About 220 kids stood across from each other in parallel lines this past Saturday in a park near the Avoyelles Parish (county) town of Vick. Each kid was handed two colored boiled eggs and when given the go- ahead approached the kid they faced for the custom of egg knocking. One kid would hold the pointed end of the egg in his or her hand while the opponent would gently tap the egg with the pointed end of another egg. Whichever egg cracked would be surrendered to the opponent. Those with surviving eggs would keep on knocking until a champion of the annual ‘Easter on the Red River’ festival was determined.
Egg knocking is an old tradition that survives in Avoyelles parish though is hardly known elsewhere. That same day in the picturesque Avoyelles Parish town of Cottonport there was another Easter Festival where knocking was part of the activities.
In the world of egg knocking the epicenter is the parish seat town of Marksville. There the longtime tradition is for people to gather on the courthouse lawn on Easter Sunday morning for egg knocking. Usually a successful knocker gathers a stash of failed eggs suitable for a future egg salad.
My mom, who was from Avoyelles parish, used to dye eggs every Good Friday and even as adults we would dutifully do our knocking.
Like any sport there were ways to cheat. In the old days a knocker might sneak in the egg from a guinea hen, which had a tougher shell than the standard barnyard chicken. Now, at the Vicks event, such temptations are warded off by a separate guinea eggs competition.
Those who organized the Vick event had grown up seeing the egg knocking in nearby Marksville and now they were spreading the tradition. Perhaps one day a kid who stood in the line will spread the practice elsewhere, but it wouldn’t have survived had it not been for Avoyelles Parish.
On the way out I met a little girl who had finished third in the junior competition. “We’re very proud of her,” one of the ladies accompanying her said. Somewhere in a coop there is a chicken that deserved praise too.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival – Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via email at email@example.com or (504) 895-2266.
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