has more than 2,000 participants (including both male and female) on the run, and it continues to increase each year. Registration is required for the adult and youth chicken runs.
Where can I find a costume?
Sebastien Dupre Fine Jewelry in Opelousas, LA - masks
Jean Lafitte National Park in Eunice (Angelle Bellard) - masks
Four Southern Girls in Eunice - children's costumes
Georgie Manuel, 337-457-9078 - custom costumes
Hole in the Wall Taxidermy & Gifts in Eunice - costumes and masks
Boho in Sunset - capuchons, masks, and accessories
Where can I find a King Cake?
Visit our "Eat & Drink" page for a brief explanation of this peculiar culinary tradition, and find a list of businesses and bakeries selling King Cake!
St. Landry Parish Mardi Gras events:
Cajun Country Mardi Gras (Eunice Mardi Gras) – February 24-28, 2017
Features daily live music, street dances, old fashioned fais do-do barn dances, youth and adult Mardi Gras runs, boucherie
An Insider's Guide to Cajun Country Mardi Gras: 5 Things You Should Know
Eunice Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras Run) – February 28, 2017
Downtown Opelousas Mardi Gras Celebration – February 24, 2017
Features live music, costume contest, and childrens' activities
Lil Nate's 7th Annual L'Argent Trailride, Chicken Run & Parade – Feburary 24-26, 2017
Three days of live music with a rodeo, DJs, cash prizes and a chicken run
Eunice Lil' Mardi Gras (Childrens' Run) – February 26, 2017
A chicken run for children up to age 14
9th Annual Lundi Gras Boucherie – February 27, 2017
community hog butchering with food and live music
18th Annual Half-Fast Krewe of Frank Mardi Gras Parade – February 28, 2017
Floats, marching bands, dance troupes, live music, and more
Sunset Mardi Gras Parade – February 28, 2017
Features music and local vendors