“I’m going to name her after my wife!” So said Monsieur C. C. Duson when he established a railroad head in Landry Parrish Louisiana. Eunice is an unassuming town. It became a bastion of good food and special music after being settled by Acadians, that mix of French-speaking Cajuns. The decedents of European French, Creoles from Haiti and Germans created a unique cultural mix of people, language, music and religious beliefs, but the ancient tradition of mardi gras
came from the peasant classes of France.
We walked into the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center and watched an hour video of the local people of Eunice running the Mardi Gras. The costume above belonged to the ranger working that day. A local, he ran the Mardi Gras the first time at age 14. The whole town is gearing up for this special family/community event. The costume shops are humming and parents are sewing hats and painting masks. (The pictures that follow are taken of photos.)
Its roots in Saturnalia, the raucus crowds of Euopean countries would costume themselves so they were unidentifiable. They spoofed their royals by imitating the court jester, their tall hats, or the Bishops hat, even a particular face. Winter was the leanest time of year and if they were hungry, they would resort to begging even though ashamed to beg. The costumes prevented their neighbors from knowing who they were.
In Eunice, the men traditionally ride out on horse back. Now, with farms so far apart, some ride on wagons or trucks. The assigned Captain asks if the mardi gras’ can approach. If yes, they charge and the farmer throws a chicken or two, or three. In a good year, maybe a small pig and some money. The farmer wants them gone and he throws the chicken away from his house as far as he can. The group chases the chickens until they are caught. The men may have imbibed before showing up at the farmer’s place and they reward him with a dance and song.
This mardi gras
holds up the chicken he caught.
A mardi gra
s dances on top of his horse.
Once gathered, the meat is brought back to town, where it is cooked in a giant gumbo for the whole community. Parades, song and dance, and feasting is part of the celebration. Adults and children of all ages join in the fun. For some young boys, it is a right-of-passage. According to our ranger, running the Mardi Gras is tough, you become a grown-up from running the Mardi Gras. The video makes that clear. This festival has been studied in depth.
We left the Acadian Center and visited the Eunice Museum, The Cajun Music Hall of Fame and a local radio station.
A cigar box banjo above and an unidentifiable stringed instrument below.
An old time German accordion, all part of the great musical tradition of Cajuns.
Initially, 32 Cajun musicians were honored in this historic Hall Of Fame. They now add two per year. People outside of Cajun Country don’t necessarily recognize these unforgettable musicians who have contributed so much to this great,original music.
At work behind the window was the disk Jockey/ad hawker, from Station KBON 101.1 on your dial. The station plays mostly Cajun music, of course. The walls are filled with autographs and pictures of great musicians who’ve appeared on this station. We recognized Fats Domino, Little Ritchie and below, Doug Keershaw, the Ragin’ Cajun among other notables. We followed wall after wall of autographs and pictures.
What a great place to visit. Now, this is only an inkling of what Eunice, Louisiana is like.