Monday, March 3, 2014

Mardi Gras: A Delightful Blend Of Jambalaya, Zydeco, Beads, King Cake And Krewe

Kaley Willis /

Special Mardi Gras beads worn by the Krewe de Couion King. The tiger shows Louisiana State University Tigers pride.

By Kaley Willis
Senior Reporter
LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana, U.S.A. – Living in Southwest Louisiana during Mardi Gras can only be described in one way – one fun celebration.
Students get a week-long break from school and there is always a parade, party, or gumbo cook-off happening around the corner.
After coming to the realization that I, being a Louisiana native, have never fully experienced Mardi Gras, I decided to dedicate a whole day to nothing but Mardi Gras festivities, and the results were better than I could have ever anticipated.
Kaley Willis /

The official tee shirt of the
Krewe de Couion.
On Sunday, I woke up, ate a slice of cream cheese King Cake, and got ready for my Cajun adventures.
My day began at the Krewe De Couion party, a krewe founded in 2001 by John and Joyce McRae and dedicated to having a good time, celebrating Cajun customs, and treating each other like family.
A krewe is a group of people of all ages who celebrate Mardi Gras under a certain name. Anyone can start a krewe. Names are often in French and hint at a theme, such as simplicity, the cosmos or, in this case, the Krewe de Couion, or krewe of crazy.
I talked to Kristen Fuselier, a 21-year-old who has been a member of the krewe since she was a child.
“Being a member of Krewe de Couion is more like being in a big family. We’re all so close, I am able to go to them for anything,” she said. “It’s times like these when we’re all together when we can have a really great time.”
Kaley Willis /

2013 Krewe de Couion Queen Becky
Fuselier stands next to a list past krewe
This particular Krewe de Couion get-together, held in Carlyss, La., was celebrating the reigning King and Queen who donned bejeweled crowns and beautiful capes.
The krewe didn’t always have these luxuries for their royalty, however.
The 2013 Krewe de Couion Queen Becky Fuselier said, “Our king and queen wore paper crowns from Burger King and paper capes for a long time. We’ve always been a very simple krewe.”
While this krewe may enjoy the simple things in life, their celebration featured all of the wonderful characteristics of Louisiana life; Zydeco music, which is a special genre originating from Southwest Louisiana, dancing, and all the Cajun food you can eat, like jambalaya, gumbo, boudin and crawfish.
The krewe, an interesting mix of people of all ages from different backgrounds, came together to celebrate the King, Queen, and Revelry, who are like the royal court jesters. They dress up like jesters and dance around behind the King and Queen.
At this party, the krewe’s royalty took a walk around the room to the sounds of musicians playing Zydeco music on harmonica, saxophone, and accordion.
After eating a hearty meal of jambalaya – a dish of rice, meat and vegetables, and my favorite Cajun cuisine – I headed off for my next adventure of the day, the Lake Charles Children’s Parade.
Kaley Willis /
An alligator float in the Lake Charles Children's Parade
Young eager faces lined up along the Lake Charles streets as the Mardi Gras Children’s Parade began.
Kaley Willis /

The crowd tries to catch beads and candy
thrown from the floats.
This year, Lake Charles hosted one of its biggest parades in years as more than 130 floats caught the eyes of thousands of parade-goers. 

Many local krewes, businesses, and clubs made floats for the parade, showcasing the official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green, and gold.

Candy, stuffed animals, and strings of colorful beads were thrown off of the floats into the crowd, as everyone tried their best to catch as many beads as possible.

Children of all ages had beads stacked up to their chins, as music and cheering filled the air while the crowd enjoyed watching those lucky enough to ride atop the floats.
Kaley Willis /

Above, one of the decorated boats in the 
nighttime parade in Lake Charles. 
Below, the parade crowd tries to catch 
beads and candy tossed from the boats.

While traditional parades like these are common around Louisiana, Lake Charles has a unique twist to the typical parade at night when the Lighted Boat Parade made its way along the Lake Charles Seawall.
Local mariners decorated their yachts and tugboats with beautiful lights and Mardi Gras decorations.
People in the crowd, bundled up in the chilly weather along the dock, tried hard to catch beads and cups, much like the land parade earlier.
A gorgeous and festive end to the night, the Lighted Boat Parade perfectly represented Southwest Louisiana and the Mardi Gras season.
Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Kaley Willis in front of a float at the Lake Charles parade, wearing the Mardi Gras beads she caught. Naturally, they're a fine accessory for her YJI shirt.

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