No matter where you're going to be for Mardi Gras this year, there's something going on in all parts of the state.
Look below to find a celebration near you.
A new tradition in Mardi Gras, begun only in 1993, is Alexandria's Mardi Gras, which has grown from 10 floats and four krewes (clubs) to 22 floats and 15 krewes. The parades roll Saturday, Feb. 2 in downtown Alexandria, and Sunday, Feb. 3 in mid-town Alexandria.
For more information, visit www.alexmardigras.com.
Baton Rouge's largest and most popular parade is its 28th annual Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade that has grown from a couple of convertibles and a few enthusiastic marchers carrying a few plastic pink flamingos to a flamingo-themed festival featuring a very large parade, live music, food, and even a golf tournament. Mardi Gras season is announced by the mysterious overnight appearances of very large wooden pink flamingos in the capital city lakes. Known for political satire, this year's theme is "Flamingo Phil Predicts." The parade route includes an alcohol-free zone. It rolls at noon Saturday, Feb. 2 through the downtown streets of the capital city.
Six other parades roll between Jan. 19 and the Feb. 2 Spanish Town parade.
Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana is a treat for many reasons including delicious Cajun food - and the "world's largest king cake." There are cooking demonstrations, a pig roast and offerings of "boudin," a Cajun specialty sausage. There is also a wide array of Cajun and Zydeco musical performances, costume contests, and - as with most Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras celebrations - the Eunice Courir de Mardi Gras.
Houma, Louisiana, located in Southeast Louisiana - an hour's drive west of New Orleans, is a beautiful blend of bayou scenery, plantations, and more than ten Mardi Gras parades. Like many other cities' Mardi Gras festivities, Houma Mardi Gras offers visitors a packed schedule of Carnival events including balls, parades, and fun.
Houma boosts its festival "as the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana." Events include 12 parades spanning from Jan. 25 to Feb. 5.
On Mardi Gras, Feb. 5, a similar Courir de Mardi Gras celebration, you can head to Iota, Louisiana for the Tee-Mamou Celebration that includes the horseback riders, a parade, and street dancing. The festival runs from 8:30 a.m. until the early evening.
Details can be found at www.iotamardigras.com.
The capital of Cajun Louisiana, Lafayette offers two weekends of Mardi Gras events including a Mardi Gras Ball open to the public, community celebrations and many, many parades.
Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette, a four-day Mardi Gras weekend festival, offers much more than your typical parade. There is a carnival midway, live bands featuring Cajun and Zydeco music, and a costume contest and dance on downtown streets.
While most Mardi Gras balls are private, Lafayette's Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Associations Pageant and Ball opens its pomp and splendor free charge to the public in the Heymann Performing Arts Center on Mardi Gras night.
Visit www.lafayettetravel.com for a full schedule of events. Click on "events and festivals," then "Mardi Gras."
Everyone gets in on the celebration in Lake Charles! All ages are represented from the Children's parade to the Red Hat Society. Even the dogs get in on the act with one of the area's most popular parades the Krewe of Barkus!
Many folks enjoy the lights on the lake when the annual Boat parade cruises by the sea wall at the Lake Charles Civic Center. And you'll see just about everyone in town fill the sidewalks for what many call the grand finale' of the season, The Merchant's parade.
Parades aren't all that's going on in Southwest Louisiana. For a complete schedule of events visit www.swlamardigras.com
Brace yourself for an experience like no other in Mamou, Louisiana, the "Cajun music capital of the world," located in Evangeline Parish northwest of Lafayette with easy access from Interstate 49.
Mamou's famous "Courir de Mardi Gras" (Run of Mardi Gras) is rich in history and overflowing with excitement. This unique style of celebration dates to before the Civil War, and begins on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday (February 3) with the early morning Courir de Mardi Gras. The Courir entails a group of costumed community members riding through town on horseback in search of ingredients to eventually bring together for a community gumbo. The gumbo is usually cooked on Lundi Gras (February 4) in downtown Mamou, where there is a big street dance.
If you can't quite picture a celebration of this type, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EU0Z3arE04&feature=related.
Monroe's large Krewe of Janus parade attracts 100,000 people to the streets of this Northeast Louisiana city. This year's parade is Jan. 26.
For more information: go to www.kreweofjanus.com
Mardi Gras was brought to Louisiana in 1699 by French explorer Iberville, who arrived on what is now New Orleans on the eve of Mardi Gras. In honor of the holiday, March 3, 1699, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: "Mardi Gras Point").
Mardi Gras remained an individually-celebrated holiday until 1857, when the Krewe of Comus was founded and saved Mardi Gras as a safe street festival. An 1872 visit by Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia coincided with the founding of the krewe of Rex and established Rex as the King of Carnival.
This year's 52 parades in New Orleans begin Jan. 19 and culminate with 33 from Wednesday, Jan. 30 through Mardi Gras, Feb. 5, when this year's Rex joins seven generations of Kings of Carnival to reign over the Crescent City.
This small Louisiana town just outside Baton Rouge offers a family-friendly Mardi Gras with a charitable twist that the town markets as "the oldest Mardi Gras outside the city of New Orleans."
The town's two parades on Mardi Gras day - the Community Center Carnival parade and the New Roads Lions Carnival parade - allow visitors a combination of African-American celebration and the Lions Club parade that offers seats to the general public to benefit area charities.
The New Roads website proclaims, "New Roads is planning its greatest Mardi Gras in 86 years, with whimsical floats, high stepping marching bands and dance teams, resplendent royalty, tons of top-quality throws, comic maskers, great local cuisine, midway rides and a good dose of Creole hospitality for lagniappe."
For more information: www.newroadsmardigras.com
Mardi Gras in the Ark-La-Tex has grown into major parades on the streets of Shreveport and Bossier City. Balls begin Jan. 4 and parades roll on Jan. 26, Jan. 27, Feb. 2, 3 and 5 in this Northwest Louisiana city. The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau has a Calendar of Events on its website: www.shreveport-bossier.org. In addition, the Ark-La-Tex Mardi Gras Museum has a full list of Mardi Gras events for the area, for every Krewe: www.mardigrasmuseum.org.
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