The event took place earlier in February as Louisiana communities were easing into the Mardi Gras season ahead of Valentine’s Day. On Sunday, February 12, a traditional Mardi Gras Run was held at Vermilionville, and it was open for the public to enjoy and for families to participate in an interactive and educational experience with admission prices going to Vermilionville. The event was presented by Vermilionville and the Basile Mardi Gras Association, and it featured an interactive Courir de Mardi Gras tradition led by Le Capitaine, who sang “ La Chanson de Mardi Gras,” as the costumed riders made their way through the historic village begging for ingredients to make a gumbo, as is the tradition.
Although a traditional Courir is held before or at dawn, this family-friendly event began at 10 am with a screening of Pat Mire’s “Dance for a Chicken,” a Mardi Grad documentary that reveals the historic secrets of the traditional, rural Mardi Gras run, which is also known as Courir de Mardi Gras. After the screening, musician Kevin Rees demonstrated the proper use of the “La Chanson de Mardi Gras” with the event’s attendees before the Basile Association began riding through the historic village, which ultimately ended with the infamous chicken chase. The event ended with attendees grabbing a delicious lunch at Vermillionville’s on-site restaurant and enjoying live music and dancing from Feu Follet.
Traditionally, Courir riders will consist of people disguised in colorful and festive costumes with a cone-shaped “capuchon hat”, a mask made of screen, and a top and pants covered in strips of fringed fabric. These riders would mount horses and go from house to house to ask neighbors and community members for ingredients for a communal gumbo. The gumbo would then be cooked and eaten by everyone in town on Mardi Gras before the start of lent.
This self-contained version of a traditional, albeit wilder event was designed by the Basile Mardi Gras Association andVermilionville officials to teach a new generation about the humble beginnings of a long-held Mardi Gras tradition. The holiday has become so ubiquitous in Louisiana with businesses, schools, and portions of the city being closed annually for the event, so it stands to believe that the origins of the holiday can sometimes be lost on a new generation. Luckily, the Basile Mardi Gras Association and the historic and educational Vermilionville can help to rectify that lack of knowledge.
The event was a success, thanks to the organizers at the Basile Mardi Gras Association and Vermilionville. Jim “Pecoq” Young, who is a member of the Basile Mardi Gras Association commented by saying, “we love it. We get people from all over Louisiana and even out of state. People come from all over to see the Mardi Gras. We’re thankful to Vermilionville for inviting us over here and letting us help them celebrate.” A full listing of their calendar of events can be found here.
Vermilionvile’s mission is to “increase appreciation for the history, culture, and natural resources of the Native Americans, Acadians, Creoles, and peoples of African descent in the Attakapas region through the end of the 1800s. Through historic interpretation and conservation along the Bayou Vermilion, we strive to educate guests on the interactions of these groups and the connections between past and contemporary folklife, thus empowering guests to apply these lessons from our shared histories.”
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