Country Roads Magazine "The Holiday Traditions Issue" December 2023

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St Francisville Inn's latest addition in property

OPENING DECEMBER 2023 5720 Commerce Street, St. Francisville, LA For appointments, call 225-635-6502 // D E C 2 3





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REFLECTIONS In defense of fruitcake by James Fox-Smith



Endangered buildings, tiny holiday houses, and 10 years at La Divina



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GUIDING LIGHTS Small town tree lightings, big city fireworks, and more


HOLLY, PINE, AND ORANGES ‘Tis the season for the citrus harvest in Plaquemines Parish


James Fox-Smith

Associate Publisher

by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Ashley Fox-Smith

CHRISTMAS ON THE WATER In Biloxi, the holidays begin with a flotilla light show on the Gulf

Managing Editor

Jordan LaHaye Fontenot

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Alexandra Kennon

by Cherie Ward

LA BELLE MUSIQUE IN LOUISIANA How a most traditional art form endures in the modern world by Kara Bachman

On the Cover

Creative Director

Kourtney Zimmerman


Kara Bachman, Wayan Barre, Megan Broussard, Burton Durand, Mimi Greenwood Knight, Will McGrew, Jonathan Olivier, Cherie Ward

‘ Cover Artist

“LOVE DOVES,” 1997

Judi Betts

Judi Betts, From the Collection of Dr. Luis and Joann Cervantes, East Stroudsbourg, Pennsylvania

In Christian traditions, the dove has long carried with it associations with peace, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. At Christmastime, the bird joins the season’s tableaux of symbols, along with holly and stars and fruitcakes (before you balk, turn to pages 6 and 62), that together construct that assured sense of nostalgia and magic we look forward to each year. In the Gulf South, land of traditions, we are perhaps even more prone to such sentimentality—and known to add our own rituals to the global celebrations. Here, Tchaikovsky’s ballet gets transformed into a bayou story (21), orange wine is preferred over eggnogg (page 34), and the most mesmerizing light installations float in our bodies of water (39). In this season of traditions, it also feels like a keen time to celebrate the work of an artist who is a Baton Rouge institution all her own, the one and only Judi Betts—who is currently being honored with a sixty-year retrospective at the Manship Gallery at the Shaw Center for the Arts. Read more about her work in our Perspectives column on page 62.



THE POT & THE PALETTE COOKBOOK II George Rodrigue’s art competition is once again compiled into a Louisiana cookbook by Alexandra Kennon



THE NEW ISLE Touching base with Louisiana’s first climate refugees by Jonathan Olivier and Will McGrew

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AN ODE TO INDIE BOOKSTORES Discover eight locallyowned shops in Mississippi and Louisiana by Mimi Greenwood Knight

MEET THE NEW AMERICAN GIRL® ACADIAN COLLECTION American Girl®suffers a Cajun fever dream by Megan Broussard


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FRUITCAKE CITY Discovering Corsicana, and its controversial confections by Nina Flournoy

THE ROYAL St. Francisville just upped the ante on luxury ... again by Alexandra Kennon



“PIECES OF COLOR” Sixty years of masterworks by watercolorist Judi Betts by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot



Sales Team

Heather Gammill & Heather Gibbons

Operations Coordinator

Camila Castillo


Dorcas Woods Brown

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fter close to thirty years of calling America home, something that continues to mystify me is my adopted country’s near-universal disdain for fruitcake. What is it about this celebratory confection of butter, sugar, spices, nuts, and booze-soaked fruit that elicits such a collective shudder from the American cake-eating public? How can a society perfectly happy to eat Bunny Bread and chicken nuggets and pumpkin-spiced anything turn its back on such a delicious, shelf-stable combination? Can it really be that, when Johnny Carson made his joke about there being only one fruitcake in America that people keep sending to each other, the whole complicated, fractious nation finally found something that everyone could agree upon? Or is there some older, existential prejudice at work—one that has somehow become associated with throwing off the yolk of British oppression? Did a fruitcake go into Boston Harbor right after all the tea? If so, then take it from this Australian-raised son of homesick English ex-patriots: you’re missing

