This is me in my Lady of the Lake costume, during my reign as Duchess of the Krewe de Charlie Sioux in 2001. Even though we live in the midwest, Downtown Dad and I have been members of a real, honest to goodness, State of Louisiana sanctioned, Mardi Gras Krewe for many years.
Sometime in the early nineties, the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana became the sister city of Sioux City, Iowa and as a result of that relationship, the two cities started sharing their culture. In Sioux City, we’d been having a regional free concert called Saturday in the Park over the 4th of July weekend. In Lake Charles, on a slightly smaller, tamer scale than New Orleans, they celebrate Mardi Gras in the spring. It was decided that delegates from Sioux City would travel to Lake Charles once a year to take part in the Mardi Gras festivities, and in return, delegates from Lake Charles would travel to Sioux City over the 4th of July holiday, bringing a Mardi Gras type celebration with them. A responsibility that we accepted, if not soberly, respectfully. We shared our cultural diversity freely with our sister city, affectionately known as Lake Chuck, and they with us. We learned that “Coon-Ass” is a term of endearment, if you are speaking to or about a full-blooded Cajun. They learned that Viking horns are good to hold beads, thus freeing both hands for drinking and hugging.
Imagine, if you will, trying to convince a city of midwestern lutherans that it will be fun to watch 30 people, some of them respectable local business people, dressed up in feathers and sequins, parade up and down the floor of the civic center, and then, just when you think it is over, they’ll throw beads at you. It took us a while, but after a few years of offering some spicy cajun cuisine, and aiming high with our bead tossing, they started to come around. In fact, we made some of our longest lasting friendships during those frenetic days of building floats, and hot gluing feathers, and throwing beads.
Downtown Dad and I moved away in 2000, but kept up our Krewe membership until just a couple of years ago, travelling twice a year to Lake Charles, and Sioux City to take part in the parades, galas, and other festivities. Here he is in his Thomas Jefferson outfit, carrying the White House on his shoulders no less, during his reign as Duke of the Deal in 2003. Not pictured here is Bearly, who, being short, portrayed Napoleon, of Bonaparte Realty, trying to get TJ to purchase Louisiana.
Someday soon we will go back to Lake Chuck for Mardi Gras, but tonight, we will have gumbo, and make another futile attempt to recreate the elusive perfection that is a Steamboat Bill’s pistolette, and we will look at pictures and say “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” which means Let The Good Times Roll!