Vicksburg: Laissez les bon temps rouler

Published 11:06 am Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A collection of purple, gold and green masks erupts from the corner of my desk — a reminder that one of my favorite seasons of the year is upon us, Mardi Gras.

I know it’s a bit early around here to talk about Mardi Gras and the festivities that surround it, but in South Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, the season is getting into full swing with tableaus and balls. The parades will soon follow.

Growing up in Louisiana, Mardi Gras has always been a special time for me; being able to get two days off from school, going to New Orleans for parades, enjoying the festivities and watching people to see (and sometimes gawk at) the outlandish garb worn for the parades.

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During my early years, I’ve gone to New Orleans and seen the Rex parade, Zulu, Comus, Isis and Bacchus.

I’ve also watched parades in Addis, La., Port Allen, La., and spent one cold early Sunday morning in Church Point with the Courir de Mardi Gras, more commonly called the “Mardi Gras riders,” a group of rather inebriated Cajuns on horseback touring the rural roads of Acadia Parish around Church Point to gather ingredients from local farms for a community gumbo. In order to collect the groceries, they have to perform for the farmer and maybe chase a chicken.

When we moved from Louisiana to Alabama, we lost Mardi Gras and I longed for it. When we moved to the Coast, we returned to Mardi Gras country and I was happy attending the parades in Pascagoula and Biloxi. Biloxi was especially fun. I could act a little crazy because no one there knew me. I called Biloxi’s Mardi Gras my therapy.

Now I’m in Vicksburg and enjoying a new carnival tradition.

In the almost nine years I’ve been here, I’ve watched the parade grow and improve, and I’ve been very happy to see it thrive. It isn’t New Orleans, but then even though I’ve had some great experiences at Mardi Gras in the Crescent City, I’ve never really like attending parades there because of the crowds. I prefer parades in small towns.

What makes Vicksburg’s Mardi Gras parade enjoyable is the family atmosphere that surrounds it. It’s an event people can attend together and enjoy. The parade is open to any group that wishes to participate, floats are colorful, for the most part, the throws are plentiful and crowds, while obviously a bit rowdy, are for the most part well behaved.

The other feature I enjoy about the Mardi Gras festivities here is the gumbo cook-off, where local cooks try to outdo themselves by using their skills to produce a tasty concoction of seafood, or chicken and sausage or other ingredients. It’s a great way to close out a day of fun and activity. It gets to the point that I anticipate the Saturday before Ash Wednesday for the parade.

When you work for a newspaper, you cover a number of events. Covering our Mardi Gras parade is one of my favorite assignments.

This year’s parade will roll down Washington Street Saturday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. I’ll see you there.

 

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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