Flamingos & Mardi Gras, a Spanish Town Tradition

Photo by GIOIAPHOTO/Shutterstock.com

Every February, communities around the world celebrate Mardi Gras. In the United States, nowhere is more known for its Mardi Gras outbursts than Louisiana. In Baton Rouge, the city has found a way to include flamingos in its Mardi Gras mix.

Spanish Town is a historic district located in the Louisiana capital. It’s the oldest neighborhood in Baton Rouge and home to one of the premier Mardi Gras parades in the city. Spanish Town likes to add a special twist to its Mardi Gras celebrations that you don’t see anywhere else - flamingos!

Flamingos & Mardi Gras, a Spanish Town Tradition

When it’s Mardi Gras time, the people and businesses of Spanish Town display wooden cutouts of the fabulous fowl around the neighborhood. This peculiar (but awesome!) tradition dates back many years.

“When the original parades started, the residents of Spanish Town had taken some decorations from their yards, which were pink flamingos, and attached them to their wagons that they were pulling down Spanish Town Road, and it stuck,” Bill Brumfield, the then-president of the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana (SPLL), the organization that puts on the Spanish Town Parade, told Taylor Schoen of LSU’s The Reveille in 2013.

It gets even more weird (again, in a good way!).

Since 1980, the SPLL has placed massive pink flamingos made of wood in University Lake in the wee hours of the night. Once dawn breaks, people come to the body of water to retrieve the replicas, “adopting” them as their own. The two dozen or so flamingos disappear within a handful of hours.

“We put them in (the lake) the other morning,” Robert King, the current SPLL president, said to Jordan Arcenaeux of Unfiltered With Kiran on Jan. 25. “We finished up about 3:30, 3:45 in the morning. We started at 1:30 and I went out there around noon and they had about 12 to 15 left, and I came back a little after noon and there were like three or four left. It’s just fun to see people get all excited about them.”

The tradition started as a way to promote the Spanish Town Ball. The popularity of that event has grown so much that it’s no longer necessary, but the floating of the flamingos persists as an annual tradition that sends people out into the murky waters to collect a fabulous friend.

Flamingos have become the unofficial mascot of Spanish Town, embodying the saying, “poor taste is better than no taste at all,” according to the SPLL’s website.

So, if you find yourself in Baton Rouge or the surrounding area come Mardi Gras, go to University Lake to adopt yourself one of these grand flamingos. It’s a high honor to possess such art, and for those hooked into the flamingo fandom, you might consider this a bucket list sort of experience. Just know that it might not be pleasant until you’re back on dry land.

“The water was disgusting,” then-LSU student Greg Jennings told Schoen of The Reveille. “The lake water was really dirty, but it’s a small lake. It was really shallow. I had to float so I wouldn’t sink in the mud.”