I am St. Tammany Tourism

In celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week, Cajun Encounters was recently featured in “I am St. Tammany Tourism” on the Louisiana Northshore Youtube channel, created by the STPTCC.

The STPTCC has been recognized with top awards from the Louisiana Travel Association, City-County Communications & Marketing Association, and the Southeast Tourism Society, which covers a 12-state region and represents hundreds of destination marketing organizations.

Make sure to check out the Louisiana Northshore Youtube channel, and of course, their website is available at LouisianaNorthshore.com

I AM ST. TAMMANY TOURISM!

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

New Orleans City Tour: Garden District

The Garden District is a place where romance blooms and memories are made. Visitors wishing to explore this magical neighborhood are met with oak-shaded streets, brick line sidewalks, and a variety of historic houses, ranging from single-story cottages to grand mansions. Its green canopy has become its most famous and memorable characteristic, featuring an abundance of hibiscuses, crepe myrtles, angel trumpets, and bougainvillea. 

History

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The Garden District was established by the American elite by the City of Lafayette in 1933, but the name was not officially dubbed until 1852 when it became a part of New Orleans. The Garden District is considered an early example of a luxury suburb most known for its architectural design. The area consists of a variety of homes ranging in size, a cemetery, a shopping center, and a large public avenue. The Garden District began with two houses on each block surrounded by a large garden, but in the late 1800’s it began to be subdivided in an effort to make it more urban. This meant yard sized were reduced, and houses were surrounded by cast-iron fences. Many 19th century mansions followed their lead, as a result, making the Garden District well-known for its architecture as well as its scenery.

 

Today, the Garden District sits in pristine conditions, standing strong after withstanding several hurricanes that have attempted to mar its beauty. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and identified as a National Historic Landmark. A number of celebrities, including actors and athletes, have the ability to call this magical place their home. Visitors can enjoy their day sitting in the shade or strolling down the oak-lined street, soaking in one of the most stunning man-made environments in the world. 

Lafayette Cemetery 1

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Visitors can explore one of the oldest city governed cemeteries while in the Garden District. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 received its name from the city of Lafayette and is the home of a rich history. Among the 500 wall vaults, visitors can find the resting place for several notable people, including the first settlers from Ireland and German. Overall, Lafayette Cemetery 1 contains 1,100 family tombs and over 7,000 people are estimated to be buried there.

 

Magazine Street

Magazine Street, a major thoroughfare in New Orleans, stretches across six miles, running parallel to the Mississippi River. The origin story of Magazine Street’s name is not fully known, but there are two theories of how it came about.  Many believe it received it named from the warehouse that the Spanish Governor built to store exports, while others believe its name stems from an 18th century colonial ammunition magazine.

 

Magazine Street offers a break from the stereotypical mall experience, offering retail street stores mixed throughout charming homes. These stores offer a wide variety and often unique products, including but not limited to pottery, period furniture, clothing, books, toys, and jewelry.

St. Charles Avenue

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St. Charles Avenue is considered an embodiment of all things New Orleans. It is known as the “Jewel of America’s Grand Avenues” and characterized by a grand and leafy residential avenue, stretching for more than five miles before ending near South Carrollton Avenue. In 2007, St. Charles was labelled as one of the APA’s top 10 Great Streets, marking its place in history as an icon of Southern style and charm. It has served as a magical gateway for visitors making their way to New Orleans for nearly two centuries.

 

Since 1835, St. Charles has been the home of the oldest operating line in the world, the St. Charles streetcar, allowing it to be added to the National register of Historic Places in 1973. St. Charles combination of vivid scenery and rich history has cemented itself New Orleans tourism culture and making its mark on American premier residential boulevards.

Experience the French Quarter Yourself

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With a place as magical as the Garden District, it is hard to describe its beauty in simple words. Visit it yourself and let the Garden District enchant you with its lush green walkways and historic scenery. Cajun Encounters is the perfect way to experience the District while hearing about the details that make it great from the mouths of well-trained guides committed to giving guests the best New Orleans experience. Tours take place on air conditioned buses, offering uninterrupted views unlike any other tour available.

