LAFAYETTE CREOLE MARDI GRAS
MCCOMB-VEAZEY MASKING COMPETITION
"Celebrating 31 years of Creole Mardi Gras culture "
MCCOMB-VEAZEY MASKING COMPETITION
John Lewis was a family man born and raised in the McComb neighborhood of Lafayette, Louisiana. He regularly served the McComb-Veazey community by hosting spontaneous cookouts with friends, neighbors, as well as any passerby. John loved to organize community events such as annual Easter egg hunts, neighborhood carnivals, and the McComb-Veazey Masking Competition (MVMC).
John shared stories with his children about the “Old Time Mardi Gras” that were reminiscent to his childhood. He believed that the Creole Mardi Gras experience was a neighborhood cornerstone. He understood that the Creole celebration was a historical part of his community which was embedded in the broader Lafayette Mardi Gras celebration. John decided to make an effort to revive the “old” Mardi Gras tradition in his Creole neighborhood. It was then that the idea for the MVMC was born. With support from his wife, Della, and family and friends the masking competition began in 1988.
The McComb-Veazey Masking Competition (MVMC) began in an open field at the corner of 13th and Plum Street. John reached out to elected representatives, community leaders, business owners, and residents to help judge the competition. Prizes were purchased by John and Della Lewis. Family and friends pitched in to provide food for the public free of charge. This was a their way of giving back to a community that had given so much to them.
As the competition evolved, so did the costumes. The competition motivated participants to study and hone the craft of making their costumes. Creole Mardi Gras costumes transformed from traditional boxed hats, crepe paper, canes, and bull whips to the feathered “Mardi Gras Indian” costumes. The "Indian" costume pays homage to the African American and Native American relationship of the 1700’s.
The successful rejuvenation of the Creole Mardi Gras culture resulted in crowds of people gathered to celebrate. As the crowds became larger, a change of venue was required. The competition was relocated to the corner of 12th and Plum Street, followed by a subsequent move to the corner of and 12th and Apple Street. By 1997, the crowd had grown to over 2,000 revelers. The gathering included several different Lafayette neighborhoods (i.e. McComb-Veazey, Fightingville, Cropperville, Azalea Park, etc.). John had accomplished what he set out to do. The Mardi Gras culture was once again thriving in the McComb-Veazey neighborhood; and in many of the Creole neighborhoods throughout Acadiana.
In 1998, John crowned Dolly Mae Broussard as the Queen of the Mardi Gras competition. Dolly Mae was an energetic neighborhood disc jockey that John persuaded to participate in the event in its early years. Her voice was familiar to the people in the community, therefore he knew that she would be the right person to host and facilitate the event in the years to come. The competition was relocated to Clark Field and renamed the “Mardi Gras Show”. That same year, attendance grew to 3,000 plus spectators.
The McComb-Veazey Masking Competition united communities across Lafayette parish. It provided a family friendly environment that allowed the culture to thrive and be celebrated by future generations.