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The crowd in front of the Liberty Theater lines the barricades to catch throws during the Eunice Mardi Gras. See more Mardi Gras photos on Pages 6 and 12. (Photos by Harlan Kirgan)

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Pat Frey, Le Vieux Mardi Gras de Cajun capitaine,holds the first chicken on the day near the Northwest Community Center as runners keep pace.

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Brodi Walker, of Eunice, captured the first chicken tossed on the Eunice Mardi Gras Run.

Mardi Gras hits a high spot

Tuesday’s crowd said to be the largest in recent years

The Mardi Gras crowd may have been one of the biggest in recent years.
Eunice Mayor Scott Fontenot said while crowd size is hard to judge, vehicles were parked down Park Avenue to Circle Park and about everywhere in between there and the downtown.
Pat Frey, Le Vieux Mardi Gras de Cajun capitaine, said, “I think downtown, that’s the most people I’ve ever seen for the parade.”
The five-day celebration ended with Tuesday’s Mardi Gras Run with about 800 participants some on the 40-plus trailers, others walking and some on about 70 horses.
“It went very well,” Frey said of the run that left the Northwest Community Center at about 9 a.m. for a 14-mile journey north of Eunice and back to the city.
Frey said it was good day for the run with no scuffles or injuries.
“Everybody enjoyed themselves. That’s the best I can say,” he said.
“We had way more chicken throws. More people gave us stuff on the run,” he said.
“They had a lot people on the roadsides cooking and barbecuing and waiting for the Mardi Gras,” he said.
The day started cloudy and cool, but by noon the clouds cleared.
“I want to thank the people for coming and enjoying,” Frey said.
Fontenot said the crowd on 2nd Street was pretty well behaved.
“It feels like it has grown every year,” he said of the crowd.
“The whole weekend was a pretty good success,” he said.
Even as the party wound down after Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie closed the Fred Charlie Stage down, people lingered, he said.
“I have to say I was impressed with the people. They didn’t really leave a lot of trash,” he said.
Fontenot said he would like to see Eunice take the celebration to the next level.
“My goal just from what I’ve seen in the city Eunice, we are sitting on a perfect opportunity to take what we have locally and turn it into an international event,” he said.
He added, “We don’t want a big drunken festival.”
Instead he said it should be a celebration of the culture.
“I feel good about what we do here in Eunice,” he said.
Children run on the street and there is a feeling of a safe place, he said.
Keeping what happens in Eunice Mardi Gras after Mardi Gras would likely please people like Kathy Francois, of Eunice.
“I tell everybody Mardi Gras doesn’t run without me,” she said after registering for the run Tuesday morning. It was her 34th Eunice Mardi Gras Run, she said.
“The people and the fun and the tradition, the tradition first,” keeps her returning, she said.
“We enjoy Eunice downtown all weekend before Mardi Gras,” she said.
Fred Roetker, of Eunice, said he was on his fifth Mardi Gras in Eunice. Roetker was driving the pickup that towed the trailer hauling the band that accompanies the run.
“I think it is a great awesome experience. So much energy. It is a great place. Once I discovered this nothing else compares.” he said.
“We are in the groove now. We are going to do this as long as the band wants us to do it. This is how we do Mardi Gras,” he said.
Karen Ruidisell caught beads where the Run turns north on La. 757.
“It is really different, but it is a lot of fun,” said the New Orleans native who now lives in Lake Charles.
“It is just so different. It looks like they are having so much fun,” she said.
After the parade passed through downtown Eunice, first-timer Austin Young, who now works for Eunice Police, said it wasn’t what he expected.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in Texas,” he said of the bead-throwing celebrants on horses, trailers and foot who had paraded by him while he worked security.

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