Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More & More & More Mardi Gras

On Monday we continued our Mardi Gras adventure with a trip to New Orleans with Valerie and Richard where we saw three of the sixty parades the city had for this year's festivities. We went to the Garden District where the parades begin and where it is very much a family affair. The streets were lined with families and kids so it did not include the same level of debauchery that is found near the French Quarter but it is still a great and crazy time. Val and Richard have been to many parades in the city over the years and know how to get in and out while avoiding all the traffic. We were back in Abbeville and in bed by 11:30.

We arrived in the city with enough time to stroll around, have lunch and watch the start of the first parade from a sidewalk cafe. Here we are with our "seed" beads that we were able to grow into a huge collection.

The first parade, Krewe of Tucks, was a rescheduled event from Saturday's rain out. The krewe takes its name from Friar Tucks, a local tavern, and its motto is Booze, Beer, Bourbon, Broads. The theme of this year's parade was Tucks Gets Culture and, as you can see by the King's "throne," they take great joy in poking fun at everything.

Two more cultural floats were, Velvis, in honor of velvet paintings of Elvis and Michelangelo's David Vitter, which poked fun at the Louisiana U.S. Senator who was caught with a prostitute who reported he loved to dress up in diapers. The citizens of LA still saw fit to reelect Vitter. The pic includes a couple of Velvis want-a-bes, Nanc and Valerie.

The culture of these paraders was from the play, Little Shop of Horrors. All parades in New Orleans are sponsored by krewes and no corporate floats are allowed. The theme and the floats of each parade is different from year to year and next year's are already under construction.

Here are the floats Pristine Chapel and Expelling the Culture. The Tucks had a couple of unique "throws" that went with their theme and were different than any others we have seen. In addition to beads and wooden doubloons, they threw tiny plungers and toilet paper. This was the first parade that we have seen where the whole purpose was to poke fun and we loved it.

The next parade, Krewe of Proteus, has the theme of Egyptian Mythology. Proteus was founded in 1882 and is the second oldest krewe in the city. Their throws include 60 inch beads, plastic doubloons and tridents.

The Proteus floats are the most elaborate we saw. They are built on old wagons that still have wooden-spoked wheels dating back to when horses were used to pull them.

Another beautiful Proteus float.

The final parade of the day, Krewe of Orpheus, was founded in 1993 and takes its name from the musical son of Apollo and Calliope. The flambeaux, who are a big part of this night parade, carry on the tradition of how the parades were lit before electricity. A couple marching groups included the Organ Grinders and the Muff-A-Lottas who both dance their way along the entire parade route.

This year's Orpheus celebrities included Poison's, Brett Michaels.

And Cyndi Lauper. This parade with its musical roots includes many local high school bands.

This train float was one of the most fantastic in the parade. It has several cars with flashing lights and the smokestack on the locomotive shot confetti into the air. Orpheus is famous for its large medal doubloons that we were lucky to get last year. I could have had one this year but it would have meant pushing a little kid and an elderly lady out of the way so I let them fight over it.

Here are a few post parade spectators. Valerie with her Tucks paper throw, Nanc with her glowing crown and the many beads she got, Jim with beads after only one parade and an unidentified reveler, whose face I blurred to protect his identity, laying in the parade gravy. We had a wonderful time in NOLA and have to recommend Mardi Gras to anyone who loves having a fun, fun time.

On Fat Tuesday this group of international travelers from Betty's, Gervais and Joycelyn from Quebec; Jim from Pennsylvania; Marie and Cal from Nova Scotia and Cookie and Jim from Washington headed to nearby Kaplan for a small town parade.

This parade was similar to the ones in Church Point and Scott with many local businesses sponsoring floats and many participants dressing in Cajun Mardi Gras costumes. While the floats are not as fancy or the beads as big, these local small town parades are every bit as much fun as the ones in New Orleans.

Even with the rain out on Saturday we still managed to see six parades and collect many beads and other throws while having a great time and even after attending two years in a row, there is still NOTHING like Mardi Gras.

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.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good Times Continue to Roll at Betty's

As I write this we have sat through eight severe weather warnings including heavy rain, flooding, thunderstorms and a tornado in the area. We survived those warnings and, except for a lot of water everywhere, all is well but this is the second year in a row that most of the Saturday Mardi Gras activities have been cancelled. Oh well, into every life a little rain must fall and Southern Louisiana does need the rain. It's a good thing it doesn't snow here. After Betty's induction last Saturday we got started with the Mardi Gras events and to just have a general good time.

One way that Betty's is different from other parks is that when someone leaves after being here for a while we all gather to say good-bye. In this case everyone lined up not only to say their good-byes but also to see if Jay could get his big (65' + 7') rig out of his site. After hugs all around he was able to get it out with only one person having to close their slide.
Not every day here is filled with fun and games. One day when he was bored, Marvin decided he would show some Yankees how the Cajuns go crawfishing. He dipped his line down a mudbug hole and, as you can see, he was able to land a big one.

We went to Breaux Bridge to have dinner at the Cafe des Amis with Valerie and Richard. We first met them at RV Boot Camp in 07 and have crossed paths several times in our travels. Richard is finishing up a project he has been working on in Baton Rouge so they will be on the road again soon. We had a great evening getting caught up.

