Lafayette Mardi Gras
The only place I’d move to if I had to leave New Orleans is Lafayette. I’ve spent many a good time in Lafayette, eating the amazing food, going to the fantastic festivals, hearing the Cajun and Zydeco hybrid bands, and meeting the wonderful people. New Orleans is Creole Louisiana and Lafayette is Cajun Louisiana. They have their own unique Cajun Mardi Gras with one of a kind Cajun traditions.
Courir de Mardi Gras means Mardi Gras Run. The event is held in many Cajun communities on Fat Tuesday.
Barry Ancelet, Cajun historian and head of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Folklore Department, has explained the origin of the Courir as being in rural medieval France: It’s an early springtime renewal and essentially a way for communities to celebrate and find themselves.
Southwest Louisiana shares in this tradition, collecting ingredients for a communal gumbo is the theme behind the run.
Led by a flag-bearing capitaine, this colorful and noisy procession of masked and costumed men on horses and wagons go from house to house in the countryside asking for charity in return for a performance of dancing, acrobatics and buffoonery. The participants are earnestly employed chasing chickens, the most valued offering, and they pride themselves on their ability to collect enough live chickens to feed the entire community free of charge.
One of the most endearing aspects of the historical Courir are the local variations that exist in each major town, such as Mamou, Soileau, Church Point, Basile, Choupic, Gheenes, and Elton, among others.
The rural Mardi Gras celebration is based on early begging rituals, similar to those still celebrated by mummers, wassailers and celebrants of Halloween. As Mardi Gras is the celebration of the final day before Lent, participants and celebrants imbibe and eat heavily, and also dress in specialized costumes, to protect their identities.
La Chanson de Mardi Gras, the Mardi Gras song, known in the local Cajun French as La Danse de Mardi Gras and La Vieille Chanson de Mardi Gras, is a traditional tune sung by the participants, although the exact lyrics vary greatly from town to town. The melody of the traditional folk song is similar to melodies of the Bretons from the northern coast of France. The tune is played in a minor mode not generally found in other Cajun music. This version is sung at by the wonderful Cajun and Alt-Country band Feufollet at the Bluemoon Saloon and Guest House near the Henderson Swamp.
Lafayette’s Mardi Gras has it over New Orleans in this respect. We have no Carnival criminal drama of this intertwined variety at all. This story wins the prize for Carnival depravity for 2012!!
The peaceful Mardi Gras celebration turned violent for three Lafayette residents on Tuesday, February 21, resulting in a woman being knocked unconscious and a Hub City doctor’s arrest. Lafayette developer and Dr. Glenn Stewart was arrested without incident Tuesday night at his home. He is charged with second-degree battery.
The charges stem from a one sided fight that took place Tuesday at around 12:40 P. M. near the start of the Independent Parade (which is not associated with the Independent newspaper) route. Stewart’s float referenced Lafayette newspaper publisher Cherry Fisher May and her August 2010 DUI arrest.
The incident was prompted by the Mardi Gras float Stewart entered into the Independent Parade featuring Cherry Fisher May (the victim’s Mother) as the “driver” of the float with the warning on big banners: Caution!!! Float Driven by Cherry Fisher May. Stewart also ran Fisher May’s mug shot from her 2010 DUI arrest.
The parade has stated they were unaware of the personal attack banners Stewart covered the sides of his float with at the last minute.
Read here for more on Stewart’s relentless retaliation against the Independent Weekly for its coverage of an agricultural tax loophole he took advantage of for his Parc Lafayette development at the corner of Kaliste Saloom Road and Camellia Boulevard.
According to Lafayette police, Erin May Fitzgerald, 41, Lafayette, approached Stewart’s float near the start and attempted to remove a banner. Stewart confronted Fitzgerald, who is also Fisher May’s stepdaughter.
Fitzgerald’s stepfather, John St. Julien, 60, Lafayette, intervened, sparking an altercation between the two men. St. Julien took photographs after she was knocked out. Those photographs show Stewart taking pictures of the unconscious woman.
Fitzgerald was hit in the face during the fight, knocking her out and leaving her with facial injuries. She was treated at a local hospital.
Stewart and St. Julien each were issued a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace by fighting. Fitzgerald also received a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct. The case remains under investigation.
While Stewart paid all fees and met regulations for his float, Independent Parade Organizers said they weren’t aware of its content and said this type of signage should not be allowed. In a written statement, Chairman Mike Mitchell said, they can’t let this ever happen again. This can’t be in our parade. He said the committee will re-examine their signage rules.
It’s possible Dr. Stewart could lose his medical license for harming her, then failing to aid the woman he punched. Ms. Fitzgerald has apologized for messing with the float. We’ll have to see how this plays out.