Friday, February 8, 2013

SEEKING TREASURES OF MARDI GRAS

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We decided to find the Mardi Gras Parade route in Lake Charles, and see what ever the town had to offer. First stop?  The Visitors Center. Tables filled with entries in the local contest for float designs. School kids, various clubs, and adults as well get involved.
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They are limited in size, not much bigger than the typical shoe box. Anyone can vote on their favorite and prizes are awarded in each division. Clever and in sync with the city’s biggest event of the year.
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Very helpful people waited on us and explained the area, the Mardi Gras Balls, Parades and so on. This handsome alligator is a fixture there. It all started with the Chicago Cows. In Murphys our artists decorate frogs. We see it all over the country when we travel. Lake Charles it is alligators. How neat is that?
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As we were headed downtown, we spotted a historical cemetery and decided to have a look. Boggy ground forces burial above ground in cement crypts. DSC02188 (Copy)
Three beautiful sculptures attracted my attention. The recent rain made what appeared to be tears running down the child’s face. DSC02183 (Copy)
From an Indian village to  a Civil War Military Post and then a cemetery.  The spot is historic  and remembered.
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We went to the local historical museum for Calcasieu Parish. (Pronounced cal-ca-shu.)  We often see museums in old houses where each room is furnished according to the times. Here, instead,  mock-ups, like dioramas, of rooms. You could see everything in it.  I liked that approach better than rooms where you can’t get a picture of everything in it.
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There is always something different in a museum that represents the area and I wasn’t disappointed.
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These are old Mardi Gras masks.
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Crossed pistols are used as part of the rail decoration on a bridge we crossed. They are small and when crossing the bridge I wasn’t sure I was seeing right. The museum had the answer. The bridge IS decorated with crossed pistols, the significance of which I did not ask of the docent. I did a poor job of covering the museum because they had a special exhibit of seven Matisse’s , an equal number of Joan Mirro’s and three pieces of decorated pottery from Picasso. I got very excited about the ceramics because I had never seen his ceramic work before.  I’m not a fan of Mirro’s work. But Matisse I like and I couldn’t get very interested in the rest of the museum with this stellar exhibit going on. (No pictures, of course.) I entered Picasso Ceramics in a web url and found a lot of it for sale. Some of it in the $60,000 range, and some in the $3,000 range. I found it interesting anyway.
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From there we went to the beautiful Old City Hall building where they were featuring an exhibit of fifty of the best photos from National Geographic.  A riveting exhibit  showed the pictures with the story of how the photographer got a particular shot. Underwater Titanic, a lion fight, a Kabul group of women in traditional chadri, with a small child, endearingly clear faced and happy, innocent of her black covered future. A white wolf jumping icebergs, a charging elephnt, a polar bear swimming underwater, nappiing children covered with dust from Sub-Saharan Mali. A lonesome cowboy, branding and castrating cattle,a bustling city scape in New York. No pictures of course. I’m determined to find out if National Geographic has published them in one feature of their magazine and buy that copy.
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We couldn’t take pictures of the exhibit, but we got good advice about where to have lunch from Latin DeClouet…
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…and Harold Raney.  We got to talking about French heritage, and like us, both Latin and Harold are predominantly French.
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My salad, and Jim’s French onion soup were delicious.
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The service was great, the menu terrific, about sixty different choices of tea and a bit of gossip. DSC02252 (Copy)
The Noblesse Oblige is located across a side street from the City Hall.
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Lake Charles has train tracks running down the middle of one of their major streets. We drove to the Arts and Humanity Center to see the Mardi Gras Museum.
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Earlier “fancy” costumes were relatively simple. That is, if you can consider the above costumes of retired Queens simple.
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Now a queen is more likely to dress in elaborate costume.
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Feathers and sequins are de riguer.
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This costume is heavily laden with rhinestones to make the Statue of liberty and New York skyline. Heavily laden, heavy to wear.DSC02270 (Copy)
But, how heavy can you go? Check this costume out below.
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Here is a picture of its maker and wearer. The head-dress is half again as tall as he is. DSC02271 (Copy)
In the right hand corner you can zoom in and see how huge this man’s costume is. The museum is so stuffed full, in some areas you cannot get back far enough to shoot a full picture. Each retired King and Queen  has a picture of  themselves in costume.
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In this costume, the king’s head sits between the opened jaws of lions. All of them are amazing and the price to get in is $2. It is the largest Mardi Gras Costume museum in the world.
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There is another part of Mardi Gras costuming called during the Chase The Chicken, which is the real basis for Mardi Gras. Those costumes look like this. We will be chasing the chicken on Fat Tuesday.DSC02288 (Copy)
Elaborate costuming  is one thing. Size is another. Capes or trains from the museum hang from ceiling to floor. This old building has high ceilings. During Mardi Gras 2010, we learned that people spend thousands of dollars for their costumes. They begin working on the next year’s the day after Mardi Gras is over.

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Always dramatic, cost is no object.
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I hope you can get some perspective of this place. Difficult to photograph because most of the costumes are tightly packed together and over lappiing each other. You must go for yourself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hay Ms. Mary. Michele here, are y'all gonna head back to La Jonction? Would love to see y'all. # is the same. Facebook. Or cgprodla@yahoo.com