Our first Mardi Gras parade was in Scott and as happened last year they were very generous with the beads. This is a great parade as you can get up close to the floats. Here are Nanc, Bob, Judy and Cookie begging for more beads.

Left to right; Linda, Cookie, Jim G, Lynn, Richard, Vickie, Jay and Lori all had a great time and collected a lot of beads.

Marie showing off her booty.

Let the beading begin.

Another evening 21 people from Betty's went back to Big John's for more mudbugs. As you can see we all got our fill.

This was the first time Joycelyne and Gervias had eaten crawfish and they loved them.

Claudia, Eddie, Joycelyne, Gervais, Nanc and Marie preparing thier dipping sauce while they wait for their bugs.

One thing we really love when we come to Betty's is the music and one of our favorites is when Judy Bailey comes to the park and plays. This year she was accompied by Gerald (left) and Dave. Everyone packed into Betty's Louisiana Room for a great evening of fun, food, great music and dancing.

Joycelyne and Eddie doing the two step.

Judy brought a real smile to Tennessee fan Wendell's face when she played Rocky Top.

Betty's neice Monica joined the band and did a great job with a couple of songs.

After a couple of beverages even I got on the dance floor. It was another wonderful evening of fun at Betty's.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Betty Bernard -- A Living Legend

Betty's certificate of induction into the Order of Living Legends.
Certificate from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal acknowledging Betty's induction.

Saturday was a very special day for Betty Bernard and all her family and friends as she was inducted into the Order of Living Legends at the Acadiana Museum in Erath. This honor is given to those who work to preserve the Cajun culture and are ambassadors for spreading the word about the Cajun heritage. The induction, which was held during the Cajun jam session at the Museum Cafe, was attended by Betty's family, former co-workers, local friends and many members of her RV family from all over North America. We were so happy to be part of the ceremony for this most deserving honoree. I was especially honored to be asked to speak on her behalf. She truly is a very special lady.

Rather than trying to capture the event in one blog entry here are links to three sites with more pictures and details about Betty. Here is a link to a web album with pictures of the day's activities. This link is to the Acadiana Museum article about Betty's induction. This last link is to a blog where you can leave a message on the guestbook for Betty. This was a surprise so I did not want to put it on the blog before the ceremony, but I am sure Betty would love to hear from her many friends.

The Living Legend, Betty Bernard thanking the Acadiana Museum for the honor and her many friends and family for attending.
A special bouquet for a special lady.

Betty with a plaque about the induction made by her friend, Nellie, left.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Back in LA at Betty's

We Finished our 1600 mile sprint from Q (Quartsite) to A (Abbeville) and arrived at our favorite place, Betty's RV Park, with plenty of time to set up and make it to happy hour. This is our fifth visit to Abbeville and, as always happens, we have already extended our stay by a week. We really are caught in Betty's web. We always say coming here is like coming home and as usual Betty was there to give us a big welcoming hug. This visit is special as this Saturday Betty is being inducted into the Order of Living Legends at the Acadian Museum in Erath and she has asked me to speak on her behalf. If you would like to send a message to Betty about this honor you can sign the guestbook on this blog. I am honored to have a chance to say a few words about his wonderful lady. It also just happens to be Mardi Gras so we are sure looking forward to all those fun times again this year.

You can set your clock by happy hour at Betty's. At 4:30 everyone gathers together at the pavilion or in the Louisiana Room to share food and stories of their travels. It is a chance to get caught up with old friends we have made here and to meet new ones that we are crossing paths with for the first time.
CeCe showing off her stylish Mason jar stemware.

We were happy to hear that the crawdads were already available because of the mild winter they have had. We went to a new place, Big Johns, in Erath and found the mudbugs to be great without the long wait we had at another local spot in the past. Above are old friends Bob, Judy, Russ, Lori with Jay whom we met for the first time.

Here are some of Betty's regulars, Ruth, Marvin and Wendell, waiting to be served.

Betty, Jim and Nanc. We all used the ingredients in the basket to mix up our own crawdad dipping sauce. That way you can make it as hot or as mild as you like.

Jim, Cookie, Priscilla and Dave, more regular visitors at Betty's.

New friends Marie & Cal and Richard & Lynn. We are looking forward to spending time with this group as they are here for the month of Mardi Gras and to help Betty celebrate her induction as a Living Legend.

Check out these mudbugs. WOW, I had to go for the five pounds as it had been so long since I have had any of the delicious little things.

Another reason we like Acadiana, in addition to the food, is the music. On Saturday a few of us went to Touchets for the Cajun jam session. There were many musicians waiting to play and as always it was wonderful.

A few of the gang from Betty's; Nanc, George, CeCe, Judy, Bob, Wendell and Ruth enjoying the music. Another reason coming here is like coming home is the many friends who welcome us back when we walk into the jam sessions. The friendliness of the Cajun people is wonderful.


I have added a Betty's RV Park label to the blog for anyone who is interested in seeing what a fun time we have had here on our many visits. I also updated the travel map to 2012.