Preparations are well under way for the 2009 Courir de Mardi Gras, capitaine and Mardi Gras Association President Pat Frey told the Eunice Rotary Club Wednesday.
The 2009 run, which takes place on February 24, will leave from the Northwest Community Center at 8 a.m. It will follow the same route as last year, traveling down Samuel Drive past the old Dresser building before turning onto Old Basile Road, then Soileau Road into the countryside, returning to Eunice at approximately 3 p.m. for the parade.
“Last year was the first time doing this run, and I really, really like it,” Frey said, adding that the new northern rural route would likely be the path the courir will take for many years to come.
Returning to the old run through the Patasa region south of Eunice is no longer an option, Frey told his audience.
Two years ago, the Acadia Parish sheriff refused to give a parade permit to the Eunice run, citing complaints about the large amount of trash left by the run.
Since then, the Mardi Gras Association, in cooperation with the City of Eunice and work crews from the St. Landry Sheriff’s Department, has worked to clean up its act shortly within days of the run.
Frey said the Association purchases 1,000 cases of beer for the run, 1,200 lbs of boudin, 500 lbs of chicken and 300 lbs of sausage, spending approximately $40,000 each year on the event, which attracts thousands of visitors to the city.
Funds for the run are raised through registration fees, which are $30 a person. Participants must be 18 or over, 21 or over to consume alcohol, must show identification, and must be dressed in a traditional rural Mardi Gras costume.
The registration fee includes free drinks, boudin and gumbo after the run. In addition, three live bands will be performing during the run.
“Thirty dollars to me is a steal for all of this,” Frey said.
Last year, approximately 1,400 people registered for the run; an uncounted number of people snuck into the run without paying last year.
The courir is limiting the number of trailers to 50 this year, including 15 trailers provided by the Association, in order to make the run more manageable.
Trailers must allow any participant to ride, assuming there is room on the trailer.
Trailer registration and courir preregistration will begin Saturday, February 15 at Eunice City Hall, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Frey urged anyone wishing to register a trailer to plan to do so as early as possible, since there are only 35 openings available.
Frey told his audience that things have changed since he first began participating in the courir 30 years ago.
“When I started running, at 14 years old, they didn’t have all this business about age. You’d go out there and drink your beer at 14 years old and have a good time,” Frey said.
It was shortly after Frey started running that women were allowed to join the courir.
“I think it got a lot better when they started letting women run,” Frey said.
Frey has served as capitaine for 10 years, and was a co-capitaine for eight years before that.
Nonetheless, Frey said he feels the Eunice courir continues to uphold the traditions of the rural Mardi Gras.
“I’ve heard people say Eunice does not have a traditional Mardi Gras. I don’t see where we differ from Church Point or Mamou or any of the others,” Frey said. “We throw chickens from horseback, we ask for food and money from the houses, we do all the traditional things, we’re just bigger.”
One non-traditional aspect of the Eunice courir, Frey said, is the throwing of beads during the parade. “Beads is not a traditional thing, but we do allow that. You’ve got to change some with the times,” Frey said.
“The Eunice Mardi Gras is probably the biggest event Eunice has in the year,” Frey noted. “We get people from all over the country who come for the run. It’s a very good time for the locals and the people who come from out of town.”