I have always found festivals to be joyous events. And this Mardi Gras-inspired gathering offered loads of joy amid a cold and misty February morning. I'd love to return sometime!
The Iowa Chicken Run is a raucous yet family-oriented Cajun throw-back to early Mardi Gras celebrations, which began in small neighborhoods long before the glitz and glamour of events held in New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Pronounced ‘I-O-Way,’ this small town definitely knows how to host a party. In February 2013 our tour group arrived on a gray and chilly morning at the small, rural KC Hall. Folding tables covered in green and purple tablecloths, Mardi Gras beads and metallic face masks filled the main room. The aroma of gently simmering gumbo merged with the sound of quiet conversation and laughter coming from a commercial kitchen. Another lavishly decorated table held a luscious King Cake.
We wrapped our coats tightly around us and headed towards the simple floats assembling outside. Most were mounted on flatbed trailers, with coolers full of Lousiana’s Abita Amber beer, and portable outhouses. Deep purple, bright green and sunny yellow streamers, masks and garlands decorated each float where adults and children of all ages joyously assembled.
Purple, gold, and green striped hats resembling the Cat in the Hat mixed with Mardi Gras-themed baseball and cowboy hats. Brilliant beads complemented pirate garb, overalls and peacock-bright scrub shirts decorated with lines and layers of multi-colored fabric fringe.
As the small procession began additional neighbors walked beside the slowly moving floats. Others stood along the 3-1/2-hour parade route to catch multi-colored beads that we threw into their outstretched hands. Zydeco and rap blared from float-mounted speakers.
When the event captain blew his whistle and knocked on each neighborhood door enthusiastic parade participants danced to the beat of zydeco by musicians who played over-the-shoulder scrub board instruments and accordions to prove they should receive gumbo ingredients.
As each neighbor approved the performance and contributed ingredients, the captain released a squawking chicken from its cage, (with several feathers plucked to limit its flight) and threw it into the air. Children and adults gleefully chased and captured it. In the early days of the Iowa Chicken Run, each captured chicken traditionally become part of the community gumbo pot.
The parade eventually ended at Rabideaux’s Sausage Kitchen where hot gumbo and fiery zydeco dancing continued until the sun fell on another Mardi Gras celebration in Iowa.
Note: As a travel writer, I received accommodations, entry fees, etc. while visiting this area, in advance of reviews and/or profiles. I do my best to remain impartial and offer full disclosure to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
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