A Lifelong Love of Mardi Gras

Brian J. Costello is the author of the new book Carnival in Louisiana: Celebrating Mardi Gras from the French Quarter to the Red River.

As other Louisiana cultural historians will doubtless be, I am indebted to the foresight of LSU Press and its wonderful staff for agreeing to publish my manuscript Carnival in Louisiana: Celebrating Mardi Gras from the French Quarter to the Red River (February 2017). This first-known attempt to document all of Louisiana’s Carnival celebrations goes beyond the customary publications and print and media accounts that have focused mainly on Greater New Orleans’ world-famed celebration, plus some emphasis on the colorful Courir du Mardi Gras events of rural Southwest Louisiana.

Carnival and its climax of Mardi Gras, with its street parades, masked balls, street masking and myriad other forms of pre-Lenten revelry have been ingrained on my psyche and have provided for much of my civic and cultural participation since my earliest years. A native and lifelong resident of the old Creole French community of New Roads and an 11th generation Louisianan, I witnessed my first Mardi Gras parades in my home town at the age of five, in 1972, and have never missed one since. The success of New Roads’ duo of parades, the first known to be established as charitable fundraisers, became a primary concern when I accepted the post as chairman of the New Roads Lions Carnival parade in 1993.

In my teenage years, I experienced my first New Orleans parades and, shortly thereafter, those of Lafayette, Thibodaux and Houma. Expansion of Louisiana’s parading calendar drew me to other parades and activities in Livonia, Maringouin, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge and Batchelor among other communities. Meanwhile, since the age of 12, I began to collect newspaper accounts and read all of the books I could find on the subject of Carnival and began to amass a collection of articles, parade and ball programmes, doubloons and glass beads, old ball favors, ducal decorations and vintage photos kindly given me by family, friends and strangers form near and far.

Assuming the journalism profession in 1987 and beginning to author books in 1993, I have devoted considerable attention to the history and traditions of Carnival in Louisiana. My membership in New Orleans krewes allowed me to ride in parades and participate in balls in the Carnival City while continuing to promote New Roads’ Mardi Gras traditions and supporting the parades and balls in several other cities and towns. I am blessed that my wife, Mary, has been of support in my various endeavors, and has accompanied me to parades, balls and other Carnival events since before the time of our marriage in 2000.

Having conducted research since 1979 on Louisiana’s Carnival history and traditions, I thought the time had come by 2015 to put the fruit of my labors into manuscript form and offer it to a publisher of great repute, namely LSU Press. Through the kind editing assistance of Mrs. Margaret Lovecraft and coordination with many of the Press’ talented and kind staff, I am confident that we have produced a work of lasting value that pays homage to one of Louisiana’s richest cultural assets, in its many manifestations and locations throughout the Carnival State.

Place an order for Carnival in Louisiana through our website before Feb. 28 and get 30% off. Use code 04THIRTY at checkout.

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