Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grand Coteau named one of the state's new Cultural Districts

    Grand Coteau, one of the few rural districts on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of eight new Cultural Districts in the state of Louisiana.  Approved by the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Cultural Districts allow designated property owners to apply for state historic tax credits for 
Antique shop in Grand Coteau
renovation projects. Sales of original works of art in the districts are tax exempt.
    Grand Coteau joins Eunice and Arnaudville as other Cultural Districts in St. Landry Parish. As of July 1, there are now 59 districts in 34 towns and 24 parishes across the state.
    In addition to Grand Coteau, other recently approved districts include the Highland Community in Shreveport, Denham Springs, Donaldsonville, Downtown DeRidder, Breaux Bridge, Ascension Parish and Old South Baton Rouge.
    Patrice Melnick, an arts events organizer and gift shop owner in Grand Coteau, says the Cultural District designation is a big boost for the town.
    "This designation will help to highlight the arts in Grand Coteau including literary, visual and performing," said Melnick. "Grand Coteau is home to musicians Jude Taylor and Curly Taylor, to quilt maker Gwendolyn Miller and recylce artist Trish Ransom. And the Festival of Words and other literary events are flourishing.
     “As a merchant, I appreciate the opportunity to highlight hand-made, original art, and the tax-free benefit will certainly catch the attention of tourists and local shoppers."
    Grand Coteau rests on a ridge that was once the west bank of the Mississippi River some 2,000 years ago. Established as a town in 1821, Grand Coteau became a home of Acadian, Creole, Irish and German immigrants.
    The town has more than 70 structures designated as architecturally significant of the historic cultures that settled the region. Grand Coteau and Catholicism share a history of nearly 200 years through the Academy of the Sacred Heart, established in 1821, and St. Charles College, a Jesuit boarding school founded in 1837.
    Many historic buildings are surrounded by age-old oak trees that form alleys, groves and gardens. Antiques and art shops and studios abound throughout the town.
    “For our 102-year-old building, we will be able to do renovations with assistance from the state of Louisiana,” said Greg  Thibodeaux, business manager at St. Charles College.
St. Charles College
    As a Cultural District, Grand Coteau can use its designation to attract people, businesses, renovations and cultural activities. The state law provides two targeted tax incentives for cultural districts: (1) the rehabilitation of older buildings may qualify for state historic tax credits and (2) the sale of original, one-of-a-kind qualifying works of art are exempt from state and local sales tax.
    The 2010 Cultural Districts Annual Report supports the premise that by incentivizing cultural development, a community diversifies and develops new economic opportunities. In 2010, the existing 51 districts boast 777 cultural assets and hosted 548 events in 2010 that served approximately 3.5 million people.
    A total of 783 new businesses opened within the boundaries of cultural districts during 2010. Of those, 191 were art/cultural businesses.
    Factoring in businesses that closed during the same period in these districts targeted for cultural development, the percentage of art and cultural businesses increased by 35%.
    The Louisiana Cultural District program is a model recognized by the National Association of State Arts Agencies and featured in the Mayors' Institute on City Design's (MICD) most recent publication, Creative Placemaking. Louisiana takes pride in our Cultural District hubs of cultural development.
    For more information on the state’s Cultural District Program, visit

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Boudin: The Traveling Exhibit now at Visitor Information Center

    Boudin is to south Louisiana, as clam pizza is to New Haven, Connecticut. As the green chile cheeseburger is to Santa Fe, New Mexico. As Frogmore stew is to Saint Helena, South Carolina. This Cajun Country sausage of pork, rice, and spice is a totem of culinary identity.
    The Southern Foodways Alliance’s latest documentary project, a traveling exhibit, profiles the ubiquitous and beloved Cajun fast food, boudin. The exhibit is at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center in Opelousas July 27 through Sept. 9. The new center, which opened May 23, is located at exit 23 on I-49.
     Thanks to funding from McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco® Brand Products, SFA’s work on boudin began in 2006 with oral histories of storied boudin makers like Robert Cormier of the Best Stop in Scott; Patsy Frey of Billy and Ray’s Boudin in Opelousas; and John Saucier of Saucier’s Sausage Kitchen in Mamou.  
    The SFA’s repository of boudin-focused oral histories has grown into a standalone website, complete with an interactive map at Today nearly 50 oral histories are available online. More recently, when Butterfield and Robinson’s Global Heritage Fund offered support, the SFA developed Boudin: The Traveling Exhibit, which draws on those oral histories to tell the tale of one of Cajun country’s iconic foods.
    For more information on the University of Mississippi-based Southern Foodways Alliance and its mission to document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South, visit
    Information is also available from the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission at (337) 948-8004. Follow the Visitor Information Center on Twitter @StLandryParish or on Facebook at St. Landry Parish – It’s Gumbo for Your Soul. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Vermilionaires perform July 31 at Music of Acadiana Series

