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Mardi Gras Indians share how to prepare for parades and competitions

Posted at 11:13 AM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 12:13:21-05

Mardi Gras Indians have been a part of the culture of Mardi Gras in Lafayette for decades.

Local Mardi Gras Indians shared with KATC how they prepared for this year's competition at Miami Moon.

Mike Chaisson, the Veazey Warrior, has been making Mardi Gras Indian costumes since 2005. A tradition he says he picked up from his family.

"I saw a bunch of family members making costumes and at the same time at had a couple of friends that did it too so that's how I got started in the Indian stuff you know,” Chaisson said.

The tradition of the Mardi Gras Indians began around 1732 when blacks participated as a cultural foundation of New Orleans and Mardi Gras history according to the African American register.

Chaisson says his costume style resembles the New Orleans style.

"I learn a lot from the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans…So what I do is a three-dimensional type of Beadwork," Chaisson said.

However, he puts a bit of a spin on the design.

"A lot of the guys where long pants I wear short pants and I wear a short-sleeved shirt,” Chaisson said.

And although he didn’t initially want to reveal this year's's a hint.

"I'm coming out with the Grambling colors," Chaisson said.

Patrick Francis has also been masking for over two decades...this year he will be showcasing his most enormous suit to date.

Just the headpiece measures almost two yards. He says there are countless amount of hours that go into making his costumes every year.

"Indian suits you're looking at about seven to eight months. Carrying about seven to eight to ten thousand stones on it,”

And each suit comes with its own inspiration... Francis has kept several over the years creating his own museum.

He says when making the costume he doesn’t always know exactly what the finished product will look like.

"You start placing this here and there and you start to see different things. Because I wasn't initially about to put ruffles on it, but then I start to play with and 'BOOM" now the ruffles belong there,” Francis said.

And one of everyone's main concerns is how to carry such huge costumes long distances. some can be up to 70 to 80 pounds

Each ranges between 700 to thousands of dollars to make.

"The way that I'm making my suites today is much lighter,” Chaisson said.

"The more you put on the heavier it's going to be,” Francis said.

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