LeJeune Cove's courir revives Mardi Gras traditions.
In its pre-World War II beginnings, LeJeune Cove's Courir de Mardi Gras included a group of 20 to 50 costumed riders on horseback visiting their neighbors and begging for contributions to the communal gumbo. The small rural community four miles north of Iota disbanded its Courir de Mardi Gras in the 1950s, and its riders joined the Tee-Mamou and Iota-Egan runs. Half a decade later, UL sociology and anthropology Assistant Professor Ray Brassieur helped research the original run, and a group of younger men including Ryan Brasseaux, co-host of KRVS' Cajun and Creole hour, and Gus Grarot revived the LeJeune Cove courir.
UL Lafayette historian and Director of the Cultural and Eco-Tourism Center Barry Ancelet says many small communities like LeJeune Cove joined surrounding towns' runs after World War II. As farmers got jobs and moved into town, the feeling of community changed, and the small runs faded away. This increased the size of town runs, like Eunice and Mamou. Over the years, the increasing numbers of participants in the runs and the inclusion of tourists, photographers and journalists has swelled the ranks of The Eunice Mardi Gras Association run to approximately 2,000 people.
"Now, people are figuring out that these large-scale runs don't make the same kind of sense," Ancelet says. "Mardi Gras runs in that large a number can't function the way it used to. The stop is not the same as when you show up with 25 people who know the people in the house, and the people in the house know them, even though they have masks on."
Vincent Fontenot ran in the Eunice courir back in the 1970s and has participated in the LeJeune Cove run since it started up again. "It's what Mardi Gras's supposed to be like," he says. "There's about 30 to 40 guys, 10 horses, it's all family and friends. It's small so you can participate."
LeJeune Cove's 2005 run is Saturday, Feb. 5 and travels the road between Eunice and Iota. It starts and finishes at La Maison Point Aux Loups Bed and Breakfast on the Eunice-Iota Highway and is followed by a dance in Iota that night. The run's Web site, www.lejeunecovemardigras.com, includes the 2005 map and lists the 11 homes along the route.