Parades, costumes, and king cake are just a few elements that mark the Mardi Gras season in Louisiana. We know first-hand, having had the amazing opportunity of traveling a parade route atop a Mardi Gras float tossing beads to the screaming crowds. Our opportunity to ride in a Mardi Gras parade came in New Orleans, but did you know parishes all across the Louisiana coast celebrate carnival season with an array of special events?
Mardi Gras in coastal Louisiana offers a truly family-friendly atmosphere, ensuring that participants of all ages can enjoy this special time of year. Lake Charles boasts the second largest Mardi Gras in the state with more than 60 krewes and at least 20 family friendly events. (Each krewe represetns a social club that sponsors parades as part of the Mardi Gras festivities.)
Featuring the largest Mardi Gras costume display in the world, the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu celebrates Southwest Louisiana traditions and showcases nearly 300 costumes from past seasons. During the Mardi Gras Children’s Day on Sunday, March 2, kids and families can learn about old-time Louisiana culture, participate in arts and crafts, and experience Mardi Gras music and magic.
The annual Iowa Chicken Run and Parade is a highlight of the Mardi Gras celebration in Calcasieu Parish, as participants go around the town of Iowa collecting ingredients for a Mardi Gras gumbo. At stops along the way, activities include dancing, Zydeco music and a live chicken release. Once the ingredients are collected, participants celebrate with gumbo and dancing.
This year the family-friendly, fun and photo-worthy event is scheduled for “Fat Tuesday,” March 4.
Jefferson Parish, next-door neighbor to New Orleans, hosts its annual Family Gras event February 21-23. A three-day celebration that includes parades, costumes and free concerts, the festival is centered around family festivities and entertainment. Produced by the Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, additional highlights of Family Gras include a kids’ activity area, a rock climbing wall, face painting, an art market and a wide variety of food vendors.
Another parade that’s well known for its family atmosphere is the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Parade in Iberia Parish. Held on Fat Tuesday, March 4 in the town of Jeanerette, the parade features floats, bands, dance groups, Mardi Gras royalty and – of course – beads. However, unlike most Mardi Gras parades, this celebration has no theme, so participants are encouraged to go with the flow. Beginning on Friday, February 28, intense costume competitions are held each night of the four-day Grand Marais Mardi Gras. Men and women arrive decked out from head to toe and compete in such categories as ugliest, most original and prettiest male and female costumes. On the last night of the costume competition, the reigning king and queen are selected to ride in the parade on Fat Tuesday.
If You're Going
For a full list of Mardi Gras events taking place in Louisiana’s coastal parishes, visit www.visitlouisianacoast.com/mardi-gras. Collectively known as the Louisiana Tourism Coastal Coalition (LTCC), the coastal parishes of Louisiana promote natural, recreational and cultural experiences to residents of and visitors to these parishes. The LTCC is also an advocate for the sustainable development of coastal communities and protection of the area’s fragile wetlands.
Can't Get There This Year?
If you can't make it down to Louisana for Mardi Gras this year, you can live vicariously by "visiting" as the stars of your own personalized romance novel set at Mardi Gras called "Let the Good Times Roll." There is still time to get your book, by the way, for Valentine's. Or, go ahead an order a King Cake online and enjoy this sweet treat while reading your Mardi Gras novel come Fat Tuesday. Details at www.YourNovel.com.
King Cakes by Mail
King cakes can be found in countless locations throughout the parishes that comprise coastal Louisiana. Here are some of the many bakeries, donut shops and grocery stores that not only bake memorable king cakes, but ship them anywhere in the United States.
Bertinot’s Best Bakery
Houma (Terrebonne Parish)
Bertinot’s signature adjustment is to use its famous “Chix de Femme” dough, usually used to make sweet buns, instead of the more traditional cinnamon dough. Special flavors include pina colada and pecan praline.
Locations in Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes (East Houma, West Houma and Morgan City)
800-226-6282, ext. 118
This locally owned grocery store has created unique king cake packages that can be shipped throughout the continental United States. Specialties include the “Bayou Alligator” (pistachio coconut Bavarian fusion), “Voodoo Queen” (raspberry filling and chocolate silk icing) and a Kid’s Pack that lets the youngest bakers decorate a cake at home.
Lake Charles (Calcasieu Parish)
This donut shop creates king cakes in more than 25 flavors, with house specialties of pecan praline, pralines and cream, and pecan fudge. Other interesting flavors include “Zulu,” a blend of coconut cream filling with chocolate and coconut icing, and “Scrap,” which is whatever the employees choose.
Jefferson (Jefferson Parish)
Haydel’s ships its delicacies all over the world, all year long. This is one of the bakeries that creates various shaped cakes – hearts for Valentine’s Day, candy canes at Christmastime, even the traditional fleur de lis. Flavors include chocolate chip brownie and strawberry cream cheese.
Manny Randazzo King Cakes
Metairie (Jefferson Parish)
504-456-1476 or 866-456-1476
Manny is the second generation of his family to master the art of baking king cakes. The family got its start in Chalmette (St. Bernard Parish), but today Manny practices his craft in nearby Metairie. In 2012 he earned the title of “King King Cake.” In addition to the traditional cinnamon cake, Manny will incorporate pecan praline, apple, cream cheese, lemon, strawberry … or “royal,” which is all the flavors but pecan praline, quartered off on the cake.
New Iberia (Iberia Parish)
The twist here is the use of donut dough for the cake, which can come with Bavarian cream, chocolate, cream cheese, lemon or raspberry filling … and the additional decadence of a “bon pecan” topping.
Locations in St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes
The Randazzo family has been making king cakes for decades (see reference to Manny Randazzo above), in both traditional and filled styles. Nonna’s fillings include apple, cream cheese, cream cheese/pecan praline, pecan praline and strawberry cream.
Locations throughout Louisiana’s coastal parishes