Cajun Encounters City Bus Tours offers tours at three different times of day. The morning tour includes daily pick ups at 8:30 am and offers guests a look into that historic cities, including the experience of coffee and beignets for breakfast.  The mid-day tour begins at 11:15 am daily and offers a complete city tour, including a drive through the 9th ward. The afternoon tour begins daily pick ups at 2:30 pm and offers a full city tours, lasting for two and a half hours.

Visitors can experience an authentic look into the well-known neighborhoods that makes New Orleans a famous tourist destination, including the Garden District and the French Quarter, and so much more. Attractions that guests are guaranteed to see include, but are not limited to, Café Du Monde, Jackson Square, City Park, and so much more. With a backstory as intricate as New Orleans’, visitors have the ability to see a variety of historical landmarks. This includes the famous St. Charles Avenue street car,  the mighty Mississippi River, and the lasting effects of the notorious Hurricane Katrina.

Tour routes includes stops that allow guests to have a closer look of certain locations. 

 

Cajun Encounters works hard to ensure guests safety during these trying times. As a result, tour sizes are limited and tour times are reduced to allow for proper disinfection between tours. High touch surfaces, such as seats and railings, are sanitized multiple times per day. Hand sanitizer is provided on location, and masks are worn by each staff member and are available for guests who wish to wear one.

 

Buy your tickets and start exploring today by visiting https://www.cajunencounters.com/tours/city-bus-tour/  or calling 504.834.1770.

 

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Crawfish Season 2021

Perhaps considered an unofficial mascot of New Orleans, crawfish hold a special place in the heart of every Louisiana resident. They are known by several different names, including craydids, crawdaddies, mudbugs, or yabbies, but they will always be known as crawfish in Louisiana. Crawfish are a major component in many Louisiana dishes, including etouffee and pie. In fact, these little crustaceans are so loved that they even gained themselves their own season

What are Crawfish?

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Crawfish, originally referred to as crayfish, are small crustaceans that are found in fresh water settings all over the world. Most crawfish cannot live in polluted water, but there are some exceptions. They bare a resemblance to the much larger lobster, to which they are related to. They are often compared to lobsters and shrimp in terms of taste. While they are popular all over the world, including Sweden and Spain, they are predominantly found in Louisiana. In fact, approximately 95% of all the crawfish that is consumed in the United States alone is harvested from Louisiana. Louisiana’s abundance of swamps, rivers, and lakes makes the state the perfect habitat for these well-loved crustaceans.

Crawfish are characterized by a joined head and thorax and come in a variety in color, including sandy yellow, green, red, or dark brown. Their head includes a sharp snout and their eyes are found on movable stalks. They have to ability to breathe through feather-like gills. While their exoskeleton is thin, it is considerably tough. They possess power pinchers called chelae, located at the front of their body. They typically grow to be about 3 inches long, but the largest can grow to 15 inches.

While commonly used for food, crawfish can be used for a variety of things. Crawfish are often used as bait, whether live or only tail meat, in order to attract a variety of ray-finned fishes. It is important, however, that these crustaceans can only be used in the same environment that they are caught. Surprisingly, crawfish can also be kept as pets. They can be kept in freshwater aquariums and can live off of a variety of food, including regular and tropical fish food, algae wafers, and small fish.

Crawfish Season

While crawfish season is a well-known to Louisiana residents, there is no official set season. It roughly begins in March and ends in June. These months produce an increase of the crawfish population, allowing them to be eaten in large amounts. Typically, crawfish boils usually involve spicy boiled crawfish, corn, and andouille sausage. They can be eaten by the pounds and often poured directly onto tables lined with newspapers for large gatherings to enjoy.

 

This season brings along several events and festivals to celebrate Louisiana’s national crustacean. These giant crawfish boils gather a large number of visitors, craving the taste that only Louisiana knowns how to offer. Beginning in late April, the Nola Crawfish Festival hosts crawfish eating contests, live music, and much more. It is located at Central City BBQ and lasts until May.

 

Located two hours away from New Orleans, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival hosts live music among other things. This festival is only for one weekend in May, so make sure you know the exact date in advance. Crawfish Mambo is hosted by the University of New Orleans and features an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil as well as live music. This festival usually takes place in May.

See it For Yourself

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Get a first-hand look of where crawfish live with Cajun Encounters. Guests can travel down the Honey Island Swamp, experiencing the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it.

Cajun Encounters is always open and ready for those who wish to experience a little adventure outside of daily norms. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol. 

