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What is Mardi Gras?
The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras” when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras.
In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile), similar to those that form our current Mardi Gras krewes. It lasted until 1709. In 1710, the “Boeuf Gras Society” was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull’s head pushed along on wheels by 16 men. Later, Rex would parade with an actual bull, draped in white and signaling the coming Lenten meat fast. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740s, Louisiana’s governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls, which became the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.
The earliest reference to Mardi Gras “Carnival” appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.
By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or “flambeaux,” lit the way for the krewe’s members and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity. In 1856, six young Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, invoking John Milton’s hero Comus to represent their organization. Comus brought magic and mystery to New Orleans with dazzling floats (known as tableaux cars) and masked balls. Krewe members remained anonymous.
In 1870, Mardi Gras’ second Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed. This is also the first recorded account of Mardi Gras “throws.”
Newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance, and they even printed “Carnival Edition” lithographs of parades’ fantastic float designs (after they rolled, of course – themes and floats were always carefully guarded before the procession). At first, these reproductions were small, and details could not be clearly seen. But beginning in 1886 with Proteus’ parade “Visions of Other Worlds,” these chromolithographs could be produced in full, saturated color, doing justice to the float and costume designs of Carlotta Bonnecase, Charles Briton and B.A. Wikstrom. Each of these designers’ work was brought to life by talented Parisian paper-mache’ artist Georges Soulie’, who for 40 years was responsible for creating all of Carnival’s floats and processional outfits.
1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival, Rex, to preside over the first daytime parade. To honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff, the businessmen introduced Romanoff’s family colors of purple, green and gold as Carnival’s official colors. Purple stands for justice; gold for power; and green for faith. This was also the Mardi Gras season that Carnival’s improbable anthem, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” was cemented, due in part to the Duke’s fondness for the tune.
The following year, floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France, culminating with Comus’ magnificent “The Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species,” in which exotic paper-mache’ animal costumes served as the basis for Comus to mock both Darwin’s theory and local officials, including Governor Henry Warmoth. In 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the “Mardi Gras Act,” making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.
Like Comus and the Twelfth Night Revelers, most Mardi Gras krewes today developed from private social clubs with restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by their members, New Orleanians call it the “Greatest Free Show on Earth.”
When is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras Day is March 1 2022. Fat Tuesday is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The official start of Carnival Season is Twelfth Night, January 6.
What is Lundi Gras?
On the day before Mardi Gras beginning in 1874, Rex, the King of Carnival, would arrive by boat at the riverfront and with great pomp. The King and his royal court would travel from the river to City Hall in grand carriages where the mayor and various city officials would present Rex with the keys to the city and grant him temporary rule of the city beginning at sunrise on Mardi Gras morning.
Although the Rex landing became a treasured tradition unique to New Orleans, it fell by the wayside after World War I. In 1987, Riverwalk Festival Marketplace (The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk) brought the festival back to life and called it Lundi Gras or Fat Monday.
Today Lundi Gras is a series of Shrove Monday events at Woldenberg Park. These days, Rex is joined by the King of the Zulu and the Mayor of New Orleans turns over symbolic control to the two Carnival monarchs.
The Modern Lundi Gras festival is a wonderful party with food, drink and music on three stages. Past entertainers have include the Rebirth Brass Band, Zulu Ensemble, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisiers, and Amanda Shaw. A highlight of the event is the presence of Zulu characters like Big Shot, the Witch Doctor and Mr. Big Stuff. Come get your selfies and have a great time.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer.
Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too.
Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.
Writings from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a sign of penance.
Priests administer ashes during Mass and all are invited to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance. Even non-Christians and the excommunicated are welcome to receive the ashes. The ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year’s palm Sunday Mass.
It is important to remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of penitential prayer and fasting. Some faithful take the rest of the day off work and remain home. It is generally inappropriate to dine out, to shop, or to go about in public after receiving the ashes. Feasting is highly inappropriate. Small children, the elderly and sick are exempt from this observance.
It is not required that a person wear the ashes for the rest of the day, and they may be washed off after Mass. However, many people keep the ashes as a reminder until the evening.
Recently, movements have developed that involve pastors distributing ashes to passersby in public places. This isn’t considered taboo, but Catholics should know this practice is distinctly Protestant. Catholics should still receive ashes within the context of Mass.
In some cases, ashes may be delivered by a priest or a family member to those who are sick or shut-in.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
What is Krewe de Main?
See our About page.
What is the Center for a Stateless Society?
See our About page.
What is an unconference?
Rather than having a set schedule of discussions, skillshares, and lectures, an unconference relies on the participants to create their own conference experience. You are encouraged to plan discussions and lectures with other attendees, or to let us know if you’d like to lead a discussion or speak on a special topic at a given time. The schedule will be evolving as the unconference goes on and will come together once we’re all there in-person.
We’ll display the schedule on a central whiteboard, which can be updated by attendees as needed. In the meantime, please see our Discord to plan sessions with other attendees!
