Mardi Gras is THE holiday when it comes to Mamou, La. Hundreds of people flock to 6th street from all over the state and even from other states, but you won't find parades or beads here. In Mamou, residents hold tightly their Cajun traditions, the most infamous, the Courir de Mardi Gras. For boys and men alike, This is a time to cut loose, create chaos and show that chicken who is boss. To learn first hand how to prepare for the upcoming madness, I got the information straight from the source, the chicken chasers themselves.
Photo courtesy of Conner Brignac
Mamou Mardi Gras has always been a part of Connor's life, but it has played an even larger part these past 5 years because he has been able to be apart of the Courir. His father, Gary Brignac, ran for years and he is now a Capitaine. Connor also runs along his older brother Julian. When it comes to his favorite part about Mardi Gras, Connor says it's all about the kids. He loves to include them in the dances and share the traditions that were shared with him when he was their age and hopes that they will carry on the traditions like he is. When it comes to getting ready for the infamous Fat Tuesday, Connor makes sure to start a month before hand. This includes riding their mardigras horses, listening to french music, and riding through town on saturdays. He also makes sure that his costume is ready or at least being made. Connor has learned over the years to dress for the weather, but says, “A good mardigras won't tell his secrets," so I guess that's all the advice we will get from him.
Photo courtesy of Linda Brignac
Unlike many of the other runners that you will encounter in Mamou, Dillon is the only member of his family to run in the Courir de Mardi Gras. He has been a part of this cajun tradition for 7 years and has no plans to stop any time soon. For Dillon, Mardi Gras is all about that last chance to let loose, drink too much beer, and eat too much boudin before the season of lent. He enjoys the atmosphere of everyone having a good time and keeping these cajun traditions alive. When it comes to his favorite part, Dillon says, "I don't think I could pick one favorite thing, I love it all, it's the best time of the year!" In the past 7 years, Dillon has learned to take off at least 2 days after the courir. The sourness of your body from all the running and cutting up will certainly have you feeling it for several days after. In terms of preparation for Tuesday, the only things Dillon needs is to saddle up every chance he gets to get the horses ready, and to drink plenty of beer to get himself ready. For any one wanting to participate this year, Dillon had some good advice. He said, "Make sure you know what you are getting into, it can get a little rough if you aren't ready. There's a reason that we say 'the few, the proud, the Mamou Mardi Gras.' You also had damn well get off your horse to dance and chase the chickens because if not, you will be pulled off and rolled in the mud. This ain't no trail ride." Dillon ended his statement with some encouragement that you'll have a time you won't forget and you'll always come back!
Photo courtesy of Linda Brignac
Gavin's favorite part about Mardi Gras is the act of celebrating. He says, “ just knowing you're apart of somethin not everyone does is what makes it special." For Gavin, Mardi Gras is a family tradition. The courir was something done by his grandpaw, then his dad and now him and has been since he was 16. He says that the tradition is all about acting a fool and gettin one last good time out before ash Wednesday. To prepare each year, Gavin always make sure his costume is in good shape and updates it if he need to and sometimes get a new one when it's been a few years. To get used to the amount of alcohol drank on Tuesday, he will start to pregame drink early in the week. Lastly, he makes sure that his horse is ready to go and he attends the Mardi Gras meetings prior to Tuesday. When he first started riding in the Courir, Gavin wishes someone would have told him not to keep his cellphone in his pockets or maybe not to bring it at all. His advice to future runners would be to chase chickens every chicken stop, dance every time you can, and to never wear a ball cap. An extra bit of advice from Gavin is to also never chase chickens in boots.
Photo courtesy of Brogan Landreneau
For the past 9 years, Brogan has been a participant of the Mamou Courir. His father, Boyd Landreneau, was a Capitaine for 24 years and raised his son around this pure Cajun tradition. A large portion of the courir takes place on the back roads where the men ride and chase the chickens, this is his favorite part of the whole Mardi Gras celebration. To prepare for the upcoming event, Brogan and his wife Samantha will take their horses and mules for rides to get them ready for the long day ahead. For anyone planning on riding in this upcoming courir, Brogan advises, “ you don't have to drink every beer they give you. Its an all day ride so only drink what you can handle."