Book your tour today at https://www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 before all the spots are all filled up. You do not want to miss this family-friendly, educational experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Why Do Raccoons Wash Their Food?

Raccoons often find themselves in the middle of a love-hate relationship with the general public. Some people adore them for their adorable appearance, but the emphasis is on the word some. Considered the masked bandit of the animal world, raccoons are notorious for their food thievery. This has made many people consider them a nuisance

Eating Habits

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Raccoons are omnivores who feed off of plants and small animals, including mice. Over time, they have adapted to living near humans. Since they often find themselves in urban areas that lack fresh food, raccoons are often forced to become opportunistic eaters. As a result, you can often find these little critters rummaging through  garbage cans.

One of the most puzzling things about raccoons is their food cleaning habits, resembling those of a germaphobe. When raccoons find themselves eating near a water source, they have a tendency to dunk their food in the water and roll it around with their paws. In fact, their actual scientific name is Procyon lotor, which literally means the “washing bear”. Food washing, however, is not common among animals. As a result, scientists began researching the real reason behind raccoons strange sanitary act.

Why do raccoons wash their food?

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From dry mouth to saliva shortage, many have theorized many different  reasons for this habit, but there is only one idea that studies approve of. The answer lies in their paws, well, the nerve endings in their paws. Raccoons wet their food to gather more sensory information. As a result, moistening food helps raccoons further understand what they are eating.  

Unlike humans, who can rely on their eyesight, racoons depend on their touch to gather the majority of their information. When a raccoon touches an object, it is able to gather nearly two-thirds of its sensory information. Their paws have four to five more mechanoreceptors than most other mammals. As a result, raccoons are able hold, manipulate, and interpret objects on the same level as humans and other intelligent primates.

Why water?

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Water plays a very important role in a raccoons sense of touch. Ultimately, it increases the receptiveness of the nerve endings in their paws. As a result, their tactile senses are substantially increased. In a 1986 study published in the Somatosensory Research journal, it was found that wetting the skin on their paws dramatically improved raccoon’s sensitivity. 

Raccoons use water similarly to the way humans use light. When light enters the human eye, the optical nerve response is increased. This makes things easier for humans to see. Similarly, when a raccoon touches water with their paw, their tactile nerves responsiveness improves. As a result, they are able to receive more information about their food. This is important because raccoons are known to eat a variety of foods, and some are not always safe. When scavenging for food in dangerous places, such as garbage cans, it is important for them to be able to identify what is and is not safe to eat.

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Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Swamps, Bayous, Marshes, oh my! What’s the difference?

For those who are unfamiliar, it is very easy to lump together swamps, bayous, and marshes. While they may seem similar at first glance, they do have a few defining characteristics. 

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are low-lying areas that are overly saturated with water, both permanent and seasonally. They typically contain hydric soils and aquatic vegetation. It is not uncommon for wetlands to have extended periods of dryness, but its water table is typically at the surface long enough to support aquatic plants each year. 

Wetlands are considered one of the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. They occupy an important transition zone between land and water and provide a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. They play a critical role in amphibian breeding grounds. There are many positive aspects to wetlands. They are known to reduce flood peaks, serve as natural filters, control erosion, and recharge and discharge groundwater.

What is the difference between swamps, bayous, and marshes?

Swamps, bayous, and marshes all fall under the category of a wetland. While they are often viewed as interchangeable, they each serve a different function

Swamps

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Swamps are defined as forested wetlands. They are typically next to larger rivers, including the Amazon and Mississippi, as they depend heavily upon their natural water level fluctuations.  Their water can vary, often including fresh, brackish, and sear water. Swamps are comparable to lowland forests, but the main difference lies in the water. Swamps typically have deeper standing water. They are also wetter for longer periods throughout the year.

 Swamps are often characterized by the dominant type of tree that can be found growing there. These trees have adapted over time in order to survive in standing water and constantly saturated dirt. An example of these trees are cypress, cedar, and hardwood. These trees are often the names of swamps. For example, you may come across a hardwood swamp, according to National Geographic.

Bayous

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Bayous are characterized as small, sluggish waterways. These marshey outlets often take the form of anabranches, a river or stream that diverts from the main channel of the water course and rejoins later downstream.Their currents have the ability to reverse, resulting in them carrying in brackish water. These outlets are often found in lowlands or swamps. Their water flow is generally so slow it is almost unnoticeable to those viewing it. As a result, they have a tendency to become boggy and stagnant. Bayous can be found criss-crossing across most of Louisiana. 