    The Vermilionaires show off their Cajun twin fiddle and accordion skills during the Music of Acadiana series, set for Sunday, July 31 at the NUNU’s, the old Singleton Lumber building, 1510 Highway 93, in Arnaudville. The three-piece band features brothers Louis and Andre Michot of the Grammy-nominated Lost Bayou Ramblers and Matthew Doucet, son of renowned fiddler Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil.
    A jam session, open to musicians of all levels, starts at 2 p.m. An interview with the Vermilionaires is set for 3:15 p.m., followed by their performance at 4 p.m.
Louis and Andre Michot
    Andre Michot began playing Cajun music at 13. playing rhythm guitar for Les Frères Michot since 1988 and acting as master accordionist Ray Abshire’s entire rhythm section.  Andre is also known as one of Acadiana’s most solid rhythm guitarists.
    Following his father, Tommy Michot, accordionist for the family band Les Frères Michot, Andre picked up the accordion in 1999, and formed the Lost Bayou Ramblers with brother Louis. He has since studied accordion under Ray Abshire, learned the art of accordion building under Randy Falcon, and has completed and sold over a dozen accordions under the name Michot Accordions.
    Louis Michot started playing Cajun music on the stand-up bass at age 15 with Les Frères Michot.  At 19, he began playing the fiddle with Matthew Doucet.
    As a member of the Lost Bayou Ramblers, he has toured throughout the lower 48 states, and in seven countries, earning a Grammy nomination in 2008, and winning Offbeat’s Best of the Beat award in 2009. Louis currently resides near Arnaudville and hosts “Le Reviel,” a weekly Cajun French radio program from 7-9 a.m. Sundays on KRVS 88.7 FM and online at
    Born and raised in Lafayette. Matthew Doucet grew up surrounded by Cajun music. He is most noted for his work Lost Bayou Ramblers and has played with several bands throughout his career.
    Doucet’s style of fiddling is reminiscent of old-time Cajun and Creole fiddlers that reflect the hard times and good times of life in southwest Louisiana.
    Admission to the Music of Acadiana series is $5, free for children 12 and younger. Guests can bring their own refreshments, but food and soft drinks will be available.
    The Music of Acadiana series is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Acadiana Arts Council.
    For more information on the series, call (337) 948-8004.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

First Fridays arts series features violin maker Anya Burgess

    Call Anya Burgess a luthier, but know that the term has nothing to do with her religion. Burgess is part of a rare profession of artists who make and repair stringed musical instruments.
    Burgess shows off her skills as a luthier Friday, July 15 during First Fridays with a Little Lagniappe, the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission’s showcase of local artists. Burgess displays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the new St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center at exit 23 on I-49, just north of Opelousas.
Anya Burgess
    Burgess will show various stages of the violin building process -- from chunks of wood to the finished instrument. She will also play the fiddle, which she does professionally with Bonsoir Catin and the Magnolia Sisters, two all-female Cajun bands.
    Since 2002, Burgess has owned and operated Anya Violins, a violin making, repair and restoration shop that sits on the Bayou Teche between Arnaudville and Cecilia. She builds, repairs and rents violins to a clientele that ranges from classical violinists to Cajun fiddlers.
    A native of Winchester, Mass., Burgess studied violin making at Indiana University and received an associate’s degree in stringed instrument technology. Burgess joined Teach for America, an organization that sends recent graduates to teach in low-income areas around the country.
    Burgess landed in south Louisiana and immediately became involved in the region’s vibrant music scene.
     Admission is free to the First Fridays series, which continues through Sept. 16. The remainder of the schedule includes:
·         Aug. 5 – The Art of Debris: Mixed Media, Art Created from Found Objects with Trish Ransom and Michelle Fontenot
·         Aug. 19 – The Art of Mixed Media, with George Marks and hand-sculpted clay from Annie Hendrix
·         Sept. 2 – A Celebration of Creole Culture with Rebecca Henry’s native crafts and painter Jerome Ford
·         Sept. 16 – A Piece of Art is Worth a Thousand Words with former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque and Patrice Melnick
    The First Fridays series is held at the new St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center, which held its grand opening May 23. With numerous environmentally-friendly features, the center promotes green construction and sustainable practices, both old and new.
    First Fridays is supported in part by a Grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Acadiana Arts Council.
    For more information, call the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission at (337) 948-8004. Follow the center on Twitter @StLandryParish or on Facebook at St. Landry Parish – It’s Gumbo for Your Soul.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Zydeco Breakfast fuels Zydeco Festival weekend

    Lil Wayne and Same Ol’ Two Step bring their high-energy zydeco sounds to the 9th annual Zydeco Breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 under the oak trees surrounding the historical St. Landry Parish Courthouse. Wayne Singleton and band produce both old- and new-style zydeco with a distinct way of blending the two. 
    Singleton is a young but very knowledgeable musician who cut his teeth with zydeco legends Beau Jocque, Keith Frank and Zydeco Force.   
Wayne Singleton
    Held in conjunction with the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival in Plaisance, the City of Opelousas, the “Zydeco Music Capital of the World”, along with Opelousas Main Street, host the annual downtown event. This year, the Zydeco Festival celebrates its 29th year. 
    After the Zydeco Breakfast, folks are invited to the Opelousas Museum & Interpretive Center located at 315 Main Street in Opelousas for an exhibit which features a unique glimpse of zydeco. Walking Tour guides of the Historic District will also be available during the event. 
    Other festival related events include:
·         Aug. 5 -- Zydeco Media Event Kick-off for the Zydeco Festival, Farmer's Market, 828 E. Landry St., Opelousas. Open to the public. Official Proclamation and Ribbon Cutting opens Zydeco Season 2011. Live zydeco band and Creole food. (337) 942-2392.
·         Aug. 6- --The 6th Annual Zydeco King & Queen Ball, North Park Teen Center, 1524 S. Market St., Opelousas. Live music. 9 p.m. - until. $10 admission. (337) 942-2392.
·          Aug. 20-21 -- Annual Fun Run, South Park, Opelousas. Zydeco Family Fun Day in the park with music, food and awards for participation in the 5K (official registered track) or 1-mile walk or run. Contact (337) 942-2392.  
    For more information about the City of Opelousas Zydeco Breakfast, call 337-948-6263 or visit  For more information about the Zydeco Festival, visit