out. Because when prepared properly, a home-made, fruit-studded, boozesoaked fruitcake represents the very essence of Christmas cheer. When I was a kid, Christmas began in early November, when exotic scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger wafting through the house signified that our mother’s annual Christmas cake-making ritual was underway. For a couple of days beforehand there would be a bowl of dried fruit on the kitchen counter—raisins and currants and candied lemon and orange peel, submerged in brandy and left to soak for a couple of days. A day or two later the actual cake-making would begin. Mum would cream butter, dark brown sugar, and golden syrup with the spices, beat in eggs, flour, then fold almonds and maraschino cherries in with the brandy-soaked fruit. This batter would be piled into a huge cake tin and conveyed into the oven, and the house would fill with the heady fragrance of fruit and spices and brandy that, for both the small boy and the grownup that he has become, will forever be the scent of Christmas … no matter how hot the Australian spring (or the Louisiana fall) might be outside. When the cake emerged and was still hot, Mum

would brush top and sides with more brandy before wrapping the lovely thing in foil and setting it in the pantry to do its thing. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, this cake would be unwrapped and brandy reapplied several times before finally being encased in white marzipan and icing, then decorated with more almonds, candied silver baubles, and sprigs of holly. When the big day finally arrived, after the presents were opened, the champagne popped, and the turkey demolished, this marvelous Christmas cake would be ceremoniously sliced, sampled, and declared by everyone “the best one ever!” Which of course, it always was. Trust me, if that had been among your childhood Christmas memories, you’d go nutty for fruitcake too. But even if it

wasn’t, permit a foreign-born interloper to challenge the cake-bakers of America—or of Louisiana at least—to give fruitcake a(nother) chance! You could try baking the fruitcake described above, which is made using a recipe from a Melbourne bakery named Dench Bakers that is famous for its Christmas cakes. But you don’t have to, because even here, in this land of self-professed fruitcake-haters, the Collin Street Bakery of Corsicana, Texas (aka “The Fruitcake Capital of the World”), will be baking the more than 1.5 million fruitcakes it sells each year, and making a liar out of Johnny Carson over and over again. You’ll find Nina Flournoy’s article about America’s most famous fruitcake bakery on page 56 of this issue. If you’re feeling really ambitious (or seditious), the recipe for Dench Bakers’ Christmas cake is online at Give it a try, and together, perhaps we’ll succeed in shifting the national fruitcake sentiment index, one glorious, brandy-soaked slice at a time. Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season. —James Fox-Smith, publisher


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A Special Advertising Feature from Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center

Easing the ‘Financial Toxicity’ of Cancer Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s Patient Compassion Program is a Lifeline for Many.


he year 2020 will go down in history as a tough one for the world at large, but for the Stipe family in Covington, it was particularly difficult. That’s when married father of two, Bubba Stipe, then 44, was diagnosed with colon cancer during a colonoscopy.

“Even before he woke up from the anesthesia, the doctor pulled me aside,” recalls Bubba’s wife, Christina. Bubba, a St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Sergeant, had Stage 4 colon cancer, and it had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Thus began a long and arduous treatment process that has reached over 50 rounds of chemotherapy over three years. “Bubba’s pretty much been in treatment since his diagnosis except for a five-month period,” said Christina, a kindergarten teacher. “The care he has received at Mary Bird Perkins in Covington has been incredible. They’ve treated us like family. We absolutely love his infusion nurse.” Christina says that the kindness shared by the Cancer Center’s clinical staff has been unwavering, and it’s made a true difference in the family’s ability to maintain a positive outlook. And in addition, the Stipes say they have experienced life-saving generosity from Mary Bird Perkins’ Patient Compassion Fund, which helps ease the financial burden families often face during the cancer journey. Even if a patient is insured, costs accumulate in the form of deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, unbudgeted items and lost wages, said Mary Bird Perkins Manager of Support Services and Navigation Maeghan Jacob.

