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Mardi Gras Lingers in Southwest Louisiana


The spirit of Mardi Gras lingers in southwestern Louisiana. However, being just across the border from Texas the residents are less Southern Belle and more likely to wear cowboy boots and hold rodeos.

Nichols store in DeQuincy is a half-hour drive to the north from Lake Charles. Locals visit because “it has everything,” is there year round and it’s something to do once Mardi Gras is over.

If Mardi Gras is ever over.

The spirit of Mardi Gras lingers a long time and the fun never stops. The locals vary from those just finding another reason to smile, to those dressing up like Halloween and those who see it as a way to give and receive presents.

Mardi Gras in Lake Charles is low key from the krewes (groups) who offer their community Cajun food to children to others of all ages who see this as a great chance to wear their jewelry.

Everyone gets into the act from The Queens of Mardi Gras themselves to the Top Dogs in Town.

Two signature opportunities let visitors to Lake Charles see its unique character: they can get a zydeco dance lesson from local TV personality Harold Guillory, or they can indulge themselves by chasing a chicken! That needs explanation.

The Iowa Chicken Run in the town of Iowa on the outskirts of Lake Charles has, for many years, been capturing the spirit of the rural Cajun Mardi Gras, where homes along the parade route agree to provide the ingredients for a gumbo to participants passing by on a hayride.

Children line the country roads waiting for the “throws” from the passersby but the fun for the kids is when the trail master, the hayride “captain,” stops the procession as he does several times, receives a live chicken from the homeowner and then lets it escape. The chicken is then pursued by the children in an attempt to capture it for the pot while the participants toe-tap to zydeco rhythms.

Then the entire group sits down with a BBQ plate at one of the houses.

This surely is different from Carnivale in Rio! Maybe that’s why the faces are different, too.

Southwest Louisiana is just across the Sabine River from Texas. The natives don’t have the melodic French catch to their voice that you hear in the eastern part of the state. Some even have a twang and sound somewhat like Texans. They hasten to ridicule that suggestion even though some of the southern belles here wear fancy cowgirl boots — and cowboy hats.

These boots were made for walking — and they are never still in this land of the zydeco. The music suggests, despite the items in the stores, you are not in Texas.

Cowboy boots are sold in the DeQuincy’s “We sell everything” Nichols store. Locals concede local rodeos attract a large component of performers, Cajun cowboys, or as we like to call them, the “Cajun Cavalry.”

The Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the NH Academy of Family Practice, Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written five books, the last called The Man Who Cried Orange: Stories from a Doctor's Life.

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