Happy Halloween: Beware of the Rougarou!
On Saturday October 25th, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta field team came together to recruit supporters for coastal restoration at Rougarou Fest in Houma, Louisiana. Rougarou Fest is a family-friendly festival with a spooky flair that celebrates the rich folklore that exists along the bayous of Southeast Louisiana. It is also the primary fundraiser supporting the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that is working to educate individuals about Louisiana’s disappearing coast.
If you are not a native to southern Louisiana, you may be wondering, “What is a rougarou?” The rougarou legend has been spread for many generations directly from French settlers. In the Cajun legends, the rougarou is said to prowl the swamps around Acadiana and Greater New Orleans as well as the fields and forests of the regions. The rougarou is a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to a werewolf!
Rougarou Fest was full of fun, along with a few spooky scares. Throughout the day, the field team passed out educational materials and talked to festival goers about the importance of restoring Louisiana wetlands. At the Restore the Mississippi River Delta table, children got temporary tattoos of ghosts and monsters while they colored lively graphics of rougarous, spiders and vampire bats that begged for their ecosystems to be protected. The occasional zombie approached the table with a blank stare and slight growl. The zombies seemed confused and angry that their Louisiana was underwater. Their homes gone. They could not believe that Louisiana is now losing a football field of land every hour!
At 6 p.m., four brave wetland warriors ran in the Rougarou Zombie Run. They had to dodge dozens of zombies in order to survive the race. Each warrior was given a belt with three flags. Our team of wetland warriors made it out alive but was exhausted from sprinting from the enraged zombies.
At 7 p.m., the Krewe Ga Rou parade rolled with over thirty floats rolling through downtown Houma. Children and adults alike lined the streets with jack-o-lanterns waiting for candy and the occasional spook. The Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign marched in the parade handing out nearly twenty pounds of candy and over 300 pledge cards, which asked individuals to pledge to vote and to urge candidates to support coastal restoration. Costumes were essential! The Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign marched as zombie football fans with signs reading “Where’s the Game?” “Every Hour Louisiana Loses a Football Field of Land” and “Restore the Coast, Protect Tradition.” These zombie football fans couldn’t believe that one of Louisiana’s greatest traditions, football, was being threatened. The zombies seemed unable to find the Saints game, as the football field had succumbed to the Gulf of Mexico!
Rougarou Fest was certainly a fun-filled fall day in Houma! I hope you all have a terrific Halloween, and please, be careful. Avoid essential Rougarou habitat: fields, forests and swamps. Happy Halloween!