The winter chill is set to thaw, and Mardi Gras is already well on its way. Town to town, ball gowns abound, and purple, yellow and green accoutrements have cropped up in store fronts. There is another form of carnivale, a ritualistic nod to the region’s forefathers, that has taken center stage in recent years.
What’s old is new again.
The Courir de Mardi Gras celebrations have attracted younger generations of Cajuns from modern life to remote, stoic plains. Colleagues, friends, and strangers don elaborate homemade costumes and beg door-to-door for gumbo ingredients. Debauchery ensues. Chickens are caught. Proverbial bread is broken, and literal gumbo is eaten.
On Feb. 3, Vermilionville will host a mask-making course for its monthly Les Mains Guid to get revelers ready for the village’s own Courir on Feb. 4.
“We thought Mardi Gras is coming up, and we have such a strong tradition of the Courier that it would be a perfect time to do a workshop on mask-making,” Director of Museum Operations at Vermilionville Brady McKellar said.
It’s a natural pairing. A few houses that could have once dotted those remote, stoic plains sit in repose at Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park. The mock village along the Bayou Vermilion features original Acadian settlement home structures crafted from 1765 to 1890 along a meandering footpath. La Cuisine de Maman, serves traditional Cajun dishes, and Las Chapelle des Attakapas, a chapel designed in the style of Catholic churches in St. Martinville and Pointe Coupee, stands in the center. History in stasis.
By contrast, the workshop classes provide a kinetic connection. Handiwork options vary from creating and traditional or folk crafts, wine-making, book-binding, and food ways. The Feb. 3 workshop educator is Iota resident and mask-maker Jackie Miller, a master of the traditional wire mask. McKellar said Miller will also share the history of the mask, which was originally created for revelers to romp privately while in public.
Parents need not to worry. McKellar said the Vermilionville Courir is tamer than most.
“We encourage people to bring their families out,” McKellar said. “Some of these Courirs can get risqué, but this is a family-friendly event, so (children) can see what’s going on.”
La Cuisine de Maman will provide mimosas and breakfast snacks, and everyone will gather for traditional songs and dances. Then, like long ago, attendees will go from house to house in the village for gumbo supplies and a chicken. Local Cajun band Pine Leaf Boys will perform, and more drinks will be available in the on-site bar.
Registration for the mask-making class is $30, and the expense covers all mask materials. Courir registration is $5 for guests and $4 for members. Registration is available at Vermilionville.org.