Cajun & Creole Carnival
South Louisiana is home to the greatest free party on earth, a colorful celebration known as Mardi Gras.
Carnival begins on Jan. 6, the Twelfth Night of Christmas, or the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. This Carnival “season” continues until Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 17.
Because Ash Wednesday is a time of sacrificing and fasting, the season of Carnival is a time of feasting and fun. The word “Carnival” comes from the Latin “Carbe vale” meaning “farewell to flesh,” referring to the giving up of eating meat during Lent. Some people see the season of Carnival and Mardi Gras as “living it up before giving it up.”
In Acadiana, residents celebrated Carnival with the unique “Courir de Mardi Gras” or Mardi Gras runs where masked men on horseback would travel the countryside knocking on doors, singings songs, dancing and begging for ingredients to make a gumbo. Many times homeowners would throw a chicken to the begging krewe and maskers would attempt to catch the bird for gumbo meat. Musicians sometimes followed the krewes, providing more merriment.
Most of the activities that tourists enjoy happen about two weeks prior to Mardi Gras, building up to the grand celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Parades in Lafayette begin on Feb. 7 with the Krewe of Carnivale en Rio and the popular, fund-raising Krewe des Chiens Parade for Dogs.
The bulk of Lafayette parades begin on Friday, Feb. 13, and continue daily until Tuesday, Feb. 17, rolling from downtown Lafayette to Cajun Field. The family friendly “Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette,” coordinated by the Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association, offers games, carnival rides, Cajun food and live music by some of Acadiana’s best talent at Cajun Field.
A historical African American event featuring a costume contest, live music, dancing and food occurs at Clark Field Stadium in the north section of the city. The Mardi Gras Show at Clark Field also features many local and national musicians, plus the annual Judging Contest that features extravagant displays of costumes. In addition, there’s food and crafts. Anyone can enter the costume contest.
For a complete list of Carnival parades, balls, courirs and other activities in Lafayette and surrounding cities, see below.
Mardi Gras 2015 Schedule
Newcomers Mardi Gras Parade
Main Street, St. Martinville
Frequently Asked Questions
Mardi Gras Dates
February 17, 2015
The Colors of Mardi Gras
Purple - justice | Green - faith | Gold - power
The history of the King Cake began in 12th century France where the cake would be baked on the eve of Jan. 6 to celebrate the visit to the Christ Child by the three Kings. A small token was hidden in the cake as a surprise for the finder.
Throws, Doubloons, Beads, Cups, and More...
The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers, and is a time-honored expectation for young and old alike. Special throws with the Krewe's emblem become collector's items.
Lafayette's Mardi Gras Timeline
1869 - 1st formal Mardi Gras ball and parade
1897 - King Attakapas (1st Mardi Gras king) was crowned
1934 - Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association was formed. King Gabriel and Queen Evangeline have reigned over Lafayette Mardi Gras ever since.
Courir de Mardi Gras
A rural Mardi Gras celebration that dates back to the earliest days of settlement. With its roots firmly in the medieval tradition of ceremonial begging, bands of masked and costumed horseback riders roam the countryside "begging" for ingredients for their communal gumbo.
Family-friendly Mardi Gras
Lafayette's Mardi Gras offers a family-friendly atmosphere. Families take out their spots along the parade route and float riders love to throw beads and trinkets to children. Hot Tip: If you're from out-of-town, make a sign for the parade, like "Family from Detroit" or "Razorbacks love Mardi Gras". Float riders look for these and welcome non-locals with a shower of beads.
You may park along a side street free of charge, avoiding driveways and private property. Don't be surprised to see "entrepreneurs" along the way to park in a private parking lot near the parade route. If you want to watch the parades from the Mardi Gras Festival, you may park for a fee at Cajun Field and admission to the festival is free.
- Stay behind the barricades while the parade is in progress.
- Have fun, but realize that lewd behavior or drunkenness can get you arrested.
- Don't throw things at the float riders.
- Keep an eye on children.
- Items are prohibited along the parade route: Weapons, Fireworks, Bicycles, Glass containers, Pets.
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