By Tina Olivier, Public Relations Officer for the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Association
The Grand Marais community started its Mardi Gras traditions over 50 years ago, when the elders would have a boucherie and dress up in cotton bedon costumes made by their wives. They held a little community parade to frolic and enjoy their fun, an annual tradition kept quiet in the small community set between New Iberia and Jeanerette.
In 1980 as the festivities began to grow, the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Association was formed and dances were held on Mardi Gras weekend at Pop Sigue’s club. As the years passed, it continued to grow. In 1991, the association purchased the Mon Ami Club which they still own to this date.
Festivities Continue to Grow
The traditions kept on growing with local people forming social clubs; soon they started designing and making elaborate costumes that previously were only seen in large cities like New Orleans.
The dances have grown from one weekend to one month’s worth of activities. The party starts with the annual Mardi Gras Ball on Feb. 9 when the Golden Age King and Queen along with the parade marshal will be announced. Then there are two weeks of teen dances on the Saturday and the Sundays encompassing the children’s dances.
Fun for All Generations
The festivities are spread across many generations participating. The children’s court includes a page boy and girl, duke and duchess, and bedon boy and girl. The Prince and Princess are chosen from the teen participants. Our King and Queen are decided from the dances held the week of Mardi Gras. We have dances the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Mardi Gras weekend. You have to win one of these nights to be entered into a second round of judging to receive the honor of riding in our parade held on Mardi Gras Day.
Along with the royal court, we also have different categories that will pique your interest: ugly, most original, bedon men and women along with the pretty lady and man contest.
You can still hear the local ancestral names of Olivier, Sigue, Boutte, Jeanminette and Delahoussaye along with many others that began this great family tradition in this small community. And, still today their kids, grandkids and great grandkids all anticipate the Mardi Gras holiday. If it’s called anything, it can be described as our Family Tradition—Grand Marais style.