It is believed that Bayous gained their name from the Native American Choctaw Tribe. It is thought to originate from the word  “bayuk”, meaning “small stream”. No matter the origin, the word bayou was first used in English in Louisiana, which is why it is typically associated with cajun culture.

Marshes

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A marsh is characterized by its consistent flooding of water from one source or another. Marshes are typically freshwater sources, and they often exist in areas with poor drainage. This can include stream beds, lakes, and pods. Due to their constant state of wetness, their soil is extremely rich in nutrients. As a result, they have the ability to support a wide variety of plant and animal life. These plants have the ability to bind to the muddy soil, allowing the to slow the flow of water.  

Since saltwater marshes can be found along oceans, they have the ability to be tidal. As a result, there are three kinds of marshes: tidal freshwater marshes, tidal saltwater marshes, and inland freshwater marshes. Tidal freshwater marshes are often characterized by regularly occurring tidal flooding. This allows for an increase in nutrients, resulting in a more fertile and productive ecosystem. Tidal saltwater marshes are flooded and drained by saltwater, leading them to contain decomposing plant material which result in a decrease in oxygen levels. This allows for hypoxia, which produces the notorious “rotten-egg” smell associated with these bodies of water. Inland freshwater marshes are found where the water table is very high, and their characteristics tend to vary depending on the location

Cajun Encounters Tour Company, New Orleans

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Invasive Species in the Honey Island Swamp

Invasive species are defined as non-indigenous organisms that negatively alter any new environments. These species have the ability to adapt easily and reproduce quickly. While they can have beneficial effects, these invasive species often cause ecological, environmental, and/or economical damage. These species can involve a variety of living organisms, ranging from plants and insects to fungus and bacteria.  

How are They Spread?

Invasive species spreading is typically caused by human activity. These non-indigenous species are often brought in with a purpose. For example, invasive species can be used as a form of pest control in many areas. However, these species can also be introduced through pets or decorative displays. These individuals often do not know how to handle these species, resulting in them releasing them in the wild. The spreading of these species can also be unintentional. Boats tend to carry aquatic organisms on the bottom of their boat or on their propellers

Invasive species can thrive in different environments for two main reasons. One being that they outcompete native species for food. Another reason is due to there being no predators that hunt them. Unfortunately, many of these invasive species can destroy habitats, putting other animals at risk. 

Four Invasive Species Found in the Honey Island Swamp

Out of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, there are four notable invasive species that reside in the Honey Island Swamp

1. Nutria

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Image credit: National Geographic Photo Ark

Coypu, more popularly known as Nutria, are large, web-footed rodents. They typically grow to between 17 to 25 inches long, ranging in the same size as raccoon. They resemble a mix between a small beaver and a giant rat.  

 Nutria’s ability to eat approximately 25% of their body weight and their rapid reproduction rate are a major risk factor to any environment that they call home. As a result, they are categorized as an invasive species. Nutria are not just physically invasive to their own environments. They host several diseases and parasites, including tuberculosis, tapeworm, liver flukes, and nematodes. As a result, many bodies of water have become contained by Nutria. This is a risk for anyone or thing that is swimming or drinking in these same areas.

2. Apple Snails

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Apple snails, otherwise known as ampullariidae, consist of a family of large freshwater species. They possess the ability to rapidly alter the ecological makeup of whatever environment they are introduced to. This is a direct result of their rapid eating styles and rapid growth rates, categorizing them as an invasive species. 

Apple Snails are considered opportunistic eaters. They can feast on a variety of things, including vegetation and smaller snail species. This can result in a drastic change in nutrient dynamics. Apple snails can change with the seasons, surviving in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. This allows them to lay eggs in a variety of locations, making it nearly impossible to contain them.

3. Wild Boar

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Perhaps one of the most loved animals on the Cajun Encounters Tour is the wild boar. Unfortunately, they fall under the category of invasive species. Wild boars are typically bulky built and short in stature, possessing short and thin legs. Their heads take up to one-third of their body’s entire length and showcase a mouth full of well-developed canine teeth. As omnivores, their diet is highly versatile. They typically consume up to 4,000 calories per day.

