My Rouses Everyday, September/October 2017
It’s 8 a.m. on gameday, and David Dugas is fiddling with the laptop/dual speaker PA system that acts as his DJ station. Above his head a banner reads: “WELCOME TO RAGIN’ CAJUN TAILGATING A TRADITION OF JOIE DE VIVRE WHERE THE ROADKILL MEETS THE ROUX AT THE HANDS OF THE KREWE DE CHEW.” This slogan embodies what one of UL Lafayette’s oldest tailgating groups is all about: good times and good eats.
Before the day is over, thousands of fans will walk by the krewe’s spot on Reinhardt Drive. Many will stop in to dance to Cajun music, grab a plate of BBQ and visit for a while. On any given gameday, the krewe feeds around 125 people, and rival teams usually receive an invitation to stop by for a bite.
“Visiting fans say, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’” says Dugas, who serves as pitmaster along with his DJ duties. It’s his job to cook the BBQ chicken and pork ribs for the first game of the season, when it’s still too warm for gumbo. A UL Lafayette alum and oilfield executive, Dugas tows his large pit behind his truck and slathers his ribs with a concoction of Sweet Baby Ray’s® BBQ Sauce, brown sugar and several secret ingredients.
While Krewe de Chew members meet weeks before the opening game to discuss the season’s menu — home-cooked appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts — this group of about 15 couples is just as well-known for its unleashed revelry. Co-founder Randy Monceaux remembers how one of their most popular traditions began.
“The rooster dance started at my house when we had a supper one night,” he says. “We played the song and everybody started dancing with their arms.” The song Monceaux refers to is “You Can’t Rooster Like You Used To” by Zydeco Joe. The “rooster” grew into a dance party every time the song was played at their tailgating spot.
“It got so popular,” says Dugas, “everyone would stop by and ask ‘When are you doing the roosta dance?’” Now Krewe de Chew posts a “Rooster Call” schedule so other tailgaters will know when they can see the show. Twice on gamedays, the DJ plays the signature song. Krewe members don rooster masks, flap their arms and throw Mardi Gras beads to visiting fans brave enough to shake their tail feathers.
The camaraderie of this party is what attracts fans to the 20-plus-year-old krewe’s shindig. “We invite everyone,” says Monceaux, a retired alum. “Cheerleaders come chicken dance with us, and everybody in the Sunbelt Conference loves to come to our tent.”
“We have a few folks from other conference teams that we’ve gotten to know,” says Dugas. “They say, ‘If you’re gonna make one away game, UL is the place to come.’”
Since that first Cajun BBQ spread, the krewe’s menu has ranged from Boston butt, gumbo and red beans & rice to jambalaya and cochon de lait. Monceaux is known for his hen & tasso sauce piquante, which contains a can of spicy Rotel®, smoked sausage, tasso and a whole hen. The krewe prides itself on making most dishes from scratch, but if a member can’t cook, they can at least bring the boudin.
A big part of tailgating is the food, but regulars also enjoy catching up with each other each year — and making new friends.
Alum Monica Hebert always stops by the Krewe de Chew tent to say hello before setting up with her Woo Hoo Crew. “It’s like a little community,” she says. “You have tailgating neighbors you get to know, and we help each other out.”
Known for her taco soup and fleur-de-lis carved Halloween pumpkins, Hebert’s been part of her crew for the past 10 years. The Woo Hoos also often have brisket and gumbo on the menu, with a potluck for weekday games. The 20-25 members all share cooking and tent setup and teardown responsibilities.
“We’re there to support the university and football team,” says Hebert, “and spend time with friends and family you don’t get to see all year long, and enjoy the day with good food, good conversation and good company.”
Ronnie Louviere is no stranger to hosting and feeding a crowd. Members of his Ragin’ Crazies group flock to his RV for shelter, bathroom facilities and his sauce piquante. Known as “Cajun Santa,” Louviere is recognizable to tailgating children and parents alike for his long white beard and jolly demeanor. He bought his RV in 2005 after retiring and has held UL season tickets ever since.
“I pull in Friday at 3:30 or 4:00, and they [other RV spot holders] come in until after dark,” he says. “If there’s somebody coming in next to me, we drink a beer and talk. On Sunday, we wake up, drink our coffee, go to Mel’s for breakfast, and come back and start packing up.”
He takes his cooking turn the first game so he can socialize for the remainder of the season. “I talk so much, it’s hard for me to cook and talk at the same time,” he explains. His crowd-pleasing sauce piquante is made using a tomato sauce that’s cooked for 18 hours and blended with a roux, onion, garlic, Cajun seasoning and two lemons. He brings boudin to away games; he says it’s the best thing for making friends in states like Texas and Alabama.
As opening gameday approaches, members of these crews prepare their menus, shine their pits and get their tents in order. To them, tailgating is as vital a sport as the game itself.
“My dad had season tickets in McNaspy Stadium. I remember going to games back then,” Dugas says. “A lot of us have ties that go way back. We’ve been die-hards for many, many years and are just trying to continue to support the program.”
Monceaux remembers there being only 40 tailgating spots when the Krewe de Chew group first organized. “I think we started what real tailgating was all about,” he says. “Whether it was bad years or good, we stayed there. We bring our kids and grandkids, because this is what creates future Ragin’ Cajuns down the road.”