*Photos taken by T. Fredericks and property of Toriano’s LBV.
I am a true believer of the expression “when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade” so when my flight was cancelled out of Lafayette, LA, I figured instead of curling up in the corner of my hotel room and crying I should get out and see the Mardi Gras Festivities.
Lafayette is a city of 120,600 people and considered to be the center of Cajun culture in both Louisiana and the US. After checking into my hotel, I decided to make my way down to the Cajun Fields where a carnival was taking place until Tuesday for Mardi Gras. The festival was being held in the shadow of the Cajun Dome and Cajun Field where the University of Louisiana’s teams compete, this is also where all of the Mardi Gras Parades would end.
I walked around the grounds for a while taking in the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras and was immediately drawn in by a sign that read “STEAK ON A STICK”. It was at that point that I felt like a redneck as I stood there with a 24 ounce Budweiser in one hand and Steak on a Stick in the other hand.
I watched some Cajun band perform and was impressed with how cool they made an accordion look. When I think of an accordion I think of Weird Al Yankovich, but this guy was rocking out on this thing. As the sun began to set, it got surprisingly cold and I was considering packing it in until I noticed fires lit just outside the gates of the Carnival. Like a moth to a flame, I made my way towards the fires and came upon a long row of campers and mobile homes. I introduced myself to a friendly looking group and they invited me to pull up a chair, warm up in front of their fire and have a few beers.
It is encounters like this that reaffirms my faith in the goodness of strangers. That a black guy with dreds from way up in Yankee land can sit down with Louisiana rednecks and talk for hours about everything from why we love America to the different ways to make Jell-O-shots. It was cool to me how we seemed to have nothing in common when I first walked up and end up parting ways having everything in common.
I made my way back to my hotel smelling of hickory smoke and beer, happy I took advantage of a travel misfortune and turning what could have been a lost day into a new experience, in a new place with new people.