Mardi Gras revelers on horseback parade through the flat Cajun prairie of Mamou, Louisiana, in a tradition that has its roots in Medieval France.
The Mardi Gras riders, in their masks and colorful fringed costumes, gather just after dawn at the American Legion Hall in the small Cajun town of Mamou. For some, the non-stop party and drinking began the night before and will continue all Tuesday in a horseback ride through the rural countryside.
Chasing chickens at Mardi gras mamou
Before they begin their ride, the Mardi Gras revelers listen to a few rules – you can’t carry guns or knives, when the ride makes one of its frequent stops you get down and dance so they toss a chicken, and no riding through Mamou’s cemetery.
The ride will last for hours, stopping at homes and businesses for dancing and a chicken chase. The horseback riders are followed by more participants in cars, pickups and trailers, some loaded with barbecue pits and live music.
The courir de mardi gras in pictures
A cajun tradition
In addition to Mamou, several towns in the prairies of south-central Louisiana put on similar Mardi Gras celebrations. The tradition faded in the 1930s and 1940, but the Cajun Renaissance of the 1960s help revive the rides. Homeowners and some businesses along the route welcome the masked rides, and pass out more drinks with a little dancing and another chicken chase. If there is a puddle or ditch nearby, you may see a few riders diving or cartwheeling into the mud.
The ride ends with another party
It’s said that the chickens end up in a pot of gumbo that is waiting for revelers at the end of their day-long ride. The eating, drinking, live music and dancing continue into the evening in Mamou. But the celebration ends on Fat Tuesday. The next day is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
According to the Evangeline Parish Tourism office, the Courir de Mardi Gras will be a smaller affair in 2021. The riders are still planning their run on horseback, but with less fanfare and partying.