Wild boars are considered one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world.  Their wide range, high numbers, and adaptability is why they are considered invasive.  Along with these attributes, wild boars are known to host at least 20 different parasitic worm species and multiple parasites. These diseases not only affect wild boars themselves, but also humans and other animals.

4. Water Hyacinth

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Contrary to popular belief, water hyacinth is not a native Louisiana plant. While they are commonly found in multiple areas throughout the state, they are considered an invasive species. The water hyacinth consists of dark green, waxy leaves connected to a bulb-shaped petiole. Their roots have the ability to extend for 2-3 feet beneath, allowing them to start a completely new plant. Their size varies, ranging anywhere from 3 to 12 inches.

This plant is known for creating dense floating carpets on ponds, lakes, and bayous.  Ultimately, they block the sunlight from penetrating the water’s surface. As a result, submerged plants are often killed and oxygen levels decrease. In addition, their decaying leaves often drop off into the water. This results in an increase in sedimentation rates in the waterway.

Cajun Encounters Tour Company, New Orleans

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

February 2021 New Orleans Events

The introduction of the second month of the year brings both the love of Valentines Days and celebration of Mardi Gras. After a year like 2020, New Orleans will not allow restrictions to stop their festive spirit. Whether online or in-person, there is a variety of February activities and attractions offered that is sure to pique your interest.

1. Art & Zen Online Meditation Series

Find peace in a time of chaos from the comfort of your own home with the Art and Zen online series. Hosted by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, this online meditation program is led by yoga and meditation instructor, Mikhayla Harrel, and is a perfect time to practice mindfulness inspired by Southern art.

This 30-minute program is held every Wednesday afternoon and is welcoming to all skill levels. Registration is free, but guest must register to participate. Each program requires its own separate registration, and it closes 30 minutes before the program begins.

2. Virtual Cooking Class

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Virtually visit New Orleans and get a taste of what this great city has to offer. On the 4th, 11thand 25thof February, the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute presents Gnocchi Together. This virtual cooking class series was created in the hopes to spark flavorful and original meal inspirations.  This class will not only be teaching guests adaptable recipes from a wide range of cuisines, but also essential techniques.

This program’s menu varies depending on which program is being attended at the time. Each registered participate will receive a grocery list, equipment list, and recipes no later than 1 week before the class starts, allowing for plenty of prep time. The class is free, but donations are welcome as they go towards culinary nonprofits and programs.

3. Creole Queen Sunday Jazz Brunch

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Take a trip down the mighty Mississippi River while indulging in the best brunch treats on the Creole Queen. Guest have the option of enjoying a meal in the appointed dining room or sipping a classic cocktail on the promenade deck while enjoy the views that only the city of New Orleans has to offer.

These rides are a weekly Sunday occurrence with prices varying with age of the participates.  For an additional payment of $20, however, guests can enjoy Bottomless Mimosas or Cajun Bloody Mary’s.

See for Yourself

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Got a taste of what New Orleans has to offer and looking for more hands-on experiences? Those who wish to experience a little adventure that out of the typical norm can travel down the Honey Island Swamp with Cajun Encounters. Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol. 

New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours is the perfect place to see the best that the city has to offer historically and culturally. With tours through the cemeteries, French Quarter, and Garden District, visitors are able to immerse themselves in an experience that only the Crescent City has offer. Guests can learn more about the city of New Orleans from certified tour guides, ensuring historically accurate and informative information with an entertaining twist. Similarly, to Cajun Encounters, New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours takes its visitors health and safety as their top priority. As a result, they have also implemented COVID-19 protocol to ensure their visitors can experience the best without fear. 

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Mardi Gras 2021: New Orleans Mardi Gras Traditions

Traditions are labeled as a belief or tradition passed down within a group or society, such as putting up a tree on Christmas or eating turkey on Thanksgivings. These traditions often hold symbolic meanings or a special significance within its origins. Much like most major holidays, Mardi Gras has its own set of traditions that has been passed down for generations. From food to Krewes and everything in between, the traditions of Mardi Gras are guaranteed to be a good time.

Krewes

Considered one of the most well-known terms associated with Mardi Gras, Krewes are a social organization that hosts parades or balls for Carnival season. While some can be highly secretive and exclusive, Krewes can have open membership available for anyone who wishes to join. They can be formed by neighborhoods, general interest, and even involvement in the community.  

