Mardi Gras – Lake Charles, Louisiana Style by Terry Zinn

While thoughts of celebrating Mardi Gras runs to the Big Easy, Lake Charles, Louisiana, has everything and more with a little less crowds, with family friendly events, with Mardi Gras royalty, floats, beads, Cajun food, and the unique community social called “Chicken Run.” Mardi Gras this year is: February 3-February 12, 2013.
Your fun filled days and nights can begin at the L’Auberge Casino and Resort, with gaming, shopping, dining and recuperating from too much partying. Located away from downtown, Lake Charles the resort is a world unto its own. The 26 story hotel with 1,000 spacious rooms and suites includes the Contraband Bayou Golf club, eight innovative restaurants and a spa. I had some unforgettable appetizers prepared for my group in the Ember Grill, where the beverages are also perfection.
Whether its dinning at Lake Charles’ Harlequin Steaks and Seafood (steaks, seafood, wines and homemade desserts) or 121 Artisan Bistro (Stone hearth cooking, salads pastas, pizzas) or the Taste de la Louisiane (a sampling of the best of community gumbo at the Civic Center) or the legendary Steamboat Bills (piles of fresh crawfish is their specialty), you need not go hungry at the Lake Charles Mardi Gras. I think there is a reason it’s called Fat Tuesday.
The Children’s Parade during daylight hours is a grand experience for all. Seeing a Mardi Gras parade through a child’s eye is heartwarming. The Iowa Chicken Run, held in the nearby town of Iowa, Louisiana, plays from community front yard to front yard and is unique. This authentic Cajun Mardi Gras event starts with a jumbled parade of chase trucks that stop at several houses. At each home, music starts, and if the hosts like your toe tapping dance, you get a bag of ingredients that will ultimately make a community gumbo. At several of the stops a rooster is tossed into the air and runs from the many children and adults who are chasing it. Honors are given to the successful captors, and at the next stop the rooster flies and runs again. Great fun!
For adult entertainment Lake Charles boasts well known concerts. On my visit American Idol’s Daughtry performed a rocked out concert to an enthusiastic audience, where good times and beverages flowed.
On the more sedate side a visit to the Imperial Calcasieu Museum chronicles the history of the region in a museum in the shadow of a 375+ year old Sallier Oak. Traveling art exhibits are on display at the 1911 Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center, or visit the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu where in 6 rooms you’ll see the largest costume display in the world. What’s Mardi Gas without a king cake, and the best and freshest are made at Delicious Donuts. If you want to share your Mardi Gras delights, they ship anywhere. I had one shipped back to my home, and it arrived the next day, in near perfect and most delicious condition.
For a more formal occasion (black tie) the Krewe of Illusions Presentation and Ball is a marathon of Krewes exhibiting in theatrical presentation and music, the best they have to offer. This theatrical presentation takes place in the Civic Center and then adjourns to another room where the ball proper commences with dancing and partying. Of course you can party heartily at the grand finale parade, the Krewe of Krewes’ Parade, down Ryan Street, where a hundred floats and bead throwing revelers give you a traditional Mardi Gras experience: chasing bead necklaces as they scurry across the pavement or if lucky enough end up on your outstretched hands.
Mardi Gras has never been just for the Big Easy and once you experience it in Lake Charles you’ll have a whole different concept of this cultural celebration.