Photo courtesy of Sarah Lafleur
The courir has been a part of Cody's life since he was 8 years old. He first ran as a child and continued to present day. However, Cody doesn't run every year. His children love attending the parades in the larger cities, so Cody alternates the years he runs so he can spend time with his children at all the events. Cody grew up in Grand Prairie where his father was a capitaine and taught Cody how to run. His favorite thing about Mardi Gras is that its the one last powwow before lent and time to pay penance. During this powwow, Cody enjoys dancing with the kids and showing them these hand me down traditions he loves so much. Over the years of running Mardi Gras, Cody has learned not to be the first one in the ditch when the chicken heads that way. It seems to be a recipe for disaster and you will absolutely get trampled. To prepare for the upcoming Tuesday celebration, Cody keeps it nice and simple. He gets new shoes and a nice bath for the horse, makes sure he has a costume ready, and listens to the Mardi Gras song to get in the mood. For anyone wanting to ride in this upcoming courir, Cody suggest to dress warm, holler loud, and have fun.
Photo courtesy of Julian Brignac
Lastly, some of the most pure love for Mamou Mardi Gras was seen through the answers of Julian Brignac. Because I couldn’t put it any better, I decided to leave his responses in their raw form so they can hopefully move and teach you like they did for me.
“I've participated in the courir all my life. I ran children's Mardi Gras every year until I was 15 and old enough to run on Tuesday with the men. I've now been running with them for 10 years; I've never missed a year and don't plan on it! I wait all year for that day and I save my vacation time every year so I'm not stuck Offshore for it.
My favorite part of Mardi Gras is by far the run on Tuesday but I also like attending the meetings we have on the Fridays and going to Fred's Lounge a few Saturday's before Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a family tradition. I've always ran since a child and my dad ran for years and has been a captain since I was little.
Mardi Gras really means a lot to me. I love everything about it since I was old enough to understand it. I love carrying on the tradition of our cajun culture and passing it on to younger people like my son Ross who is only 6. He really enjoys the children's run. He has always had a traditional costume since a baby that was made by my mom, who always made mine and my younger brothers.
I love the cajun music especially the live band that plays for us all day on the run. Hearing the Mardi Gras song has always given me the "frizzons" (goose bumps) and during the off-season at times has brought tears to my eyes. It's really hard to put into words the love Ive always had for Mardi Gras and how much it means to me to participate in the ONLY traditional courir Mardi Gras left!
If I had to share anything about mamou Mardi Gras to future participants, I'd tell them that this is not a parade nor a trail ride. Our run is NEVER canceled rain, sleet, snow, or shine, we will run! In Mamou we carry on the tradition. We come fully costumed and masked that morning, we get off our horse at every stop we make, and dance for the residents that donate to us for our gumbo at the end of the run. After dancing, we chase chickens that either the home owners or a captain throws for us. So if anyone plans to come just to ride and not participate, they should probably find a parade or trail ride that other towns/cities offer.
Something I know now that I wish I would've known my first years running, would be go easy on the drinking the Monday night before because it makes Tuesday morning a lot easier. I would also take lots of ibuprofen Tuesday afternoon before bed, because there ain't a day out the year we dance and run the way we do on Mardi Gras day.
A lot of work is put in when preparing for Mardi Gras. We have meetings the couple Fridays before to discuss the route we will be taking, the stops we will be making, and the lunch stop. We also make sure we have drivers for the band wagon truck, beer truck, beer van, and tractors pulling trailers for Mardi Gras without horses. We then make sure the band wagon is prepared for the band members that will be playing for us. Lastly, we make sure we bag enough ice and have enough beer for the whole day. Not only do we need to be ready for the run but our horses also have to be ready. We usually try to get a ride in once or twice a week starting after the Christmas holidays. Also, we have them shoed the Friday morning and cook lunch at my house before going to get ready for the night meeting and supper. On Tuesday morning before the run, we tie ropes up in town for riders to tie their horses to when we return to town to dance and receive awards under the red light. We also make sure to show up for registration at the American Legion to make sure we are ready to go for the ride.”