Thursday, February 23, 2012

Church Point Chicken Run

On the Sunday before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) it was up at 5AM and on the road to Church Point for the traditional Cajun Courir du Mardi Gras or Chicken Run. This rural event was brought by the Acadians when they were expelled from Maritime Canada in the 1700's. It was meant to mock the royals and to be one last feast before Lent. Revelers are lead by Le Capitaine as they travel from farm to farm begging for money and chickens for a communal gumbo that is cooked at the end of the run. Here is a link to the story of the run held in Eunice that is the same type of event but is on a different day. The first formal organized Church Point run started in 1961 with 400 horsemen and has grown into today's event with many horsemen and revelers and then a traditional parade.

Betty, Nanc, Valerie and Lori dressed for the occasion with their own revelers outfits. The morning was very cold as we waited a couple of hours for the festivities to begin. We were at a different location than last year and we were not allowed to cook so we all just shivered together while we waited.

Here are the chickens (guinea hens) that are awaiting their fate. There were many more here than we saw last year. They were released a couple at a time for the revelers to capture.

The event starts with Le Capitaine coming on to the property to ask the owner's permission for all the revelers to come on to his land. Le Capitaine then waved a white flag as the signal for the chicken chasers to come charging across his yard. Here is a short web album showing the revelers running across the yard that was very wet from all the rain they had on Saturday. If you play the slide show at one second you can get a pretty good idea of what it was like for all the spectators.

Here are a few of the many different costumes. Traditionally they do not dress in the purple, green and gold Mardi Gras colors because they represent the royals, but today just about anything goes. I really liked the want-to-be horseman in the top row. The official revelers wore masks that were made of screens. The pointed hats are called capuchons.

The revelers mingle with the spectators while dancing and begging for money for the communal gumbo. They even had a wagon with a band that played live music.

And then the chasing begins. Not one bird escaped as they were quickly surrounded and captured. Here is another short web album that shows the sequence of the chase and capture.

To say no animals were harmed would be a lie, but for someone who has no problem eating poultry and who loves gumbo it was great fun to watch.

Here we are with Richard and Valerie who came down for Baton Rouge to attend the Chicken Run with us. They lived in Louisiana for 25 years and have been to many, many Mardi Gras events, but this was their first run. They loved it.

Nanc with Le Capitaine. As a reveler tried to "sneak" up on them Le Capitaine had to warn him to stay away. It was all in good fun and the Cajun Mardi Gras should be on every one's to do list.

The run was followed by a traditional Mardi Gras parade with many floats and beads. There were only a few floats during the run because the big parade in Church Point started at 2PM. We were tired, cold and hungry so we did not stay for that event.

As you can see we still did OK at gathering beads.

Here is the whole group from Betty's after the run.

The Chicken Run was on Sunday and we had two more days and four more parades where we partied and collected many, many more beads. More entries on those events to follow.

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