3 Family Friendly Mardi Gras Activities On Louisiana’s Gulf Coast
Put the debauchery aside this year in favor of the quirky and charming traditions that are alive all along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.
Sure, we’ve all seen and heard about over-the-top Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans that would make even the most free-thinking folks blush. But at its very heart Mardi Gras has always been about faith, family and fun. So put the debauchery aside this year in favor of the quirky and charming traditions that are alive all along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. It turns out that the smallest towns know how to celebrate in the biggest ways. Here’s a sampling:
1. For 41 years, the little town of Iowa has had a special Mardi Gras tradition that harkens back to the earliest celebrations in Louisiana: the Iowa Chicken Run. Yes, there’s a parade with plenty of floats and beads and – as they did back in the day – plenty of revelers on horseback. It all starts on Mardi Gras (this year that’s Tuesday, March 5) at 10 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall. But it’s what happens throughout the parade route and especially at the end that really puts this place on the Carnival map.
The parade heads through town, stopping at local businesses and then weaving through residential neighborhoods. At certain homes in those neighborhoods, the parade captain blows a whistle and participants climb off their horses and begin dancing in the streets to zydeco music that’s played with an accordion and a scrub board. If the families who live in these homes like what the dancers are doing, they donate the ingredients they’ll need to make a great big pot of gumbo … including chickens that are thrown into the air.
The parade ultimately makes its way to Rabideaux’s Sausage Kitchen, a stop along the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail, for the final ingredient – sausage – and then winds its way back to the Knights of Columbus Hall. That’s where all the ingredients are put into a big pot and gumbo is served to participants and spectators from 2 to 4 p.m. To pass the time while the gumbo is cooking, there’s a big zydeco dance.
The entry fee for this one-of-a-kind (and delicious) event is $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
2. The part of Louisiana that’s nicknamed “Bayou Country” – Houma and Terrebonne Parish – is home to the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the entire state: the King Cake Festival. However, nobody here is taking second-place honors when it comes to the ubiquitous king cake, the official dessert of Mardi Gras.
A local favorite named Cannata’s Family Market just earned top honors as the “People’s Choice” award in the eighth annual King Cake Festival, which was held in New Orleans earlier this year. The winning flavor, a variation on the classic favorite “Snickerdoodle Gooey Butter,” is a gooey, sweet and cinnamon mixture that tastes just like the cookie we remember from our childhood lunch bags.
Last year a bakery from this same region earned the People’s Choice award, too. Mr. Ronnie’s Donuts took home the prize for their donut-centric rendition of the classic king cake.
If you can’t get to Louisiana for this year’s Mardi Gras, no worries. You can get a taste of the event shipped to your home, because Cannata’s happily ships throughout the United States.
3. Along the coast of Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a family-friendly celebration that welcomes everyone: the Mardi Paws Dog Parade. And in the town of Mandeville, that extends to four-legged friends. The annual Mardi Paws parade, which takes place the Sunday after Mardi Gras (this year that’s March 10) is a way for pets and their people to share in the Mardi Gras celebration.
This year marks the parade’s 25th anniversary and the theme is “SuperPaws,” which is a celebration of all things tied to comic book culture. Dogs must come dressed in a costume that reflects that theme, and it’s anticipated that judges will see everything from superheroes to wizards this year. Human escorts are encouraged to dress the part, too.
Judges award prizes in a variety of categories, and winners will receive official “Poop Trophies.” The trophies aren’t the only poo-centric aspects of this parade. While participants toss the traditional beads and cups and doubloons into the crowd of spectators, they also hurl glittered rubber dog poops – and sometimes the occasional stuffed cat.
Proceeds from this charitable event benefit kids and animals, with the chief benefactor being the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. Founded by actor Ian Somerhalder, who’s from these parts, the foundation empowers, educates and collaborates with people and organizations that have a positive impact on the planet and all its creatures.