Krewe members are assessed fees, ranging in prices determined by size, that are put towards paying each groups parade and ball for the year. These fees often determine if members have to work to build the floats themselves or if professionals can be hired instead. While “super krewes” do not possess a official definition, they typically over 1000 active members and maintain at least 500 riders for each carnival.

Royalty

Where there is a krewe, there is usually royalty. Most krewes select a royal each year, consisting of a king, queen, dukes, and maids. The queen varies from krewe to krewe. In traditional all males krewe, the queen is usually a debutante; however, in all female krewes, a member is typically crowded as the queen.

“The King of Carnival” is anointed each year. Per tradition, the Krewe of Rex makes the selection, and the king is presented a symbolic key to the city by the mayor on Mardi Gras day.

Parades

With Carnival roots dating back as far as the Middle Ages, the first “official” Mardi Gras celebration took place in 1833. It all began when a wealthy landowner sponsored a “creole-style” celebration that was supervised by city officials. While they later became “official” celebrations, Mardi Gras celebrations have always possessed a rowdy and disorganized nature. By 1856, the modern parade era was born when the Mistick Krewe of Comus held a 2-float night parade.

The tradition of float riders throwing prizes, including candies and bon-bons and eventually glass beads, was enough to keep a large crowd coming out. As time went on, more krewes joined in the celebration, resulting in influx in parading in the 1950s. By 1958, parades moved in suburbs where that continued to pop up well into the 1970s.

Throws

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A “throw” is used as a collective term often used to describe objects that are thrown from floats to parade-goers. Glass beads were commonly used as throws up until the 1960’s when they were later switched to less expensive and more durable plastic beads. The plastic beads lower price point allowed for float riders to purchase greater qualities, resulting in throws becoming more common and greater in numbers.

In the 1990s, larger and more elaborate beads became the most sought-after throws after parade goers lost interest in the cheaper, smaller beads. As a result, krewes began to create limited edition beads and plush toys that were unique to their specific krewe. Today, parade goers are sure to catch a wide variety of items, including LED- powered prizes and soft toys, by simply yelling the popular phrase, “throw me something mister”.

Colors

In 1872, The Krewe of Rex began the traditions of colors with their parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” as a way to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke, Alexi Alexandrovich Romanov. It is at this time that the official colors of Mardi Gras were determined to be purple, green, and gold. Each color possessed its own meaning, and the people of New Orleans were asked to showcases one of the three. Purple was a symbol for justice. Green symbolized faith, and gold holds the meaning of power.

While it is not fully known why three colors or these colors specifically were chosen, many have made their own theory. Errol Flynn Laborde, a famous local historian, concluded that three colors were chosen to represent a kingdom. As a result, it followed the same color pattern like other major flags, such as the United States and Great Britain. As for the colors, Laborde believes it came down to symbolism, making purple and gold an obvious choice, and green the best last option.

Masks

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While the tradition of wearing masks has dated back though different societies for centuries, Mardi Gras masks, like many other traditions, originated in ritual celebrations. Masks began as a way for its wearers to escape the tight constraints of society and social class. Carnival goers were given a new sense of freedom, allowing them to be who they wanted to be and interact with anyone despite class standings, by simply wearing a mask.

Today, masks are a major staple in Mardi Gras tradition. In fact, it is required by law for each float rider to wear a mask. On Fat Tuesday, everyone is allowed to wear masks if they please, adding to the air of excitement and magic that is seen throughout Mardi Gras traditions.

King Cake

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Image Credit: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/king-cake-recipe2-2122415

Starting on January 6th in honor of Epiphany, otherwise known as Twelfth Night, the tastiest Mardi Gras tradition begins. King Cakes are a sweet dough twisted into a round usually filled with cream or fruit and often topped with colored sugar or fruit. Typical Louisiana-styled cakes are usually decorated in well-known themed colors: purple, green, and gold.   

Twelfth Night marks the arrival of the three wise men, or kings, who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus. It is because of this that a plastic baby is hidden within king cakes today, representing a nod to this story. The tradition of hiding a small plastic baby was popularized in the 1950’s by a commercial bakery by the name of McKenzie. According to Mardi Gras traditions, the person who finds the hidden baby in their piece must host the next year’s celebration.

