Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is about ephemera, the thrill of the chase. In New Orleans, that's cajoling a strand of special glass beads or a glittered coconut from the hands of a stranger high up on a parade float. But the moment that trinket is nabbed, the recipient might think: Now what am I going to do with this?

Cajun Mardi Gras, however, in the small towns south and west of New Orleans, raises no such question. Because what you aim to catch is very useful. And edible.

It's a squawking, flapping live chicken.

In Louisiana, Mardi Gras comes each year with dozens of parades filled with marching bands, colorful floats and parade-goers who scream, "Throw me something, Mister!"

That "something" the crowd wants are beads. The goal of any Mardi Gras parade is to catch as many as possible. After the revelry, people often have so many beads around their necks they can barely turn their heads.

Fat Tuesday: The Many Different Doughnuts Of Mardi Gras

Feb 26, 2014

The history of doughnuts is intrinsically linked to the celebration of Mardi Gras. "Fat Tuesday" — the Christian day of revelry and indulgence before the austere season of Lent — features dough deep-fried in fat as its main staple.

Just inside a room on the second floor of the Louisiana State Museum's Presbytere, there's a large baby doll dress, big enough for a woman to wear. And one did.

The costume and the baby bottle next to it belonged to 85-year-old Miriam Batiste Reed, who was known as a baby doll and one of the first women to parade in Mardi Gras. The bottle and the dress are part of a new exhibition, They Call Me Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition.

Pink Chicken Feet Honor Spanish Town Parade Mainstay

Feb 14, 2013
The Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana float rolls through downtown Baton Rouge during the Spanish Town parade, Feb. 9, 2013.
Jarondakie Patrick / WRKF

Pink plastic chicken feet were tossed from several floats at the 33rd Spanish Town parade. The unusual throws were an homage to a board member of the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana who knew how to be creative with limited resources.

It's Fat Tuesday, the final day of indulgence before the fasting and penance of Lent begins. While the revelry in New Orleans tends to grab the spotlight, you can find some fascinating Mardi Gras traditions elsewhere.

From chasing chickens in Cajun Country to catching MoonPies in Mobile, communities all along the Gulf Coast have their own way of marking Carnival season.

The Fatted Ox

It's Mardi Gras, and down in New Orleans, the King Cakes, beignets and other gustatory delights are flowing freely. But if you prefer your culinary temptations with a side of history, allow me to introduce you to the calas, a Creole rice fritter with a storied past.

In less than an hour, the McDonogh 35 High School marching band — including the flag girls, the dance team, the majorettes, the color guard and the actual band — needs to be on the parade route five miles away. It's the peak of Carnival season in New Orleans, and high school marching bands form the backbeat of Mardi Gras.

Jim Caldwell, with Baton Rouge Metro Airport,  shares what's going on there.

Kim Marie Vaz, author of "The Baby Dolls", talks about the African American heritage of Mardi Gras.

Political commentator Bruce Herschensohn shares his concerns over the selection of Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.