“The financial toxicity of cancer has not been talked about enough,” Maeghan said. “It doesn’t matter what your income bracket is.” Each year, generous donations from local communities fuel the Cancer Center’s Patient Compassion Fund to ensure that every patient has access to all the resources and support services capable of delivering the best possible outcome, regardless of their personal financial situation. At the outset of treatment, Mary Bird Perkins’ patient navigators counsel each family, exploring what their insurance will support and where they may struggle. Removing the worry from the financial part of the equation goes a long way in helping patients like Bubba focus on the most important task of all: healing. The Cancer Center’s team of navigators informs patients and their families about options available to them through the Patient Compassion Fund. The program can offer direct financial assistance to help offset out-of-pocket expenses, and provide funding when other sources of financial support have been exhausted, Maeghan says. Christina says it’s been a gamechanger and a godsend. “We are so grateful for the financial support we’ve received through Mary Bird Perkins,” Christina says, adding that the program has helped the couple, who both work full-time, cover out-of-pocket costs and help stabilize their family obligations. They have two daughters, ages 19 and 16. Depending on a patient’s needs, patient navigators can also direct families to numerous other resources. While the Patient Compassion Fund provides financial assistance for care and treatment, support from grants, patient assistance programs, and Mary Bird Perkins’ Partners of Hope team member giving program helps leverage additional resources, working to deliver utility assistance, gas cards, private transportation to treatment and even a therapeutic food pantry stocked with fresh produce, frozen meals, shelf stable items and other healthy foods. “Every patient’s cancer experience is different,” said Tanya Suter, director, revenue cycle management, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “That’s why we want to give them as many options as possible to address the financial stressors that can come with a diagnosis.” The program’s navigators work closely with patients so that they understand exactly what their insurance covers, and what it doesn’t. Navigators take a proactive approach in developing comprehensive plans to meet each patient’s unique needs, working closely with the care team and administrative staff to ensure plans are carried out and adjusted as needed. Along with the funds available for those of certain income levels, financial navigators can also help patients apply for financial assistance that partially or completely covers the cost of medications and copays. “Difficult financial situations are unfortunately all too common,” Suter said. “If we can ease the burdens faced by our patients, their quality of life, and potentially outcomes, can improve.” Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s Patient Compassion Fund is made possible through the unwavering generosity of donors who believe in the community cancer center’s vital mission. The fund embodies a shared commitment to ensuring every patient receives exceptional, compassionate care without the burden of financial worry. To learn more about how you can support this program, visit // D E C 2 3



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Photo by Nicole Kossum Photography.

troll along the 500 block of Main Street in Natchez this month and there’s a shop hwindow you can scarcely fail to notice. You might imagine that a small slice of Fifth Avenue has been dropped lock, stock, and pink-andgold garlanded barrel into downtown Natchez and, in a sense, you’d be right. What you’ve stumbled upon is the whimsical kingdom (or queendom) of Olivia Pate, aka “Lady Olivina,” who, with her mother, Sue, elevates the craft of window dressing to its highest expression during the Christmas season. Like a lovingly wrapped gift, the shop windows at Olivina Boutique offer passers-by a tantalizing introduction to their creator’s personal wonderland—a sumptuous Christmas diorama to rival any that a child might find to press her nose against along New York’s famous shopping avenue. “The shop is a combination of my three inspirations: Neverland, Whoville, and the Land of Oz,” explained the Lady Olivina, downing tools to explain to a visitor how all this came to pass. When COVID cut short a five-year stint at New York’s William Esper actor training studio, Olivia Pate came home to Natchez looking for a project into which to pour her barely restrained creativity. “When I came home I needed something to do,” she remarked. “It has always been my dream to be in a world filled with the most whimsical, fantastical things, so I opened up my own Wonderland.” Inside Olivina, the Pates present exquisitely curated fashion, beauty, and home décor collections.

But at Christmastime it’s in the window displays that Pate’s unrestrained creativity really shines. The glowing jewelry boxes frame a snow-capped streetscape of extraordinarily detailed gingerbread houses, each meticulously hand-made by the Lady Olivina from that most mundane of raw materials: cardboard. “The first was an old dollhouse I embellished,” Pate said. “I add all of my favorite things that go on in my head, cutting and carving all the intricate details: window frames, scalloping. I put everything I love into creating them to build a little community, where you can peep into the windows and be transported into a holiday scene.” Last Christmas the houses were such a hit with customers that this year, the Lady Olivina is taking commissions, and envisages her Christmas houses becoming centerpieces in her customers’ own holiday traditions. “Right now, I’m building a giant church that looks like [Natchez’s] St. Mary Basilica,” said Pate, who has moved her workshop to the windows so that passers-by can glimpse the magic taking shape. “I create my own things because I don’t want to have what everyone else has,” she said. “I just love making something that, just for a second, makes people forget where they are.” —James Fox-Smith

Olivina’s Christmas Houses take around a week to build and cost between $200–$400.



ommunity comes first for Mary and Lance LeBlanc, owners of La Divina Italian Cafe, a quaint gelato and espresso bar nestled right off of Perkins Road in Baton Rouge. Since opening the doors in 2013, La Divina has been well known for serving unique gelato flavors such as fig-mascarpone and Guinness chocolate cake, mouth-watering paninis, and the beloved French onion soup. But the eatery has also become a cherished local gathering place. The concept originated in New Orleans, before the LeBlancs decided to bring the establishment to the capital city out of a desire to introduce something new and distinctive. The Cafe’s evolution into a community hub took an unexpected turn when one of their baristas, a musician, proposed the idea of live music in an effort to draw in more people during the evenings, a time when most people have had enough caffeine for the day. The owners were skeptical, concerned about their somewhat limited space, but they took the chance and La Divina has since blossomed into one of the most prominent, and most in8