Flambeaux

Flambeaux is one Mardi Gras tradition that is believed to have blossomed well beyond its original practical purpose and into a revered art form. Flambeaux, or flaming torch, debut in 1857 as a way to light Carnival parades at night. Flambeaux began as a necessity, but soon evolved into a magical spectacle. Men carrying the torches began to dance while they would twirl and wave their sticks of fire, resulting in tips being thrown at these performers.

To keep this tradition alive, Mardi Gras krewes begin their parades with flambeaux out of respect for those that have come before them. While the torches have since received modern updates to keep their flames flowing all night, parade goers still offer tips to the performers.

Experience More Traditions

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The deep-rooted traditions of New Orleans culture, especially those seen during Mardi Gras, is keeps visitors coming back year after year. A little taste of the New Orleans spirit is never enough. If you find yourself in town and are looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife, look no further that Cajun Encounters.

Cajun Encounters is a great family-friendly experience with enough excitement to peak your attention. Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol. 

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Mardi Gras 2021: New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians

Of all the Mardi Gras traditions, the Mardi Gras Indians are perhaps the least recognized. Considered a highly secretive organization, their parade dates, times, and routes are never known in advanced, but they do tend to gather in the same few areas.  The mystery surrounding these krewes does not diminish their importance to the Mardi Gras tradition.

Origin

The organizations called “krewes” and their structural ranking of royalty, involving some form of a king, queen, knights, or captains, are extremely well-known throughout Mardi Gras traditions. Many of these well-known krewes were named after Greek or Roman mythology and often invitation only. As a result, many felt they could not participate in these well-known, typical New Orleans parades due to cultural separation.

Gradually, these left out neighborhoods began to develop their own style of celebrating, including krewes that were named from imaginary Native American tribes according to street locations. These krewes were named after native Indians in order to pay respect for those who accepted and assisted newly freed citizens into society. In 1885, Plains Indians marched in native dress on the streets of New Orleans, resulting in the first Mardi Gras Indian tribe to be formed later that year by the name of “The Creole Wild West”. 

Around 40 tribes participate in Mardi Gras celebrations, ranging in size from half a dozen to several dozen members. Some of the most well-known tribes include the Wild Magnolias, the Bayou Renegades, and the Golden Feather Hunters.

Suits

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Weighing upwards of one hundred pounds, the typical time it takes to design and create a suit usually takes between six to nine months. Each design in created by the Indian planning to wear it, containing elaborate beading and patch work in order to depict meaningful and symbolic scenes. Beads, feathers, and sequins are a major part of a typical Mardi Gras Indian suit, but suits main cultural customs can change depending on the tribes. The uptown New Orleans typically focus more on the sculptural and abstract aspect of African-inspired suits. Downtown tribes, however, tend to have more pictorial suits heavily influenced by Native Americans.

Suits are revealed on Super Sunday and often rival professional costume designers. It has been said that each suit costs around $5,000 in material each year, including up to 300 yards of down feathering trimming. Bead work is completely done by hand and feature a combination of color and texture, resulting in some of these suits being displayed in museums throughout the country.

Parades

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There are many different roles that are played during a typical Mardi Gras Indian parade. Plain clothed informants stay several blocks ahead of the parade routes, serving as a look out for any danger. Each procession begins with “spyboys” typically dressed in light running suits. This allows them to have to freedom of mobility in case of emergencies while still dressed in traditional attire.

Following the “spyboys”, the “first flag” comes next in the lineup. This is usually an ornately dressed Indian that carries that token flag of their tribe. The final role following behind the first flag is the “Big Chief”, typically carrying the symbolic weapon. The “Big Chief” is in charge of deciding where the tribe goes and which other tribes to meet. These major roles are followed by the entire group, and the entire group is followed by percussionists and revelers. 

Today

Before, Mardi Gras was a violent day for many Mardi Gras Indians, typically used to settle scores. The traditions of mask wearing and large crowds only adding to the general confusion and often keeping families from joining in the celebrations. 

