The epitome of any Mardi Gras is that moment where the light hits the cocktail and the magic begins. The dichotomy of floating and beading along definitely gets one into the mood. The angle of any Mardi Gras is fun with a sense of the unexpected. And dancing always plays a key role.
In Lake Charles, a community permeated by thoughts of family rallying together, Mardi Gras takes on an element of poise specifically heightened by the triumph of the Saints where the pride continues into all forms of life.
In comparison to a Mardi Gras like Houma which dictates a slightly different feeling but nevertheless pertinent, a further perception into this celebrative culture continued to focus within this Southwestern Louisiana town.
The Krewe Of Illusions Extraganza allowed for a view within the theme and design necessity required to place some of these productions togethers. Most outsiders have a perception of Mardi Gras purely as the big parades that are seen on TV, and that definitely is a big part of it. However it is the balls thrown privately most of the time, that show the true culture and influence of a long past system of society in America which is certain influenced by the French influence though oddly enough this area of Louisiana was not included in the original Purchase.
The theme that perpetrated itself throughout Illusions was of fantasy with somewhat historical perspective with the two elements of Rome and the American West albeit with almost a disco flavor. The King and Queen relegated in red, black and white beseiged by ornate feathers.
Inside the black tie ball as the band played, the Queen made her rounds. All the younger adult women in the audience fawned over this fairy tale structure made true and it definitely created that vision, more like a grown up reality of Prom than a Wedding. But one where the dancing and revelry can continue unabated, though the family friendly inclements of community allow for certain standards, and rightfully so.
Next on the Monday before Fat Tuesday, the Royal Gala displays all of the Krewes’ wares in front of the overall Court. The Southwestern LA/Lake Charles Visitors Bureau takes an intensive interaction with these events which gives a sense of true backing from the community.
A quick tour into the back area produced the possibilities with each Krewe possessing of their own rules and codes. The Krewe of Bon Couer rolled with the Moulin Rouge theme with can can girls, young and old, getting into the revelry. The Ball Captain, achieving his rank, was outspoken by his courtesans who relayed he only gets to kiss them which requires practice. The inhibition of Mardi Gras allows for this kind of roleplay but all from an innocent point of view. This is not New Orleans after all. But you can still get some of the feeling.
The dancing coming down the main stretch of the Gala is in the open arena style with tables filled with costumes and modern music, some good, some bad as the mixed drinks flow. A fallen angel, who rather likened herself to a “twisted Tinker Bell”, kept the vision working with a drop dead costume flittering throughout the arena even allowing for the gift of a garter.
Fat Tuesday brings a multi-tiered intention which preceded by the Children’s Parade Monday afternoon allows for a build up of both emotion and celebration.
Atop the Visitors Bureau Float within the Red Hat Parade, one gets the perspective truly of the psychology that empowers the bead thrower. While the aspects of beverages helps the call, a reveler understands that the people with the most enthusiasm enables the bestower to use better aim to find his or her target, which is much highlighted by dancing and the like…and even much more so in the dark. The music played also adds to the rhythm whether it be the traditional zydacote or the ever popular 70s party jams.
The pinnacle Krewe Of Krewes parade along Main Street is the party stop. Many residents as well as visitors set up in the early morning, eager to get the optimum vantage point. With the perpetration of local Serrano Punch combining the element of the Italian liquer with grapefruit juice, the movement of the Zydacote dancing entices the aspect of leading especially with the enthusiasm of local band Two Steps Sideways. As the floats proceed down the twilight of the boulevard, the sounds of everyone from Marvin Gawe to Michael Jackson to Quiet Riot encourage singalong as people jump with rhythm trying to catch the attentions of the bead bestowers.
Everything in tandem with Mardi Gras carries a history and everyplace is different. With Lake Charles, the Mardi Gras Museumhidden away in a public building shows the essence of craft undeniable in this kind of celebration. From the towering black and silver head of a cobra watching over its minions to the red and black luminescene of a masked courtesan, the designs are ornate and the designs shown, at times, as great as any classic Hollywood production.
Adding an element of locality, Harold Guillory , the lead washboard and singer of Two Steps Sideways, gathers people on occasion to teach the interest of zydeco dancing which was unfurled at the apex of the Mardi Gras parade. The steps are separated into the four building points of gumbo create a blueprint from which rhythm allows itself to be seen. Adding the element of fun worked the crowd as Harold’s son, talented in his own right, kept the dance contest going.
Trailing through the streets of Lake Charles in a horse drawn carriage gives one a sense of community as well. The building essence of the city is kept to rigorous historical standards although there is the incumbent person to be drawn in line. AC Harradine, local historian and raconteur, gives an undeniable sense of the history that flows from the original settlers who integrated into the town very differently than New Orleans as the logging industry came and blossomed with the intention of the tide.
When staying in Lake Charles, the essence of food is always of specific interest. There is always a balance between hearty and artisan. With dinner, the ribeye topped with soft shell crab and hollandaise sauce at Pujo Street Cafe captured just the right amount of tang and spice as chives peppered swirling of potatoes while the stuffed mushrooms filled with crab and spice coupled with an undeniable iceberg wedge draped in an ocean of blue cheese at The Harlequin simply dazzled.
Lunch always creates the pleasure of continuing the day. Steamboat Bills is the penultimate spot to visit in Lake Charles for that great afternoon haunt. Located right off of Interstate 10 and steps away from the visitors center, their crawfish know no bounds and require work of necessity. However, their spicy boiled shrimp, simmered in the same broth, fills with vigor while their shrimp etoufee either in a signature roll or on a loaded baked potato, sooths the soul. Despite any interrogative by convention, D’Angelo’s is anything but normal by comparison. Their Lecca pizza baked in a thin crust with garlic, lemon chicken and feta cheese is utterly satisying especially in a surrounding of crawfish diavlo pasta and a spicy shrimp and corn bisque that hits the spot.
Getting moving in the morning always requires an energy of will. At The Landing, Bloody Caesars (Maries with some dirty olive juice) give the ving for the activities of the day. For a more soothing introduction, Chez Caffe on the road to the Lake Charles Airport offers filling croissant sandwiches, killer milkshakes and the undeniable Southern feast of grits.
Looking out from the central HQ of Lake Charles in the form of the L’Auberge Casino & Resort over the waters of this hidden Louisiana town, the possibilities continue to ring true. Lake Charles has got game.