Starting at 6 a.m. on fat Tuesday, more than 2,000 runners gather in the center of Eunice, La., wearing colorful frayed costumes, masks made of wire mesh and pointy hats called "capuchons," for the annual "Courir de Mardi Gras" -- the Mardi Gras run.
Sometimes, the gift comes in the form of a live chicken thrown into the field for participants on foot and horseback to chase. The result is less than orderly, because a beer truck is flanking the run at all times.
The tradition derives from medieval French Carnival, a time when rich and poor turned class on its head for a day. The peasants would wear ridiculous parodies of upper-class dress and go begging for food from the aristocrats. Food was lean in the deep winter months, and so the rich would relieve the hunger for at least a day.
Presumably, there was a wine wagon or some other sort of beer truck equivalent.
Georgie Manuel, a Eunice resident and authority on rural Mardi Gras, is proud of the Cajun Mardi Gras -- if a little disdainful of the New Orleans variation. She makes costumes for order, but she refuses to make them in purple, green and gold, instead leaning toward a more traditional look emulating the old costumes made out of feed sacks. And she wants to be clear that flashing isn't going to get you any beads.
"One year, we had some girls that came into town and were, you know, lifting up their shirts," Manuel told AOL News. "We put a stop to that."
That doesn't mean there's no opportunity for absurdity, of course, just of a more clothed variety. People climb trees, dance, fight, tell jokes and drink themselves blind. Just like in the medieval Mardi Gras, identity goes out the window.
Manuel tells stories about men who went all day trying to figure out which costumed runners were their wives. The trick, she says, is to change your shoes. Shoes are always a giveaway.
At the end of the day, the runners feast on gumbo and listen to Zydeco and Cajun bands. But the next day takes a somber tone for Lent, just like in New Orleans and every other place that celebrates Carnival. If the Courir de Mardi Gras does one thing, it's to make sure that runners have plenty to repent about.
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