Where and when will Coup de Gras take place?
Coup de Gras IV will take place on occupied Chahta Yakni (Choctaw) territory at Fontainebleau State Park, 62883 Hwy. 1089, Mandeville, Louisiana 70448 from February 17th-22nd, 2023.
The Coup de Gras Ball will take place on occupied Chahta Yakni (Choctaw) territory at Pelican Pub, 1756 Front St., Slidell, Louisiana 70458 on February 21st, 2023.
Coup de Gras Pre-Fest locations:
- 2/14/23 – The Loose Caboose in Lafayette, LA – 18+
- 2/15/23 – Yes We Cannibal in Baton Rouge, LA – all ages
- 2/16/23 – Pre-Fest in NOLA (venue TBA) – 18+/21+
Are Mardi Gras and Coup de Gras family-friendly events?
Yes! Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras is meant for the whole family and Coup de Gras is no different! While there is a lot of drinking involved in typical Mardi Gras celebrations, nudity is sparse and kept mostly to Bourbon Street and the rest is all music, parades, and family-friendly fun!
Many of our supplemental events however, including several of our Coup de Gras Pre-Fest shows and the Coup de Gras Ball, take place in bars and therefore are 18+/21+ events.(See above.)
What COVID precautions are in place?
Coup de Gras is organized as a camping festival in order to reduce the risk of COVID spread at this event. Attendees are encouraged to wear a mask during indoor events and get tested for COVID before and after attendance.
What does my ticket include?
The festival itself is free to attend but tickets are available for camping spots at the festival site itself. We have single day camping tickets or you can save money by buying a camping ticket for the entire week.
Sales from these tickets do help us to provide more activities and amenities and put on the best festival possible.
Pre-fest shows & Ball are separate events which charge cash at door (age restricted).
What does it mean for tickets to be “sliding scale”?
Our sliding scale ticketing means that customers pay what they want/can and no one is turned away due to a lack of funds. While our ticketing system does not allow us to sell sliding scale tickets directly on their platform, you can contact us at email@example.com to purchase tickets at any price you name, including $0. So come and celebrate Mardi Gras with us because money should never be a barrier to join in on the fun and every little bit of money we raise helps us to keep going no matter how large or small!
Can I pay in cryptocurrency?
Yes! You can purchase Coup de Gras tickets using cryptocurrency by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use cryptocurrency to pay the entrance fees for the Coup de Gras Pre-Fest shows and the Coup de Gras Ball and most of our onsite vendors will accept cryptocurrency as well. However, Fontainebleau State Park does not accept cryptocurrency payments for their $3 entrance fee.
Why is there a separate park entry fee?
Unfortunately we have zero control over that. The park charges an entrance fee to all persons, including campers, of $3 per day, excluding children under 3 and seniors over 62 years of age.
Do children get in free?
Yes! Children 3 years old and under get in completely free to the park and to our festival.
Can I purchase tickets to the Coup de Gras Pre-Fest shows or the Coup de Gras Ball ahead of time?
At this point in time, no. The door fee for these events will be paid upon entry to their respective venues.
What are the camping accommodations like? Are alternative accommodations available?
The festival will take place at an unimproved primative group camp site at Fontainebleau State Park that accommodates 50 people. Bathrooms, a water fountain, and electrical outlets are located nearby at a state park building. Potable water is not available from the campsite, you will need to bring water with you. Campers are encouraged to bring their own food and other necessities, although no one will be left without!
Check out these local farmers markets for great places to pick up food: https://www.louisiananorthshore.com/restaurants/farmers-markets/
You can also camp individually or at separate group sites in the park which can be reserved here.
If you would prefer to stay in a hotel, cabin, or other alternative accommodation, you are responsible for arranging your lodging. See our roomshare board to arrange accommodations with other attendees. If you need assistance arranging alternative accommodation please contact us at email@example.com for more info or assistance
Is there a parking fee for camping?
We have 10 free parking spaces with our group campsite. If we run out, we will coordinate the remaining needed spaces on our rideshare discord.
Will there be WiFi?
Yes, there is WiFi available, although we cannot ensure the stability and quality of the connection.
What should I bring?
Be sure to bring a tent, sleeping bag, chairs, and any other camping gear you desire or require. Mardi Gras is during the transition between winter and spring so expect changing weather and pack accordingly. Be sure to bring both a jacket and swimsuit just in case.
If you’re camping with us, it’s a good idea to bring your own food and drinks (including water!) as well as other necessities such as first aid kits, refillable water bottles, medication, extra socks and underwear, and anything else you might need during the week.
Other items that are good to have on hand:
- Cash for causeway tolls, etc.
- Driver’s license or state ID for alcohol and access to the Mardi Gras Ball venue
- Books, zines, pamphlets, stickers and anything else you’d like to share, sell, or trade
- Bicycles, hiking gear, canoes, swimsuits, fishing gear, etc. to make the most of the State Park!
Are RVs and campers allowed?
