I love short work weeks. They cheer me up like nothing else can. Today is Mardi Gras which means I’m off! Yay! I don’t actually go to parades. Sorry peeps. After several years marching in 8 mile parades, they’ve kind of lost their charm.
Now, if I were going to the Gheens (pronouned “gains”) parade, that would be a different story. This tiny community has what’s known as a truck parade. People decorate trucks and ride in the beds. There’s only one way in or out of Gheens, and it’s lined with houses. The parade goes up and down the street while the Krewe of Gheens throws beads to the residents.
The best part of this parade, though, is the end. On the last pass, the male krewe members (masked members of the community known as Mardi Gras) begin to point out people in the crowd. Usually it’s children, although if you’re a new face, you’ll be pointed out as well. What then happens can only be described as absolute chaos. Once the parade reaches its final destination, the Mardi Gras hop on four-wheelers armed with switches. They then ride back up the street, looking for children to ‘whip the demons’ out of.
The race is on. Kids scatter. Parents point them out. Visitors look on in horror as they’re swarmed by masked men with weapons. It’s all in good fun. When they “whip” you, you’re to drop on your knees and say “pardon” (with a short a & rolling r). Then they go away and you’ve been initiated into the community. I suppose the tradition began as a way for children to be “purged” of their evil ways before Ash Wednesday. I’ve been whipped (they don’t beat you, people), and it wasn’t bad or degrading. It’s fun!
The other great part about this parade, is that because it’s set in the middle of a very small community, people pretty much open their houses for everyone else. When I went, my host’s family had a boucherie and we had fresh cracklins, or grattons (grah-tawns). Food, food, food, oh and alcohol. There’s plenty of both and everyone is welcoming. You’ll taste some of the best food you’ve ever had in your life at these small community parades. Promise. Oh sure, New Orleans has the big party atmosphere, Houma and Thibodaux have the market on more family friendly parades, but Gheens, Mamou, and other small towns hold the prize for unique, and traditional fun.
Have you ever been to a Mardi Gras parade? Where, and how did you enjoy it?