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timate, venues for local live entertainment. The live music nights have become one of Mary’s favorite elements of the business. She curates the acts for Thursday nights, while every Friday night La Divina passionately encourages and supports young musicians through their “Original Music Group,” which provides an opportunity for anyone to showcase their original compositions. Meanwhile her husband Lance, a visual artist, exhibits a different local artist throughout the cafe every sixty days. Each time a new artist is displayed, La Divina hosts an evening for the artist to be seen and heard, to answer questions, and to discuss their creations. All small businesses face challenges, but Mary attributes resilience as the key to La Divina’s longevity in Baton Rouge. She says, “We’re a canoe, not the Titanic, and when icebergs fall into our way, we can paddle around.” The live music nights tradition, spanning over eight years, not only attracts new patrons and provides a platform for local talent, but offers Mary and Lance an avenue to understand and embrace what their customers

desire. Particularly during the challenging time of the COVID–19 pandemic, the community rallied behind La Divina, ensuring the survival of this beloved local establishment. In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the team at La Divina focused on giving back, hosting a week of hourly prize drawings, free gelato giveaways, raffles, an extended schedule, and complimentary drinks for musicians. In a true endeavor to support the community, La Divina is committed to local sourcing. Their milk comes from Feliciana Farms, and their ciabatta is sourced from a bakery in Baton Rouge. The emphasis on local, scratch-made cuisine remains at the core of their identity, and looking to the future, La Divina plans to expand its offerings, especially in the world of wine. The cafe stands as a testament to adaptability, loyalty to local values, and a gem in Baton Rouge offering not just sorbet-mimosas but a rich tapestry of art, music, and community connections. —Camila Castillo

Endangered Places



urs is an infrastructural culture: the woodgrains holding where we’ve come from, the styles all that we hoped to be, the frameworks how we survived. The buildings that rise today say as much, though perhaps less, than the buildings that are allowed to fall to disrepair. But then, there are the ones that can still be saved. Each year the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation (LTHP) selects ten historically-significant at-risk sites across the state that hold an important place in the identity of local communities. Since 1999, over 180 sites have been recognized as worthy of being saved, resulting in over one-third of them being rehabilitated. This designation, LTHP Executive Director Brian Davis explained, can act as a tool for local preservation advocates to legitimize their efforts and urgency in saving endangered properties, using resources such as designation by the National Register of Historic Places and state and federal tax credits. This year’s ten properties include two historic Catholic churches damaged by recent hurricanes: the circa 1941 Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church and Convent in Lake Charles—which served a majority Black congregation for almost eighty years before sustaining serious damage during Hurricanes Laura and Delta; and the third oldest Catholic church in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, St. John the Baptist (c. 1920)—which survived the eye of Hurricane Ida in 2021, but with serious damage. Also falling victim to recent hurricanes was E.J. Caire & Co. Stores in St. John the Baptist Parish, constructed in 1855 and occupied by the Caire Family as the area’s mercantile store for generations. Ida blew off the roof and the parapets. Many of the sites on this year’s list have been the victim of longer, slower decay— such as the circa 1922 Joy Theatre in Arcadia, which once featured silent films accompanied by a local pianist, but has now been vacant for decades. Endangered sites like the circa-1918 Old West Carrol National Bank, now occupied by the Chamber of Commerce, and New Orleans’s circa 1926 Neoclassical Bolton High School are still in active operation in their communities. This is also true of Barker’s Pharmacy, founded in 1885 in Plaquemine, and the cica-1837 Tchefuncte River Light Station, which still guides boats along the Tchefuncte River despite standing on an eroding shoreline. Two of the most fascinating sites on this year’s list are each vital to preserving the histories of African Americans here in Louisiana. Sweet Olive Cemetery in East Baton Rouge Parish encompasses five acres that mark the resting places of multiple generations of Black residents of the area going all the way back to enslavement. The site is maintained and advocated for by the nonprofit Friends of the Sweet Olive Cemetery, who also educate the public on the individuals buried there. And finally, there is Riverlake Plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish, which today includes the Creole-style plantation home built in 1823, a pigeonnière, and two cabins once occupied by enslaved families and tenant farmers in a community known as Cherie Quarters. The property was famously the birthplace of author Ernest Gaines, and the inspiration for many of his nationally-acclaimed novels—which centered on life in Black communities around plantations post-Civil War. —Jordan LaHaye Fontenot Until December 31, submissions are open for the 2024 Most Endangered Places List at, where you can also read more about the sites on 2023’s list, and the current efforts to save them. The circa-1837 Tchefuncte River Lighthouse still guides boats along the Tchefuncte River today. Image courtesy of the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation.

