Dozens of costumed revelers mount their horses, pile in the back of trailers, and onto floats just as the sun breaks over the horizon. Mud-stained from last year’s run, their fringed suits whip in the wind as they make their way into town. Once gathered, the irresistible beat of Zydeco cuts through the fog as the colorful crowd follows Le Captitan to the first farmhouse. Draped in the traditional green, purple, and golds of Carnival, he announces the arrival of the “beggars”, also referred to as the “Mardi Gras”, seeking ingredients for large communal gumbo. Specifically, a live chicken.
Bartering with the farmer, he promises the Mardi Gras will entertain and dance in exchange for a small gift for the feast. Striking a deal, masked Mardi Gras storm the yard, dancing and cheering as the band plays. They sneak and crawl through the onlooking crowd, pulling young women into a dance and stealing a kiss or a coin when Le Capitan isn’t looking. Breath fogging in the cool morning air, the farmer lobs a chicken into the yard, declaring they earned their prize. But first, they have to catch it!
Not quite the Mardi Gras shenanigans you envisioned? Well, since Lake Charles has the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana, we have plenty of decadent feasts, flamboyant Mardi Gras parades, and extravagant galas one expects with Carnival. But we also embrace the festive, medieval French tradition brought here by the first Acadians in the 1750s, The Courir de Mardi Gras. French for “The Running of Mardi Gras,” a.k.a a Chicken Run! This vibrant cultural spectacle has changed little over the past 260 years, including the attire. Pointed capichons, grotesque masques, and layers of mix-matched fringe mimic the satirical costumes the ancient Europeans wore to mock nobility while veiling their identity.
Sound fun to you? Luckily, we can’t keep all the fun to ourselves. There are plenty of opportunities for all ages to join in and experience this humble Cajun custom for yourself!
Saturday, February 3rd - Vinton Chicken Run
• Line up begins at 7 a.m. at Vinton High School,1603 Grace Avenue. The participation fee is $10 per person for children 10 years old and under free. All ATVs, horses, and trailers are welcome on the trail ride.
• The trail ride will depart at 8 a.m. and make it’s way out of city limits with chances for both children and adults to chase chickens at every stop along the route.
• A Gumbo Cookoff will begin at 10 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall,
• The Mardi Gras will return to town and gather at Vinton Middle School, 900 Horridge Street, around 12:30 p.m. where they will lead the parade.
• The parade begins at 1 p.m. and ends at the Knights of Columbus hall where a gumbo Cookoff judging will begin at 2 p.m.
• For more information on the event and updates, call Vinton City Hall at (337) 589-7453.
Sunday, February 4th - Lake Charles Chicken Run
• Follow the parade of horses and floats to the Lake Charles Civic Center at 1 p.m.
• After the parade, enjoy a Mardi Gras Concert featuring a variety of Zydeco musicians – concert begins at 4 p.m. For more information, call (337) 660-1050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, February 13th - Iowa Chicken Run
• The 38th annual Iowa Mardi Gras Run kicks off Tuesday, February 13 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 503 E Highway 90. Doors open at 8 a.m., the Mardi Gras floats start lining up at 9 a.m. and the parade rolls at 10 a.m.
• The parade’s last and final stop is Rabideaux's Sausage Kitchen, which is part of the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail, before heading back to the Knights of Columbus Hall where gumbo is served to the riders while the children play from 2-4 p.m. The chicken run concludes with a zydeco dance.
• The entry fee is $10 at the door for adults. The entry fee for children 12 and under is $5. For more information, please contact Rodney Victorian at (337) 842-1875 or Kimmy Bellard at (337) 884-1403.
And don’t forget to tag us in your best Courir de Mardi Gras selfie at #VisitLakeCharles for a chance to be featured!