We cannot accommodate RVs or campers onsite but offsite camping is available via the Fontainebleau State Park website.
What are the options for offsite lodging?
Sleeping in a tent is not for everyone. For those looking for something different, Fontainebleau State Park offers RV camping and cabins. There are also plenty of hotels and motels in the area, including the locally-owned Pollyana Bed & Breakfast and Ozone Motel. To coordinate alternate lodging with other attendees and save money, please check out our roomshare discord.
Are ATVs and dirtbikes allowed?
“[O]ur trail system paths are designed to accommodate either walkers or cyclists and are located throughout the main usage areas. As a public safety concern, motorized traffic of any kind (ATV, motorcycle or 4-wheel drive vehicle) would pose a distinct safety hazard for the visitors using our trails for hiking or biking. State Parks also serve as nature preservation areas for wildlife, and access to the resource is provided to allow nature observation — birdwatching, nature photography — in an undisturbed setting. Off-road, motorized vehicle use in that environment conflicts with our mission as a state agency created to preserve that natural setting.”
What is the food situation?
Bring your own food and camping cookware. If you need to buy groceries, there are plenty of options in St. Tammany Parish including our locally-owned Cajun grocery chain, Rouses Market, and our local farmers markets. We have six weekly farmers markets, including the Covington Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Mandeville Trailhead Community Market, Lafitte Street Market, and Camellia City Market on Saturdays, and Claiborne Place Makers Market on Sundays.
Will there be electricity available?
Coup de Gras will be taking place on an unimproved group campsite with no electrical hookup. We are however allowed to park up to 10 cars onsite which can be utilized as a source of power for charging phones and other such things. There will also likely be a generator available as well. For those worried about accessibility concerns in terms of electricity, we suggest checking out offsite lodging options.
What is the parking situation?
Parking is available onsite for up to 10 vehicles. Spaces will be available on a first come, first served basis with overflow parking available in the main parking lot.
Can I bring a firearm?
Louisiana does allow for unlicensed open carry in many situations. Louisiana also honors concealed carry licenses from any state which also honors Louisiana carry permits (click here to confirm whether your concealed carry permit is honored in Louisiana). While we cannot shoot at Fontainebleau State Park, we may get together for a range day at a local range. However, firearms are not allowed in bars or while drinking so it is advisable to not carry during any of the Coup de Gras Pre-Fest shows, the Coup de Gras Ball, or any of the parades.
Will there be bathrooms on site?
Yes, Fontainebleau State Park has public restrooms with showers.
What activities are there to do at Fontainebleau State Park?
Aside from our Coup de Gras unconference, Fontainebleau itself offers hiking and bike trails, birdwatching, fishing, swimming, a boat dock, a playground, and more. (Note: Louisiana requires a license to fish for persons 16 years of age and older which can be applied for here.)
How do I sign up to be an official vendor or to table for my organization/project/cause?
You don’t need to sign up in order to sell, share, or trade. Feel free to bring your own tables and blankets and “vend” at the campsite. You are welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate vending space and other logistics or to be listed on the website as a vendor.
How do I sign up to be a speaker, or host a workshop, skillshare, panel, etc.?
With the unconference model, you’re not required to sign up in advance in order to lead a workshop, skillshare, panel, or anything else. However you can contact us at email@example.com to get more information, list your intended session on the Coup de Gras website, or discuss special sessions or outings. If you have an idea you want included in the festival, just let us know!
Is there a schedule for the speakers and workshops available?
Unconferences are a bit different than your average conference. While most conferences are organized hierarchically and plan panels, workshops, and speakers schedule ahead of time, unconferences are organized spontaneously in a decentralized non-hierarchical manner. What this means is that throughout the event, we will have a sign up board where anyone who wishes to can sign up for a timeslot and present.
Will there be a virtual component or simulcast this year?
No, although you are encouraged to record, livestream, or broadcast any part of the festival on your own.
Can I support the conference or be involved without attending in person?
Yes, you can always support Coup de Gras with financial support or in-kind donations!
Please also feel free to send us materials, information, or anything you wish to share with the festival! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate.
What local laws should I know about?
- Public drinking is always allowed in New Orleans but is only legal in St. Tammany Parish during the parades (no glass)
- Weed is decriminalized in New Orleans, but not in St. Tammany Parish
- Cops in St. Tammany are active and will be picky about things like rolling stops and speeding
If for whatever reason any participants face legal trouble or danger during the festival, our team is committed to supporting and aiding you. Please reach out for help if you need it, but also keep in mind that your actions will impact other attendees and do your best to stay out of trouble!
What other advice do you have for enjoying Mardi Gras?
Like any large, public event, Mardi Gras can be overwhelming at times and attendees should be careful to take care of themselves. Drink water, take your meds, and don’t over do it on the party favors! Watch out for pickpockets in the French Quarter and during parades, especially on Bourbon St as pedestrian traffic can get extremely congested. It is advised to keep important items closely guarded.