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Larry Callies comes from a long line of black Americans living and working on the frontier. I was 3 years old when I knew I wanted to be a cowboy.


On any given weekend in towns across Louisiana and Texas, hooves click-clack on pavement and wagons blast infectious zydeco rhythms.


Holding the horse's reins in one hand, and a cold beer in the other, is a long line of cowboys. Not the John Wayne-type typically seen in Hollywood westerns, but African American men and women, celebrating their culture on a Creole trail ride.

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These campout festivals involve a procession of horses and wagons, spicy Creole food, traditional line dancing and all-night partying. Bring a cowboy hat, an empty stomach and a horse if you got one because everyone's welcome as long as they behave. Here's what you need to know about Creole trail rides.

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No one knows exactly when trail rides first began, but they have surged in popularity in the last decade as urbanites skip the clubs in favor of these wildly fun parties in the dusty countryside. The first trail rides were organized by black Creoles — descendants of Africans and the French or Spanish colonizers who settled the area before it was part of the US — who were excluded from white cowboy culture. Some historians say as many as one in four cowboys in early America were black.

Traditionally, trail rides included only members of the local community — family, friends and members of cowboy associations — but Paul Scott, the coordinator of Step-N-Struta three-day trail ride commonly known as the Creole Woodstock, said when outsiders come, regulars fall all over themselves trying to welcome them.

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People tend to show up early in the morning for trail rides, which are usually held on Saturdays in Texas and Sundays in Louisiana. Some feed their horses before the ride begins while others set up an RV for camping out, though not everyone stays the night.

Those without a horse — the majority of attendees — ride along in wagons, which are usually equipped with loudspeakers, an ice chest packed with booze and a port-a-potty for emergencies.

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When everyone's ready, the lead wagon begins the ride and the riders follow along, with everyone else dancing their way down the trail or partying inside the wagons. After a few hours riding along the trail, the fun is far from over.

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A campsite is set up, where southern soul, country and zydeco Creole music that typically features the accordion, fiddle and washboard will begin to play as horses are given some much-needed rest. Hip-hop has also made its way into the trail riding world, albeit with some controversy — some object to it being untraditional and say it makes people too rowdy.

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Despite the pushback, a pulsing, unique blend of hip-hop and zydeco music is one of the main reasons for the recent increase in the popularity of trail rides. Care to dance? Don't be shy. When music is playing, line dances come along, too. Scott, a year-old who has been organizing Creole events since his teens, says people are more than willing to show newcomers how to boogie.

In sizzling pots around camp, expect to find ball crabs, crawfish, shrimp and potatoes or pretty much anything that can be smothered in a brown gravy made from a broad roster of local animals including deer, rabbit, squirrel, pork, chicken, sausage or rooster. There's a good chance somebody will invite you over to come and share their meal — everybody tends to make plenty. The same goes for drinks on wagons during the ride.

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Southern hospitality is very real on trail rides, but make sure you wait until you're offered and express your gratitude. Trail rides are a ton of fun, but as with anything involving alcohol, things can get a bit rowdy.

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Many trail rides include first responders just in case. The best way to find one is by visiting the Zydeco Events website. Two of the biggest are Step-N-Strut, which attracts as many as people over three days in November, and Four Horsemen, which can see as many people.

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But you don't need to go to the biggest trail rides to have a great time. A taste of Louisiana: ature dishes of the Bayou state On the cajun music trail in Louisiana Buying boots in Texas. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

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Creole trail rides highlight black cowboy history. Joel Balsam. This article was originally published in October and updated in January Share this story:.

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