On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, Cajun communities across Louisiana celebrate what’s known as the Courir de Mardi Gras, or Mardis Gras Run. Revellers—in groups that can number in the thousands—drink, chase fowl through muddy fields, and dress in colorful, ornate costumes.

“These are the poor folk’s version of Mardi Gras,” says Larry G. Miller, a local accordion maker. Unlike those in better-known carnival cities like New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, “our costumes are made of whatever rags and pieces of cloth that you can put together,” he says.

The bacchanal starts early. Partiers, often dressed in painted, wire-mesh masks, stop at houses along a planned route, collect contributions to a communal gumbo, all while singing and dancing on their way to the main event—a chicken toss. It’s pretty straightforward: Someone tosses a live chicken and dozens of (by now) drunken men—women are typically excluded—and chase it around an open field. The booze and clunky costumes make the task a bit more challenging. Once caught, the chicken is at the mercy of its captors.