The Cajun Hatter Returns to Cajun Country

This month a Louisiana hat-maker relocated his custom-made hat shop from New Orleans’ Magazine Street to the heart of downtown Lafayette in an attempt to reconnect with his cajun roots, as reported in an Advocate feature.

Colby Hebert, the owner of The Cajun Hatter, is relocating his shop to Jefferson Street so that he can connect with the culture that inspires a bulk of his commissioned orders. The decor of this new location, found on the main thoroughfare of Lafayette, Louisiana’s downtown scene, is aptly decorated with artifacts of Cajun culture at every turn. From the antique room divider in the front parlor space to the moss-laden accenta pieces, reminiscent of a swamp tour, the small Acadiana shop is definitively cloaked in the Acadian style.

Hebert moved his shop to its third location since starting the business; previously The Cajun Hatter had been located in New Iberia and Magazine Street in New Orleans. Hebert identified for The Advocate’s Julia Guilbeau that he felt as if he was doing something wrong by contributing to the legacy of his culture while being two and a half hours apart from it all.

Hebert had said that when in New Orleans, he “was working so hard and in so many ways not only to help with Cajun preservation but also just to step into that Cajun identity that I have in every way. It was at the point where I’m like, I can’t do this anymore and not be here in my culture and directly contributing to my culture.”

From a young age, Colby Hebert, a New Iberia native, was interested in hats as a fashion accessory and always found that he wanted to try his hand at creating something unique and bold in design. He began this journey as a hat collector, inspecting each piece and trying to understand the finer details involved in each hat’s construction. This natural curiosity soon led to Hebert making custom hats whether in his free time or as a part of his profession as a costume designer in the film industry.

From this experience in outfitting actors, Hebert began to see fashion not from the traditional perspectives of a wearer or an observer- but from that of a maker. Soon after departing from the film industry, he opened up a hat shop in New Iberia before later moving to New Orleans, and now Lafayette.

Back in Acadiana, Hebert remarked on the great opportunity he has with his business now by stating, ““we have a great thing here that a lot of people argue is dying out. Being here in that pivotal moment where we start to decide how we want to redefine culture here makes me feel good.”

As expected, each product made in The Cajun Hatter comes personally-crafted, as Hebert makes almost all of his hats by hand, using mainly wooden tools and decades-old traditional techniques of past haberdashers. In fact, the only “real machinery” used are his steamer and iron. Due to the notable quality of the materials, his prices begin at $400, covering the personalization of the product.

In true cajun-country fashion, the hats are being made with beaver, or more recently, felt nutria fur, which is such high quality that it’s likely to outlive the wearer. Hebert notes that nutria are quite an overpopulated species in Louisiana that continue to contribute to coastal erosion, so by using their fur, less overall waste is created.

“You want to make something that is sustainable, lasting and not something that is going to be material or consumer waste,” Hébert said. “[Customers] have chosen a type of fur that creates such a high quality felt that it might outlive you. It might outlive your children.”

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A Guide To Cajun Mardi Gras

You already know about the carnival-style Mardi Gras, but what about a Cajun Mardi Gras? Cajun Mardi Gras is exactly what it sounds like – Mardi Gras – Cajun style. Traditionally, this festival is known as Courir de Mardi Gras and takes place throughout Acadiana.

This festival is rooted in French medieval history and was brought to Louisiana in the 19th century. Cajun Mardi Gras is celebrated on Fat Tuesday, which is February 25, 2020, and is commonly referred to as “the real Mardi Gras”. There are plenty of traditions that take place during Courir de Mardi Gras, like chasing chickens, a unique twist on trick or treating, and gumbo cookoffs.

Luckily,Louisiana Travel put together a guide to the traditions of Courir de Mardi Gras. Here they are!

Trick or Treat: Gumbo Style

 This main festival event is rooted in the name; a couriror “run” led by thecapitaineof the Mardi Gras. Participants will dress up in costumes and masks and will travel by horseback, foot, or trailer to make their way through the neighborhood while doing the other ancient ritual of begging. In Tee-Mamou, the capitaine will raise a flag to let the Mardi Gras runners to dismount their transportation and begin chanting the “begging song” called Le chanson de Mardi Grasand approach the houses.

The participants will then go from house to house singing and dancing for the owners so they can get different ingredients for the communal gumbo that is served later in the evening. The last ingredient and the main spectacle of the entire festival is the chicken.

Chase the Chicken

Much like most traditions, each town has a unique take on how they put on the Courir De Mardi Gras. Since the chicken is the highlight of the celebration, it’s hilarious to watch people chase the chicken throughout the neighborhood! In addition to the chicken run, you’ll see beautiful costumes and masks, hear traditional Mardi Gras songs, and try delicious homemade Cajun cooking.

