We took a trip to Eunice, Louisiana on Mardi Gras day to experience a different perspective on the Mardi Gras tradition. The day was an unforgettable glimpse into one of the oldest and most unique cultural events in the country.
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.
Parader in full costume who carried a dead rabbit and liked to mischievously sneak up on parade watchers along the route
Winner of a chicken toss decked out in Crown Royal bags
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.
Eunice began to feel like the Wild West
Mardi Gras cowboy
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.
The original French Courir involved begging for money and ingredients for a communal pre-Lent meal
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.
Hanging out on an abandoned police car, waiting for the Capitain to start the next chase
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.
Juggling beer and chicken
Dancing in downtown Eunice
Words and photos by Christie Sentner