|Pictured at the top of the column is Capitaine Paul Thomas
ready to throw a chicken to the Mardi Gras while the courir was still being organized at
Andrew Cezar's sulky racing track in Soileau. That's Alfred Ceasar holding up the chicken
in the next shot, and Alfred Ceasar is also shown driving the sulky with Paul Thomas
beside him in the shot immediately above.
In the top
right chicken-chasing photo, Terrance Cezar is shown wearing the orange wig and beside him
in the bright blue pants is Brian Victorian. In back wearing the capuchon is Avery
The Creole Mardi Gras Courir in
Southwest Louisiana is a very old tradition that must have begun about the same time as
the Cajun courirs, perhaps as far back as the 19th century. One of those courirs occurred
in L'Anse de 'Prien Noir in the rural community of Duralde in Evangeline Parish not far
from Mamou and Eunice. After that courir finally came to an end, the Creole community of
Soileau organized a new courir. Paul Thomas, long-time capitaine of the 'Prien Noir
courir, served as capitaine of the Soileau Mardi Gras Courir for several
years until he was unable to make the ride. He died in 2008.
Affectionately often referred to as Metro Soileau, the rural
community of Soileau is located west of Duralde in Allen Parish but not far from the
Evangeline Parish boundary. The courir is held on the Monday before Mardi Gras beginning
at Andrew Cezar's sulky racing track.
In earlier times, the riders would have consisted only of men from
the community. In 2000, when these pictures were taken, the courir included both men and
women, and a number of people from outside the area rode along on a couple of trailers.
After the Mardi Gras had a chance to chase a few chickens at the
race track, the courir departed down Highway 104 but soon turned onto narrow one-lane
gravel roads that led to small, well-kept frame houses located deep in the countryside.
The horse riders, trailers pulled by trucks, and a couple of
horse-drawn carriages would sometimes follow long, winding lanes to get to a single house.
The courir was well-organized. Allen Parish sheriff's cars led the procession and also
followed at the end.
As the riders approached a house, they would sing an old Mardi Gras
chant, different from anything heard on Cajun courirs. Click here to download a short MP3 file of
the chant recorded with a small hand-held cassette player.
For more information on Creole Mardi Gras traditions and the L'Anse
de 'Prien Noir Mardi Gras, see Nicholas R. Spitzer's article "Mardi Gras in L'Anse de
'Prien Noir" in James H. Dormon, ed., Creoles of Color in the Gulf South
(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996), 87-125. The essay includes a
transcription of some words from the Creole Mardi Gras chant. Spitzer's recording of
the chant made in 1976 is on the cassette Zodico: Lousisiana Creole Music,
available from Rounder Records.
Special thanks to Trish Ransom, who, along with Oliver Frank and
Steve Willis, identified the Soileau Mardi Gras participants shown in these pictures.
for more on the Soileau Mardi Gras.
for pictures of the 2001 Soileau Mardi Gras
and to the 2003,