In today’s society, however, two tribe’s passing one another is a living example of art and culture. Each tribe’s displayed style and craftsmanship is put on display in a competitive and, most importantly, a friendly manner, allowing each other to compare their works. Their violent history no longer plays a part in this friendly celebration. While a part of their typical traditions includes one chief demanding the other to bow and pay respect, it eventually ends in both chiefs complementing each other’s craftmanship of their suits. Considering the thousands of dollars and hours that are invested into the creation of their own suit, it makes complete sense as to why they no longer risk ruining them in a fight.

While the tradition of Mardi Gras Indians is considered the least known or acknowledged of the Mardi Gras traditions, they are appreciated and seen as rich in folk art and history by many museums and societies around the world.  

Cajun Encounters Tour Company, New Orleans

Mardi Gras bringing you to New Orleans? Don’t forget to stop and see all of what New Orleans has to offer. For those looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife, look no further than Cajun Encounters.

Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Mardi Gras 2021: Mardi Gras Balls

While parades are one of the most known Mardi Gras traditions, grand and spectacular Mardi Gras balls hold a special place in Mardi Gras tradition. Balls are formal parties hosted by a specific krewe as a celebration for their members. As a city known for their extravagant parties, Mardi Gras balls are no different. These events often include costumes, dancing, music, food, and anything else needed to have a night fit for royalty.

About

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In the 19thcentury, the elite of Carnival organizations began searching for a way to evoke a world of romance and chivalry during a time of reconstruction. As a result, these members began acting out aristocratic fantasies based on the style of royal courts and palaces of Old Europe, resulting in the creation of Mardi Gras balls.

Mardi Gras balls often involve rituals and intricate codes that have been passed down through history. Majority of Mardi Gras balls are private affairs, often needing invitations to even attend. Original invitations were die-cut and printed in Paris, making them a hot commodity. So hot that sometimes prominent figures do not even make the cut, including governors, making people feel less left out when not receiving invitations. Today, invitations can be considered valuable works of art, resulting in colorful and beautiful designs often being framed as collectors’ items.

Mardi Gras Balls can be considered social climbing events, resulting in a lavish affair. Ball gowns are a must for women attendees. Debutantes, making their formal introduction into society, hoped to be issued a “call-out” card. These cards result in a dance with an attending male member.

The highlight of the evening including the cutting of the Mardi Gras cake, otherwise known as the Gateau de Rois. Tradition states that whoever finds the bean in their piece of cake would have to host the next ball. As a result, Mardi Gras balls are full of good food and good times.

History

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It is believed that the first ball was held by the Mistick Krewe of Comus in the year of 1857. This ball was held at the Gaiety Theatre, later called the Varieties Theatre, up until 1868 when it moved to the new Varieties Theatre.

The first Krewe of Rex balls began in 1873 and were held in the Exposition Hall until 1906. In 1907, Rex began to hold its ball at The Athenaeum when this tradition continued until 1929. This ball marks the only appearance of Enrico Caruso, legendary tenor, in June of 1920.

In the later years, Comus began to hold its balls at the French Opera House. In 1882, the Rex Krewe visited Comus near midnight, resulting in a custom that is still seen today. It is believed that approximately 137 balls are held each year, beginning always on January 6th with the Twelfth Night Ball.

Tableaux

Tableau Vivant, otherwise known as “living picture”, is known as setting a group of costumed individuals in carefully arranged static poses within a set and its related props. Its purpose often serves as a way to illustrate popular mythological stories, paintings, and even known events, including archetypal, classical, and historical.

On February 2ndof 1857, the best of Louisiana’s society gathered at the Gaiety Theatre anxiously waiting for the start of the tableau ball. Its grandeur and vivid imagination would soon stun a city already accustomed to the most fabulous of balls. The Mistik Krewe of Comus presented its guests with four tableaux: Tartus, The Expulsion, The Conference of Satan and Beelzebub, and a bare stage. Each tableaux showcased a visual depiction of a mythological story.

While the tradition of tableau has slowly been lost since the uprising of other popular, more sought-after Mardi Gras traditions, The New Orleans Society of Tableau Vivant pays homage to this creative tradition.

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Mardi Gras Balls still play a major role in the tradition of Mardi Gras today. With the introduction of the infamous COVID-19 virus, however, these special events have been put on hold until further notice, but this unfortunate development will not keep the resilient people of New Orleans down.

New Orleans is still offering attractions that are sure to keep those who are missing Mardi Gras entertained. For those looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife, Cajun Encounters is the best place to start.

Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199