Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zydeco Music -- #atozchallenge

The "unincorporated community" (aka lots of crop fields and a few houses) of Plaisance, La., which I'd never heard of until I researched zydeco festivals, hosts the annual Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival.

The event got its start 34 years ago as a way to celebrate and preserve the rich history of zydeco music in Louisiana. Key instruments in this genre are the accordian and washboard. Zydeco is said to have originated with the French Creoles, but this Wiki link suggests there are Atakapa (Louisiana native American Indians) and African roots, as well. All I know is the music is fun, upbeat, and people love to dance to the lively sounds. Check out this video by Chubby Carrier at a festival a few years ago.

One of my most fun experiences of zydeco happens every Saturday morning over in Breaux Bridge at Cafe de Amis's Zydeco breakfast. It's a blast! Read that post here.

For more information on the festival, see their website here.

And that, folks, concludes the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for the Yambilee Festival in Opelousas, La. -- #atozchallenge

I've been to Opelousas a couple times, but I was not aware they have such a passion for yams. The French, Spanish, and Acadians learned to eat sweet potatoes around 1760 from the Native American Indians who lived in Louisiana. The Sweet Golden Yam has been a stable on Louisiana dinner tables since then.

This festival to celebrate yams and Louisiana farming has been an annual event since 1946 and takes place late November. I've often wondered if there is a botanical difference between yams and sweet potatoes. The festival website uses the words interchangeably, so I'm guessing not.

I've never been to this festival, but as I said, I've been to Opelousas. You can read about one adventure to the interesting historic town here.

And I've eaten Louisiana yams. I love to buy them at farmers markets or roadside stands. They're very good!
For more festival information, check the website.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for the ThibodeauXville Fall Festival

Like I imagine many of my fellow A to Z Bloggers, I must stretch the parameters a bit to find a subject, in this case a festival, to write about that starts with the letter X.

Here in Louisiana, SO many words, especially last names and the names of towns, which are often one and the same, END in the letter X. It's the whole French influence and heritage thing. Words I never knew existed prior to moving to LA. But I can, after nine years, tell you I'm getting MUCH better at pronouncing said words.

One common last name is Thibodeaux (TIB-o-dough). The same name can also be spelled, depending on the family, Thibodaux. There's a town by the same name. The Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual event they call the Thibodeauxville Fall Festival. Thibodeauxville apparently was the original name of Thibodaux. The event is held on the second Saturday of each November, and I read they have arts and crafts, music, a car show, and fabulous food. Interestingly, no two food vendors can offer the same food. So I guess there is quite a variety! And there's a Louisiana inspired cook-off . . .
 . . . and a "famous duck race" where hundreds of yellow, rubber ducks float down Bayou Lafourche. Each duck is numbered and tickets cost $5 each. May the fastest duck win!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for the DeRidder Watermelon Festival -- #atozchallenge

After we moved to southwest Louisiana in the summer of 2007, I was determined to discover everything I could about this new country, er, I mean state. We called it our Summer of Immersion. One way to learn about a culture is to do what the locals do, see what they see, eat what they eat, listen to their music and their language. In other words, go to festivals.

Louisiana festivals have been the theme of my A to Z Blogging Challenge. W is for the the DeRidder Watermelon Festival. This was the very first festival we attended after moving to Lake Charles.

We drove north on Highway 171, taking in the terrain, until we came to the railroad town of DeRidder, about a 30-40 minute drive from our home in Moss Bluff. It wasn't hard to find the festival. We strolled around the fairgrounds, and because it was a watermelon festival, we were in search of some watermelon to eat. When we saw the price of a "slice" of the sweet juicy melons they grow in Sugartown, La. (population 54), we were a bit perplexed. The cost was more than we expected for a "slice" of melon. So we ordered just two. And then we understood why they were "expensive." The "slice" was more like a slab! We asked for four sporks and dug in!

Read about our Summer of Immersion here and learn more about the June 23-25 watermelon festival here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for VooDoo Experience -- #atozchallenge

In Louisiana, V is for Voodoo and of course, there's a festival for that.

This festival does not celebrate the actual practice of voodoo. No gris-gris bags or cloth dolls stuck with pins. Well, I suppose there may be some vendors . . . But the Voodoo Experience is an annual New Orleans festival that features art and "high octane" (aka hard rock/heavy metal) music over or around Halloween. This year's event takes place October 28-30. With Halloween as a seasonal backdrop, most festival-goers attend in costume. Festivities take place at New Orleans City Park.

The 2016 line-up has not yet been released, but past performers include Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Marilyn Manson, Pearl Jam, Muse, Neil Young, Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Nine Inch Nails. 

I'll not be attending this event -- not my scene. But it is yet another example of the rich, diverse culture that defines Louisiana.

What genres of music do you enjoy?

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for the Uncle Sam Jam in Metarie, La. -- #atozchallenge

I think Uncle Sam Jam is a really cool name for an Independence Day celebration, don't you? This Metarie, La. event takes place July 3 this year. A beautiful park setting, hopefully fabulous weather, food vendors, entertainment, live music. And of course, a spectacular fireworks display! The only thing missing maybe is an apple pie contest?

Fireworks Uncle Sam Jam Jefferson Parish

I have fond memories of July 4th festivities throughout my life. When I was a kid growing up in a small town in southwest Pennsylvania, we'd drive to the Fayette County fairgrounds to watch the fireworks. As a young adult living in Pittsburgh, I watched fireworks from Point State Park, or a friend's boat on the river, or if I dared to fight traffic, from atop Mt. Washington. Thanks to Zambelli Fireworks, I don't think there is a city in the country who does fireworks like Pittsburgh. Or as often. Fond memories.

Now in Lake Charles, I watch fireworks from the Civic Center, the docks at Bord du Lac Marina, or our sailboat on the lake. All my life, I've held a disdain for loud noises. But there's something about fireworks . . . the way the BOOM resonates in my chest, the wild colors, the surprise and anticipation of what might come next, and the thrill of the "grand finale." I've always loved watching fireworks.

This is my favorite Independence Day photo -- my husband Bob and sons Andrew (L) and Eric (R). Circa 1995. The boys were nine months old.

What are your favorite Fourth of July memories?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival -- #atozchallenge

T is for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Here's a festival that breaks from the expected carnival games and rides, food vendors, parades, and royalty and replaces them with words. Attendees at this annual March event enjoy five days to celebrate and showcase national and regional scholars and writers. The festival began in 1986 by a group of citizens who wanted to spotlight the region's rich cultural heritage through the art of writing. Besides over 100 literary speakers, a highlight of the festival is the popular contests for poetry, fiction, and one-act plays. Grand prize winners in each category receive $1500!

Apparently there's also a contest for this famous scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Stella!!

Image result for Tennessee Williams literary festival photos

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was an iconic American playwright famous for productions such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and of course, A Streetcar Named Desire. Williams lived for a time in New Orleans' French Quarter. His play Vieux Carré was set in the Quarter. For more information on Williams, here's the Wiki link.

Locally, Keagan LeJeune, professor of English at McNeese State University, was selected as a finalist in this year's festival poetry contest last month. Congratulations!