Ministers of Mirth

For the Twelfth Night Revelers of Imperial Calcasieu, Mardi Gras is a yearlong party.

Wearing purple, green, gold, and red court jester costumes and smiles as wide as the muddy Mississippi River, a band of masked merry makers waits for their musical cue. Then, by the time the first bar has come over their boom box, they’re high-steppin’ in a Second Line led by the group’s captain who’s hard to miss in her gold lamé outfit.

With gold, purple, and green spangled umbrellas pumping, they approach the tour bus as the spirited jazz plays on, while timid tourists hear, “Welcome to Lake Charles! Where y’all from?” Soon, the visitors are dancing, laughing, and letting the good times roll. 

Which is what one is supposed to do in Louisiana, because after Jan. 6, it’s all about the party. And the Twelfth Night Revelers of Imperial Calcasieu know how to get the party started.

IT'S MARDI GRAS ALL YEAR

And for the Twelfth Night Revelers, the party never ends. Acting as Mardi Gras and civic ambassadors for the greater Lake Charles, La., area, the Revelers meet tour buses and visit schools, nursing homes, conventions, parties – even funerals – throughout the year, sporting their Mardi Gras attire and bearing beads and other loot. But during Mardi Gras, they may have two or three gigs per day, says Cindy Hebert (pronounced A-bare), Revelers president. 

“We often have to split into two groups,” she says. But there are more than 50 members in the Revelers group – many retired men and women – so it’s not a problem. 

To be a Reveler, one must be at least 21 years of age; live in the parishes of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, or Jefferson Davis; and have a sponsor from the group.

In addition to the time commitment, Revelers invest their money into costumes and throws.

“It’s up to the Reveler on what they want to do, but we all pay for our throws,” Hebert says. Those items can range from beads and penny candies to stuffed animals and plastic cups.   

The Twelfth Night Revelers have been around for more than 25 years. Under the direction of Anne Monlezun, whom Hebert describes as “the queen of Mardi Gras,” the group was organized in 1991. 

Hebert and her husband, Jeff, joined the Revelers in 2012. Some members of the group have been active for 20 years. 

“I told my husband when we retire, we should join the Revelers because it looks like they have so much fun,” she says.

Before You Go

For more information about the Twelfth Night Revelers of Imperial Calcasieu (pictured at right), visit their Facebook page, facebook.com/Twelfth-Night-Revelers-of-Lake- Charles-Louisiana-411500818946531. For visitor information, contact the Lake Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 456-SWLA (456-7952) or visitlakecharles.org.

 

Photo: Monsours Photography

THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER

One would be hard-pressed not to have fun at Mardi Gras in Lake Charles. 

“In Lake Charles, especially over Mardi Gras weekend, there’s a lot of celebrations going on around town,” Hebert says. “There’s a children’s day, and the Civic Center hosts a gumbo cook-off. Several parades are going on, culminating with the Krewe of Krewes, and all of it is family friendly.”

She adds that locals will stake a spot on a parade route a week before Mardi Gras weekend. They’ll show up with tents, grills, and essentially tailgate before the parades start to roll. 

And from their spots as float riders, Revelers often see people perched atop 8-foot ladders holding crab nets poised to catch a load of throws. Others will bring empty laundry baskets to fill with goodies or hold Mardi Gras umbrellas upside-down to catch the stuff. Some people even climb on top of roofs.

“It’s a challenge for us to get the beads into the baskets, and we almost never hit the roofs, but we still try,” she says. 

But the Revelers attend more than parades during Mardi Gras. Hebert says the group starts the festivities each year after dignitaries are presented at the Twelfth Night Celebration and the Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Royal Gala. 

Add the group’s monthly socials, working committees, and trips to Sioux City, Iowa – Lake Charles’ sister city – to this gumbo of gaiety and one wonders how the Revelers can continue high-steppin’ through the year. 

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Hebert says.

Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler.

Seafood Gumbo

To make Chef Patrick Mould's hearty gumbo, you will need: 1/4 c. oil; 1/3 c. flour; 1 c. chopped onion; 1/2 c. chopped green bell pepper; 1/2 c. chopped celery; 2 TB minced garlic;  a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes; 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning; 1 tsp. onion powder; 1 tsp. garlic powder; 1/2 tsp. dried thyme; 4 c. water; 3 c. chicken broth; 2 bay leaves; 1/2 tsp. hot sauce; 1/2 lb. peeled shrimp; 1/2 lb. white crab meat; 12 shucked oysters; 1/4 c. each chopped green onion and minced parsley
 
Photo: ©Kent  Hutslar/Lafayette Travel

Directions:

  1. In a medium-size stockpot, heat oil, add flour, and cook until a dark roux forms. Add half of onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook for five minutes. Stir in garlic and continue to cook for five minutes.
  2. Stir in diced tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in water, chicken broth, bay leaves, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Stir in shrimp and simmer for five minutes. Add oysters and crabmeat; simmer for additional five minutes.
  5. Stir in green onions and parsley.
  6. Serve with steamed rice. Yields 4 to 6 services (Recipe courtesy Lafayette Travel)
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN AAA SOUTHERN TRAVELER

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