No floats or beads at this Mardi Gras, but there are chickens
Instead of parades, floats and beads, what about chickens, gumbo and tomfoolery? Last week, as many communities around the world celebrated Mardi Gras in a conventional manner, others observed the day in a more distinctive fashion.
Courir de Mardi Gras takes place in towns around Louisiana's Cajun Country and just a three-hour drive west of New Orleans, in Eunice, Louisiana, participants celebrate Faquetaigue Courir de Mardi Gras. Here, you won't find your typical Mardi Gras festivities, but instead, a mob of partygoers prancing through fields, knocking on doors and chasing chickens all while dressed in intricate costumes.
Joel Savoy, a Cajun musician and music producer from Eunice, helped start the annual Faquetaigue Courir de Mardi Gras in 2006. Savoy said he and his friends wanted to create a more inclusive Mardi Gras experience for people of all ages. Photographer Bryan Tarnowski last captured the event five years ago, on Feb. 28, 2017.
Louisiana's Courir de Mardi Gras can be traced as far back as the 18th century. It originates from the medieval fête de la quémande, or feast of begging, during a time when rural French people disguised themselves in masks and conical caps and went door to door, performing for neighbors in exchange for gifts.
Today, this all takes place in the southwest region of Louisiana. No spectators are allowed and all participants must be dressed in costume.
Early in the morning, the Mardi Gras, as the group or individuals are known, gather to listen to le capitaine, or the leader of the group, give a speech about the day and its rules and traditions. The Mardi Gras are dressed in elaborate clothes that replicate those from medieval times, which were originally designed by poor French people to mock the aristocratic elite.
Partakers spend the morning entertaining neighbors for gumbo ingredients. At one point, revelers form a human pyramid to climb a greased pole that's capped with a chicken — the day's grand prize.
After the event concludes in the afternoon, participants gather to enjoy some communal gumbo.
Photographer Bryan Tarnowski is a documentary photographer and photojournalist based in New Orleans, Louisiana, regularly working in the Gulf Coast, New York City, and anywhere else assignments bring him. Follow his work at bryantarnowski.com or on Instagram: @btarnowski
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.