Miguel Lasala wants to show Starkville a side of Mardi Gras that is not typically found in New Orleans.
He has organized a group called the Starkville Boudin Krewe for Mississippi State University's own Courir de Mardi Gras, showing the campus how rural Louisiana celebrates Mardi Gras.
Lasala, an assistant professor in architecture at MSU, said the concept for the Courir, or run, is based on a rural tradition for gathering ingredients for traditional Mardi Gras dishes, such as chicken, sausage and rice for gumbo. He said celebrants usually wear colorful costumes and travel from door to door through the countryside looking for these ingredients, whether by foot or on horseback.
“Being that we're not going to be able to beg for chicken on our way through campus, I've already made a gumbo, and we'll be sharing it at Dave's Dark Horse Tavern afterward,” Lasala said. “The rural Mardi Gras is very different from the New Orleans Mardi Gras.”
Lasala said the idea to start a Courir at MSU started with another Mardi Gras tradition he carried over to Starkville from studying for a master's degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“When I was a student there, and when I was teaching there, during the Mardi Gras season, a lot of times, we would bring in king cake at the beginning or end of the month,” Lasala said. “And whoever gets the baby in the king cake brings the next one. I did that here, and some of the students didn't even know what a king cake was. We got to talking about Mardi Gras, and the idea of doing a really quick, small-scale parade through campus on Mardi Gras day came up, and they became very interested about it.”
One chat with Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois later, he said, the Courir was approved.
“He said it was fine, as long as we stuck to the sidewalks and didn't disturb any classes that were going on,” Lasala said.
The structure of the Courir, as Lasala has planned it, stands somewhere between a parade and a party. He said his first-year architecture students would meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday behind Giles Hall and start the event at the Drill Field, but anyone could join their ranks at any time. The event will conclude at Dave's Dark Horse Tavern at 410 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
“A regular parade is where a bunch of people just stand around and watch a parade go through,” Lasala said. “So we encourage everyone to walk with us. So it's something that, if they just stand there, then it's going to be over before they know it. But if they come with us, it's going to be more of a continuing kind of celebration.”
Lasala said it was tradition for the celebration to begin with chasing a chicken, but the group would play games instead, including football. He also said he hoped to have Mardi Gras music on hand.
As for costumes, Lasala said some of the students would use outfits from MSU's Trashion Fashion Show, held by the National Organization for Minority Students in October 2010. He said he still had yet to assemble his own costume, but he would aim for something fitting the Courir tradition. As for guests, he said it would be best if they wore costumes of their own, but they do not need to be elaborate.
“We encourage everyone to come with a disguise if they can,” Lasala said. “They can wear a sheet and a mask, a hat or whatever. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, and it doesn't have to be anything according to a theme. If they want to participate, all they have to do is come.”
Lasala said this was the first time a Courir had come to campus, but he does not want this to be the last. He said he envisioned each school creating their own Krewe next year, each with their own competing themes.
He also said Mississippi State students had already put on a similar event called the Zombie Walk, where students dressed as the undead.
“If that caught on,” Lasala said, “ I hope this could catch on.”