By J. Glenn Dupree, F362282
If you have never been to a Mardi Gras celebration in your motorhome, you need to visit the Cruisin’ Cajuns chapter during our open Mardi Gras rally, held each year in Rayne, Louisiana. This year’s rally, which took place February 17 through 20, 2011, at the City of Rayne RV Park, included 212 coaches and was an incredible event.
In the Cajun tradition, Mardi Gras is filled with music, parades, fun, and great food. Our rally this year was no different, as the celebration was in full swing from the beginning until the end. Food such as gumbo and crawfish etouffee was on the menu, while festivities, games, a parade, and even a Mardi Gras Ball were planned activities.
Traditionally, every group that marches in a Mardi Gras parade is called a “krewe,” and at our rally all of the krewes are made up of Cruisin’ Cajun members. This year, I and several others decided to participate in the parade, naming our group the Krewe de Couyon. (Couyon means “crazy” in Cajun French.) “The Crazy Krewe” was conceived by Bob and Janet St. Romain.
Since our krewe did not have a float or convertible cars to ride in during the parade, Bob and Janet came up with the idea to have the group march with decorated walkers and to perform as a precision drill team. After a quick practice, the Krewe de Couyon fell in behind the convertibles and the last of the floats participating in the parade with the royal court.
The parade route took us around the Rayne Civic Center and through the motorhome park. Krewe members marched and paraded to the tune of “Mardi Gras Mambo,” which played on a portable boom box carried by Ken Graffeo. The parade route was lined with motorhomers attending the rally, family members (lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren), and friends of rally attendees, all who had purchased day passes to attend the parade. There were floats, convertible automobiles, and of course, the Krewe de Couyon marching with their decorated walkers and making some pretty fancy moves as they tossed the traditional Mardi Gras beads, doubloons, and even some special items purchased just for this occasion. The folks on the parade route couldn’t wait to yell, “Throw me something!”
After the parade on Saturday afternoon, rally attendees barely had time to rest before attending the Mardi Gras Ball that night. The ball was the culmination of the celebration, and it was great fun. It began with a royal procession and presentation of the king and queen and their royal court. They all made the traditional promenade around the dance floor in the Rayne Civic Center, the ladies wearing their beautiful Mardi Gras gowns and masks and waving their scepters, while being escorted by some handsome husbands decked out in tuxedos.
The king, queen, and royal court had been selected by the chapter at the previous chapter rally in January. This year the king and queen were Ed and Susan Broussard, who also happened to be part of the Krewe de Couyon. They couldn’t march with the rest of the krewe during the parade, because, as part of the royalty, they were riding in a convertible. In addition to the king and queen, the royal court this year consisted of three maids, Laura Dupree, Janet Burrows, and Mitzi Tunnell, and their escorts, along with two court jesters, Huey Simoneaux and Thomas Guidry.
Rally masters Glen and Jeanette Romero, along with their assistants Claude Chastant and Mary Meche, and Bob and Francine Johnston, made sure everyone had fun and that all rally events, including the meals, games, entertainment, parade, and ball, went smoothly and that everyone “passed a good time.” Jeanette Romero emceed the royal court’s presentation and promenade and introduced the surprise guest entertainers: a group called Children of the Courir de Mardi Gras from Iota, Louisiana.
The group is made up of children who go out to the different farmhouses in the area on Mardi Gras day to get food and other ingredients to make a big gumbo to feed all the neighbors and visitors who come to the festivities. The farmers will either let the kids catch chickens to use in the gumbo or give them some of the other ingredients for the gumbo. This has become an annual tradition in Iota, Mamou, and other Cajun towns and communities in south Louisiana. It is a sight to see.
Since we had no chickens at the rally for the kids to chase, we threw money (coins and bills) on the dance floor for the children to chase and collect, simulating their efforts to get the ingredients to make the gumbo. The children were dressed in their full Mardi Gras regalia with hats, masks, and colorful costumes. They honored the court with their entertainment and then danced with the royal maids and those who attended the rally. After the entertainment, the children had worked up a good appetite; so, in true Cajun tradition, the rally master made sure they all were well fed before they left.
After the royal procession and entertainment, the ball officially started and the rally attendees danced the rest of the night away to live music of Lil Kenny and the Heartbreakers, a great local band. When the band took a break, Jeanette Romero announced that the Krewe de Couyon won the best-decorated award for the parade.
If you happen to be in the neighborhood (Louisiana or close by) during Mardi Gras next year, be sure to check the Cruisin’ Cajuns’ rally schedule. The Mardi Gras rally is one of the most fun and well-attended rallies of the year. You never know what the Krewe de Couyon may have in store for the next parade. Hope to see you next year.
Rayne update. On March 5, 2011, two weeks after our Cruisin’ Cajuns rally in Rayne, the town of approximately 8,500 people was devastated by a tornado that killed one person and injured 12 others. More than 100 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed by the storm. In an effort to help the tornado victims, the Cruisin’ Cajuns chapter collected $4,155 that was donated to the United Way of Acadiana Rayne Tornado Long Term Recovery Coalition to help meet the needs of victims of this disaster. The chapter also will help provide positive economic impact for the community by continuing to hold several rallies each year “” including the Mardi Gras rally “” at the Rayne RV Park and Civic Center.