Southern Focus

A Glimpse at Courir de Mardi Gras

Get to know the Cajun tradition that starts with homemade costumes and ends with a big bowl of communal gumbo

Photo: William Widmer

Photograph by William Widmer


The Cajun tradition of Courir de Mardi Gras, in which revelers run from home to home to beg for ingredients for a communal gumbo, traces its roots back to medieval Europe (hence the homemade patchwork costumes and coned capuchons meant to mock nobility). Renditions of the event get pretty raucous, with horse and ATV riders and plenty of spectators, but this hush-hush version in the countryside beyond Eunice, Louisiana, goes “old-school,” says the New Orleans photographer William Widmer—everyone in masks, everyone on foot, everyone taking part. According to Widmer, a local musician started this word-of-mouth event after becoming disenchanted with the more commercial fetes in neighboring towns, recruiting area musicians to lend their fields and acoustic stylings. “They’re playing traditional tunes on unamplified instruments,” Widmer says, “and there are times throughout the day when you’re like, This could be fifty years ago. That’s really special.”