Certain towns, like Mamou, Iota, Elton, Church Point, Faquetigue, and Soileau, you’ll experience food and events more authentic than the towns hosting the festival.

Want to experience a Cajun Mardi Gras yourself?

In Eunice, Louisiana, the week long festival begins on February 21, 2020. The first couple days set the tone for the celebration with music, crafts, and every traditional Cajun dish you can imagine, from boudin and crackins to backbone stew. Then, on the day of Mardi Gras, you can participate in the Courir de Mardi Gras downtown and collect ingredients for the communal pot of gumbo. You can end the celebration with a Cajun dance party at Lakeview Park and Beach.

If you head to Church Point, you can catch their 59th annual Courir de Mardi Gras that takes place on February 23, 2020. Here you can see buggies, wagons, and horseback riders decked out in colorful costumes, listen to live music, chase the chickens, catch a greased pig, and enjoy delicious gumbo!

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Twelve Things You Can Only Find in Lafayette, Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana, also known as the Happiest City in America, is at the heart of Lousiana’s Cajun and Creole Country. It’s the perfect city to add to your bucket list if you want to find fields of rice and sugarcane, bayous and cypress swamps, discover authentic music, and delicious cuisine.

Lafayette is a town immersed in Cajun culture, which is what sets it apart from many of the other towns and cities in Louisiana. As a matter of fact, Lafayette has many unique experiences you can only find in this unique part of the world.

Here are 12 things you’ll only find in Lafayette, Louisiana!

1.  Cajun French Culture

This area of Louisiana was settled by Acadians who were kicked out of Canada in the late 1700s when they refused to give up key aspects of their culture. They found refuge in southern Louisiana, and to this day keep their culture alive. Around town, it’s easy to pick up on the Cajun-French dialect that saturates the town –phrases like cher bébé, meaning darling, and names like Boudreaux and Thibodeaux.

2.  Festival International de Louisiane

Hosted annually in April, the Festival International de Louisiane is the largest international outdoor Francophone music and arts festival in the country. More than 300,000 festival-goers come to celebrate their French heritage through music, food, and art.

3.  Cajun Music in Lafayette

Home to artists like Lost Bayou Ramblers, Pine Leaf Boys, Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, The Magnolia Sisters, and Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp BandArcadiana is fertile ground for local and internationally recognized musicians.

4.  America’s Largest Swamp

America’s largest swamp, theAtchafalaya Basin, is bigger than the Florida Everglades. You’ll find this swamp features in the History Channel show Swamp People and Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid.

5.  Cajun Food

Not to be confused with Creole, Cajun food is true southern soul food. Most recipes start with the holy trinity – green bell pepper, onion, and celery. A few Cajun dishes you must try are crawfish étouffée, jambalaya, rice dressing and chicken and sausage gumbo.

6. The Best Boudin and Cracklins  in Lafayette

Boudin and cracklins were invented from resourcefulness on the Acadian’s behalf. They made it a point to utilize every aspect of the pig when cooking, which led to the invention of boudins and cracklins. This is a roughly half-pound, half-foot length of sausage available for purchase in most every local meat market and grocery store. Cracklins are fried morsels of pork fat with the pork skins.

7.  Avery Island

Avery Island is where Tabasco sauce originates from, created by Edmund McIlhenny in 1868. You can tour the factory and museum and make sure to get a unique souvenir at the gift shop!

8.  Popeyes Only Buffet in Lafayette

With over 2,600 franchises in the world, you can find the only buffet version of the fried chicken joint in Lafayette, Louisiana. Fill up your plate with buttery biscuits, red beans and rice, mac n’ cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, spicy chicken, and coleslaw.

9.  Evangeline Maid Bread

Evangeline, a famous Acadian refugee, has her memory in everything. Now 100 years old, Evangeline Bread is still produced specifically in Acadiana, where half a million loaves are made weekly.

10.  A One-of-a-Kind George Rodrigue

Painted by George Rodrigue, this painting depicts the poet Longfellow about the reunion of Evangeline and her lost love, Gabriel. Fans can see his artwork at galleries in Lafayette, New Orleans, and California, but this hidden gem can be seen in Asma Boulevard off of Kaliste Saloom Road.

11.  Courir De Mardi Gras

Courir de Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday Run, is a unique tradition to Acadiana. This is where partakers where masks, pointed hats, and homemade costumes, then go door-to-door begging for ingredients to make a communal pot of gumbo.

12. Borden’s Last Ice Cream Shoppe in Lafayette

Borden’s dates back to the 1800s as a highly recognized dairy brand and mascot, Elsie the Cow. Visitors can visit the last standing ice cream shoppe for a blast to the past and ice cream malts, shakes, sodas, and scoops.

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