CHURCH POINT, LA (KPLC-TV) – Locals refer to it as the "original" and "real Mardi Gras", a celebration resembling the way it was when the first Acadians arrived and settled on the Cajun Prairie northwest of Lafayette.
Held on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday, the modern Courir de Mardi Gras of Church Point started in 1961, along with the Courir de Mardi Gras of Mamou, according to ChurchPointMardiGras.com. Every year, it attracts bus loads of people from all across the United States. It's an opportunity to see a side of Mardi Gras few Americans are familiar with.
Kirk Peterson is from Sioux City, Iowa. Peterson along with a group of people from out-of-state are visiting Lake Charles for this week's Mardi Gras celebration. For the last several years, Peterson and others, have made their way to Church Point for the Courir de Mardi Gras.
"It's something different for us to do that we don't see up North," said Peterson. "After we came the first year, it was a riot, a lot of fun and that's why we came back every year to watch it and participate."
During the Courir de Mardi Gras, spectators gather at a local farmer's house and wait for the ceremony to begin.
During the ceremony, a large group of men, some on horses, some on foot, arrive outside the farmer's gate. The captain of the group approaches the farmer and asks permission for his men to enter the property. The farmer, who agreed in advance to be part of the ceremony, gives the men permission to enter his property.
Accompanying the men is a live band that plays Cajun music. After entering the property, the men start dancing in the farmer's field.
After a little time has passed, the farmer throws a chicken in the air and the men scramble to catch it.
In earlier times, hundreds of years ago, the chicken would actually be used by the men as an ingredient for a communal gumbo. The men would travel from farm to farm collecting different ingredients for the gumbo.
Lavonne Rogue traveled all the way from Chicago to see the Courir de Mardi Gras ceremony.
"I kind of felt sorry for the chickens but it sure was a lot of fun," said Lavonne after the ceremony came to an end.
Afterwards, spectators walk a short distance to view the Courir de Mardi Gras parade, which like the ceremony, is held every year.