Lafayette Mardi Gras
I was born and raised in Lafayette, except for three years when I lived in Metairie. New Orleans Mardi Gras, has always been, and I am pretty sure, will always be my favorite holiday, even more so than my birthday. I love the Mardi Gras balls, which begin for those of us above 18 (but sometimes 17), in early January. The season lasts for months on end and makes everyone thoroughly happy.
Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French and the whole idea is that the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the catholic religions Lenten period of fasting and abstaining, people indulge and over eat, drink, and have way to much fun for their own good, you know to hold them over for the next 40 days before Easter. Well of course, it is taken to another level.
New Orleans Mardi Gras is most famous because of the nudity on Bourbon Street, the parades down St. Charles, and the Endymion, Bacchus, and other Krewes, who have famous grand marshalls, the person who “leads” the parade. Last year Endymion’s grand marshal was Kevin Costner. I went, and he and his band played. The ball was held at the Superdome in New Orleans and it truly was a lot of fun. All I know is that I couldn’t wait to get back to Lafayette for the ball Bonaparte Monday night and then Mardi Gras day, the parades all day that ended with everyone going to the Schilling Shack.
Mardi Gras in Lafayette
Everything about Lafayette Mardi Gras is more intimate. There are less people, and the parties are easier to get into, and the streets aren’t covered with 100 million tourists beating eachother up over one bead. The day starts, well better yet, Mardi Gras holiday starts the Friday before Mardi Gras day. Everyone gets off school and work and begins drinking for the parade that night, then there is usually a band like Wayne Toups or the Cheewees playing somewhere downtown. Saturday, depending on which ball you attend, you can sleep in a little bit until the parade that night, and the ball following it. And then Sunday, there is the King’s Luncheon followed by live music downtown again. Monday is when it get’s really tough to function, because you have been drinking for so long trying to keep up with everyone else. Monday is the night of Bonaparte ball. The Queen’s parade makes its way around the parade route and then ends up at the Cajundome, where the party awaits them.
People make it a point to go to the parade and then rush to the ball before the doors close. That’s when debauchery happens. The lights go off, the ball starts. There are fireworks shooting up in every direction. It’s like watching a million Christmas lights fall and shoot up in flames along the wall of the whole building. The court comes out, each with their own dance move and song, throwing beads that mean something to their character, i.e. Bob Marley throwing weed leaves. The night ends with dancing and more drinking.
The Big Day
And then the most glorious day of all arrives, Mardi Gras Day. Usually, we wake up around nine a.m., still intoxicated from the night before and drink mimosas or bloody Marys depending on your preference, to keep the body moving. It’s a tough task, but you have to keep drinking if you’re going to make it until Wednesday morning. And then it is off to the parade route for food and music and drinking in anticipation for the 11 o’clock kings parade, the biggest one of them all. This is the parade that people kill for. The beads are the best, the float themes are amazing, and people in general just go nuts. It’s just a men’s parade so all the men are wasted out of their minds. As each float passes you can just tell the men are getting drunker and drunker, yelling obscenities, making inappropriate gestures, and every once in a while, I think hey that’s my friends dad. It is quite disturbing.
After the parade is over, the men come down to their respective tents, for more drinking and dancing. They get quite creepy, you know old drunk men telling you how much you’ve grown up, eww. The following parade is the black parade. This is the parade with the awesome marching bands and all the black krewes present their kings and queens. This is when everyone is on the side of the street jamming to the marching bands version of “back that ass up”. Then comes my personal favorite, the independent parade.
This is the parade most college students look forward to because it is all college students who participate. Any company can sponsor a float and every float is the owner’s kids and friends who want to make an ass out of themselves. My friends ride every year and wear the most ridiculous costumes; a pirate, a McDonald’s French fry, a banana, a pregnant woman, Ace Ventura (my personal favorite), and many other ridiculous things.
Last year, they were kicked off the float by a cop, who was drinking a beer on duty, because they started throwing full, closed, beers to the crowd and crown bottles. Needless to say, they were in rare form. As soon as the parade ends everyone makes a move to the Schilling Shack, the smallest bar in Lafayette, that is owned by one of our friends. There is no bartender, no DJ, no bouncer, just us opening it up, plugging in our Ipods and dancing in the open space. Each year however, there ends up being a trashcan bowling contest.
How to Spice Things Up!
Trashcan bowling= putting a live (but partially coherent) person inside of a trashcan, having two people hold up a sheet in front of him and pushing him as fast as possible across the dance floor to see where he lands. The person who gets the farthest wins. They actually win nothing but the title, to the boys however that is all they need. The floor is covered in beer, people are dancing on the bar, and it is the most absurd thing I have ever experienced. The night will then continue to the keg, the coolest bar in Lafayette, even though I am way too old for it now, and end with everyone so stupid, at a dance party at some one’s house.
I love that there has been a holiday created where drinking too much is the celebrated task. I also love that Lafayette is so ready to cater to all those who wish to partake in this drunken phenomena. Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!
By Sarah Sadler