What to Eat:
The Taste of Mardi Gras
From pots of gumbo and jambalaya to steaming plates of etouffee and boudin, you can't truly experience Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras without eating certain foods!
King cake symbolizes Mardi Gras in the Lake Charles area. These cakes originated in Europe as part of Epiphany celebrations held 12 nights after Christmas. Following Spanish tradition, Louisiana Creoles began serving the cakes of bioche dough (yeast, butter and eggs) at Twelfth Night balls.
These first Louisiana king cakes were sprinkled with coarse sugar, and an object (usually a ring or bean) was concealed inside. The person receiving the lucky slice was crowned king or queen of the ball and would choose a partner from the guests. As monarchs of the party, they took on responsibility of organizing the next ball. The queen provided the ballroom, while the king financed the festivities. A series of such balls lasted throughout Carnival season.
Throughout the years, the king cake tradition has endured. The cakes are available in every bakery and supermarket during Carnival season and are as varied as the customers who choose them. Decorated in traditional purple, green and gold colors of the season, they come in different shapes, sizes and flavors, some filled with cream or fruit jam.
Most cakes now conceal a small plastic baby, and some hosts request cakes with enough babies to give all guests a lucky slice. The practice remains that whoever gets the slice with the doll hosts the next party.
World Famous Cajun Extravaganza and Gumbo Cook-off
Amateur and professional teams stir up hundreds of gallons of rich, spicy gumbo and serve it at the World Famous Cajun Extravaganza and Gumbo Cook-off, which is a Mardi Gras tradition among krewes, professionals and amateurs in Southwest Louisiana. The event is a must-be-there mix of award winning food, floor-stomping music, and the down-home spirit of Mardi Gras. Held at the Lake Charles Civic Center on the Saturday before Mardi Gras each year, this event allows visitors to taste from pots and pots of gumbo for a very small admission fee.
Taste de la Louisiane
This crowd favorite is held each year on the Sunday prior to Mardi Gras at the Lake Charles Civic Center. For just a few dollars and a big appetite, you can experience the best in Cajun cuisine under one roof! Pots and pots of gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee and other staples are served up at this down-home culinary event.
Be sure to bring the kids as this day also marks the Children's Day Celebration, also at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The littlest revelers have the opportunity to make their own masks, see real Mardi Gras Queens and more. The day is capped off with the Children's Day Parade through Lake Charles and the Lighted Boat Parade and the Civic Center Seawall.
Mardi Gras Day-The World's Longest Tailgate Party
From the crack of dawn and in some cases, the evening before, the smell of barbeque pits fill the air along Lake Charles main parade street, Ryan Street. Revelers begin claiming their spots along the parade route as early as the Friday before Mardi Gras! This is also another great opportunity to taste food from some of the best cooks in town, the locals! One thing is certain about cooking in Southwest Louisiana, we are proud of our cuisine and our flare that we add to traditional dishes and we aren't afraid to share with strangers!
Known for our Southern hospitality, a trip down the parade route will most likely allow you to fill your belly without even sitting down to eat. Just by walking up and talking to the parade-goers, you will be offered more eats then you could probably stomach for a week! Folks around here like to share their talents and the best thank you that you can give them is a smile and a compliment like "Wow, c'est bon!"
By the time the last parade float rolls down Ryan Street, you will probably have been adopted by more than one local family and will most likely have made friends for life!
What You'll Hear:
The next time you are loading up your iPod or similarly technological gadget, think about looking up some truly different musical experiences for your evening run or road trip. So, if Cajun, Zydeco or Swamp Pop are not an everyday affair for your listening pleasure, you might be surprised to know that there are many bands out there who are carrying on traditions passed down from generation to generation, with Zydeco and Swamp Pop stemming from blues and country influences on Cajun French music. In fact, there is a new Zydeco & Cajun Music category at the Grammys!
Check Out Grammy Winners:
Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience 2008 Winner
Michael Doucet avec BeauSoleil 2009 Winner
Pine Leaf Boys
Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys
Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie
Lost Bayou Ramblers
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars
Or, check out the bands on www.visitlakecharles.org