By Allie Doise, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
The Mardi Gras celebrations throughout Louisiana may be different, but agriculture is something they all have in common.
Mardi Gras is a big economic driver for Louisiana. According to a university study, the season injects more than half a billion dollars a year into the states economy.
However many of the famous traditions associated with the Mardi Gras celebration would not be possible without Louisiana’s agricultural industry.
King cake is one of the most recognized symbols of Mardi Gras throughout the country. According to Forbes Magazine, 750,000 king cakes are consumed each year. Many of those are made at Manny Randazzo King Cakes in Metairie, Louisiana.
Manny Randazzo, owner of Manny Randazoo King Cakes, said the key to their success is a secret family recipe.
“Here at Manny Randazzo King Cakes, it is a secret recipe that we do use,” Randazoo said. “And we do adhere to hit strictly because the recipe came from my dad and my uncles and my grandfather.”
But, Randazzo does reveal Louisiana grown sugar is one of the key ingredient in his famous king cake.
“I can tell you from first hand knowledge that the sugar that we get from Domino sugar comes from our sugarcane plantations over here in South Louisiana,” Randazzo said.
Randazzo said while the he pays more for Louisiana sugar, it’s a price worth paying.
“We’ve gotten sugar from other countries and brought in and tried it,” Randazzo said. “Even though it was a cheaper product, it was totally inferior and we won’t use anything except for good ole sugarcane sugar.”
One of the oldest agricultural based traditions can be found in Mamou, Louisiana. Organized in the 1950s, the Courir de Mardi Gras is most known for the colorful costumes, men riding on horseback and the chasing of the chicken.
According to Carolyn Ware, Ph.D./LSU Assoc. Prof., Folklore & English, farmers are to blame for this tradition. Farmers used this celebration as a final hoorah before the next planting season.
“It was a time when farmers had a little spare time,” Ware said.
However, it was also a means to ensure everyone in the community could make it through the winter.
“Some families may not have had a whole lot of food during that period,” Ware said. Some folklorists have suggested that the Cajun Mardi Gras run and the Courir Mardi Gras run were a way for neighbors to all pitch in and share the resources they had.”
Today runners still stop from house to house picking up ingredients for a community gumbo. This is most popularly recognized when the runners chase the chicken given to them.