Photos and Words: Christie Sentner
At dawn on Mardi Gras day, while New Orleanians are donning headdresses, sequins, and Perlis polos, locals in Eunice and other Cajun towns are stepping into medical scrubs adorned with bells and layers of fringed fabrics. Mardi Gras is a time of escaping reality’s constraints, and the costumes, capuchon hats, and freakish mesh masks, conceal the revelers’ identities. Mardi Gras is a fiercely protected tradition in Eunice, and if you want to participate, you have to dress the part.
The Courir de Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday Run,” is a 15-mile-long procession/party that starts promptly at 7am, when participants are encouraged to take a shot of Evan Williams. You need a little whiskey to chase the most sought after throw out here—no bedazzled shoes or coconuts, just live chickens that are launched into the air by the Mardi Gras Capitain on horseback.
Along the dirt roads that wind through muddy rice and crawfish fields, families tailgate and shout for beads. Masked paraders play pranks on observers or get on the ground and slowly crawl toward them with hands outstretched, begging for “cinq sous,” five cents.
Halfway through the run, everyone stops to eat hot boudin and rest. There are no napkins or utensils involved—the boudin lady tears off a link of sausage and plants it in your hand.
After miles of walking, running, hopping on and off trailers, listening to stories, singing Cajun songs, dancing, and drinking homemade daiquiri, we made it back to town where we were greeted with an endless supply of homemade gumbo. It takes three or four bowls and a full day of sleep to fully recover. While we didn’t manage to capture any chickens, we still had a blast taking part in one of Louisiana’s wildest traditions.