NEW YORK -- When most people hear the words "Mardi Gras," they
think of New Orleans, but the tradition of Mardi Gras stretches far
beyond the Big Easy.
In the days approaching Fat Tuesday, the day before the
beginning of Lent, Mardi Gras celebrations take place across
Louisiana. And the various locales celebrate the occasion in their
The south-central region of Louisiana west of New Orleans is
especially rich in Cajun culture.
Private clubs called krewes sponsor most of the balls and
parades for Mardi Gras. Many balls are private; others are open to
One of the largest open celebrations is the Southwest Louisiana
Mardi Gras Association Pageant and Ball, which is held annually in
Lafayette. Its parades have a reputation of rivaling those of New
Orleans. (See www.lafayettetravel.com/vacations/tours/mardi_gras.cfm
for more information.)
Other cities with popular Mardi Gras parades are Alexandria,
Houma, Lake Charles, Monroe, Natchitoches and Shreveport-Bossier
In many of the smaller, rural towns, Mardi Gras is celebrated as
Courir du Mardi Gras, or "the running of the Mardi Gras," which
harkens back to the traditions of the village festivals of medieval
"Courir du Mardi Gras represents Cajun history with the Catholic
influence," said a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of
Mamou, Eunice and Church Point hold celebrations in the style of
Courir du Mardi Gras. All are within a 90-minute drive of Baton
In these towns, men don costumes in the tradition of the old
Cajun Mardi Gras. They ride through the town on horseback,
collecting food from the community to add to a collective gumbo,
which is consumed by the community on Fat Tuesday.
The festivities in Mamou start March 3 at 5 p.m. with a street
festival at Sixth and Main streets.
On Fat Tuesday, March 4, the men on horseback leave the center
of town at 7:30 a.m. on their ride through the community.
The riders return to the town center at 3:30 p.m. to begin the
cooking. Festivities begin at 10 p.m.
Clients who would like to immerse themselves in Cajun culture
can fly into one of the regional airports in Lake Charles,
Lafayette or Baton Rouge, all of which have service from
For a hotel with Cajun culture and history, the Bailey Hotel in
Bunkie is recommended.
Built in 1907 and run by a Cajun family, it is on the National
Register of Historic Places.
For more information, visit the Louisiana Office of Tourism at
http://www.crt.state.la.us/. Also see www.louisianatravel.com.
Hotels in Cajun Country
Address: 202 W. Magnolia St., Bunkie
Phone: (866) 346-7111 or (318) 346-7111
Address: 1531 W. Laurel Ave., Eunice
Phone: (337) 457-2800
Address: 1919 E. Main St., Ville Platte
Phone: (337) 360-9961