Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

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!

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for the Sulphur Mines Festival and the Swamp Pop Fest in Gonzales -- #atozchallenge

S is for the Sulphur Mines Festival, which honors the rich industrial history of the town of Sulphur, upon which the town was established. The Brimstone Museum in Sulphur sponsors the event, which took place last month. Read more about the Brimstone Museum and the history of Sulphur and the Mines here and here.

S is also for the Swamp Pop Fest in Gonzales, La. This fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation takes place on July 15-16. See their website for more information.

Personally, I have a hard time differentiating between swamp pop and other forms of Louisiana music. This page on their site says swamp pop is Cajun music with a "rocking" flair, using electric guitars and saxophones instead of fiddles and accordions. For descriptions of the swamp pop, zydeco, and Cajun music genres, see this website.

What is your favorite Louisiana musical genre and why?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for the Iowa Rabbit Festival and the Crowley International Rice Festival -- #atozchallenge

We're a bit over halfway with the A to Z Blogging Challenge and so far so good. I've been featuring Louisiana festivals that highlight the unique diverse culture that defines life in Louisiana.

Today's letter is R and R stands for the Iowa (I-way) Rabbit Festival. The annual March event used to be held in Iowa but now takes place in nearby Lake Charles' Burton Coliseum. The festival began in 1987 as a way to promote the only rabbit processing plant in the area. I did not know that. According to the website, the plant is long gone, but the festival lives on. Food options include fried rabbit, rabbit stew, and rabbit sauce piquant. Hasenpfeffer! Naturally, there is a cook-off. And a rabbit show.

Andrew and I attended this event in 2011. You can read about our adventure here.

R is also for the Crowley International Rice Festival. One of the things that perplexed and fascinated us since our arrival in Louisiana nine years ago is the local culinary fixation on rice. The locals eat rice with everything! One of the most popular everyday meals is "rice and gravy." (They usually include meat. No idea why they don't mention that.) Granted, rice is a major local cash crop. But I'd be curious how many pounds of rice the average person living in southwest Louisiana consumes a year. A lot! Oddly, and sadly for me, rice pudding is not thing here. ??

Oh, about the festival . . . it takes place October 20-23 this year. Likely the dates have something to do with harvest time. The Charlie Daniels Band will entertain concertgoers this year. That's a pretty big deal! As well as many other bands. And the Budweiser Clydesdales will be there! Events include a Rice Creole and Cookery Contest, a Poker "Rice" Run for the biker set, a 5K Run/Walk for the athletic types, and a Classic Car Show, for the gear heads. Read more on this festival here.

What is your favorite rice dish? Have you ever owned a rabbit? Do you eat rabbit?