Lauren Guilliot, Queen Evangeline LXXIX, the Queen of Carnival, carried more than a wand for Lafayette’s Krewe of Gabriel; she carried on a family tradition.
Five generations – more than two dozen of the 19-year-old UL Lafayette student’s relatives – have played prominent roles with the Krewe of Gabriel, the largest krewe in Lafayette. The tradition started with Guilliot’s great-grandfather, Paul John Blanchet Sr., who reigned as King Gabriel XIX. Members of her family have also been queens, dukes, pages and maids.
Queen Evangeline is traditionally a college-age daughter of a Krewe of Gabriel member. Guilliot’s father, Paul, is a member. This year’s King Gabriel LXXIX, the King of Carnival, was Dr. Michael Judice, ’77, a Lafayette pediatrician.
Evangeline and Gabriel were chosen as names for the king and queen of Lafayette Mardi Gras celebrations in 1934. They were inspired by the hero and heroine of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline.” According to gomardigras.com, the names were suggested by Edith Garland Dupré, an English professor for whom UL Lafayette’s library is named.
The poem, published in 1847, is set in Nova Scotia and Louisiana, and revolves around the deportation of Acadians. It tells the story of a French-Canadian woman who spends years searching for her fiancé after the couple is separated on their wedding day. The names remained after the Krewe of Gabriel was formed in 1949.
The krewe hosts two signature parades. The Queen’s Parade rolls on the night of Lundi Gras, which is the Monday preceding Mardi Gras. The King’s Parade is held the next day.
For Guilliot, a sophomore in UL Lafayette’s pre-dental hygiene program, Lafayette’s Mardi Gras fun and celebration amounted to a whirlwind.
She was interviewed by reporters and posed for photographs. Also, she helped host a Queen’s Luncheon at the home of her parents, Paul and Mary Gretchen Guilliot, ’88.
She also learned the protocol for the post-parade Grand Ball of the Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association, where she would reign with King Gabriel LXXIX.
“It was a long week, but it was an amazing experience,” Guilliot said.
The Queen’s Parade began at Pontiac Point near downtown Lafayette and ended near Cajun Field. The procession rolled down Johnston Street, near the University.
“It was awesome around that area. It was cool to throw beads and wave to people I knew from Kappa Delta, and the Ragin’ Jazz Dance Team,” said Guilliot, referring to fellow members of two student organizations to which she belongs.
More than revelry, Guilliot relished claiming a familiar spot on the family tree.
“I feel so honored to be a part of my family’s legacy,” she said.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of La Louisiane, The Magazine of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Photos by Jay Faugot.