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Celebrate the season how only Louisiana can, with bayou-set Nutcrackers, boat parades, and bonfires and twinkling lights all up and down the Mississippi... Find our regular listings of nonholiday-adjacent events starting on page 29.

Children's Hospital New Orleans is for the second year teaming up with Kern Studios for their Holiday Parade, which features thirty festive floats created by Mardi Gras World and will be televised locally and nationally. The route begins at the French Market and ends in Lafayette Square with a concert and seasonal celebration. Image courtesy of Children's Hospital New Orleans. See listing on page 17.

Holiday Events

In Greater Baton Rouge November 9–January 11: Twelve Days of Christmas Art Guild of Louisiana Holiday Show: The Art Guild of Louisiana has invited local artists to take inspiration from the classic carol for their holiday exhibition at Independence Park Theatre. A reception will be held December 10 from 2 pm– 4 pm. November 24–December 30: Zoo Lights: BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo's Zoo Lights feature more than fifty illuminated, largerthan-life displays of flamingos, giraffes, lions, tigers, gorillas, and more; and a range of festive family activities all month long. Bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank for a 50% discount on admission. 5:30 pm–8 pm nightly. $5 adults; $4 seniors; $3 ages two through twelve. On Fridays and Saturdays before Christmas, find Santa at the Otter Cabin. Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

November 30 & December 3: Chamber Series Holiday Brass: The full Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra brass and percussion is prepped to put you in the holiday spirit in the magical environs of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church (November 30, 7:30 pm) and Houmas House Gardens (December 3, 4:30 pm). $30–$50. December 1: Reindeer Ride: Welcome the holiday season with an eight-mile nighttime family bike ride along the levee from Farr Park to downtown Baton Rouge, which will be all alight with its Festival of Lights celebrations. Bring your own bike or rent one from BREC for $10. 6 pm–8 pm. Free. December 1: LSU Museum of Art Store Holiday Shopping Event: For the nineteenth year, the LSU MOA invites all to shop unique holiday gifts, local artwork, and more with a special deal of twenty percent off any one item, plus free gift wrap and raffle prizes. 4 pm–8 pm. December 1: Festival of Lights at North

Boulevard Town Square: Downtown Baton Rouge's oldest holiday tradition returns to takeover downtown, transforming it into a winter wonderland. It starts at 4 pm, when Mayor Broome and Santa will lead the countdown to the lighting of the city's 25foot Christmas tree, featuring half a million sparkling lights. Afterwards, grab a photo with the big guy in the Old State Capitol for "Santa in the Senate" from 6:30 pm–8:30 pm, try your hand (er ... feet) at ice skating in the River Center Plaza, or swirl amongst the flurries in the Snow Village, and mingle with local vendors while searching for the perfect gift in the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge's Artists Village. And the finale: a fireworks show over the Mississippi. 4 pm– 8 pm. Free. December 1: George Bell and Friends: An Evening of Holiday Jazz: George Bell returns to Baton Rouge for his annual holiday concert, this year at the River Center Performing Arts Theatre. 7:30 pm. $43–$50. Details at the "George Bell and Friends Holiday Jazz" Facebook Event. // D E C 2 3


Holiday Events

"Adeste Fidelis" and "Ave Maria." 3 pm at St. Joseph's Cathedral. Free.

In Greater Baton Rouge

December 1–2 & 8–9: Christmasville Spectacular: Expect a curated experience of all things Christmas at the First Baptist Church of Denham Springs. This event is designed for fanatics especially craving those warm fuzzy feelings of the holidays. 6 pm and 7 pm Friday; 5 pm, 6 pm, and 7 pm Saturday; 5 pm and 6 pm Sunday. Free. Details at December 1–December 23: Livingston Holiday Marketplace: Throughout the holiday season, the Arts Council of Livingston Parish Gallery once again welcomes its annual marketplace, featuring a wide range of local art for holiday shoppers. 10 am–noon Wednesday–Friday; 10 am–2 pm Saturday. December 1–January 6: Nativity Scene at Louisiana State Capitol: Take in the beauty and Christmas cheer of the Lousiana State Capitol’s grand Nativity Scene, which will be open and aglow from 8 am–4:30 pm. Free. December 2: A Very Merry Museum: LASM is getting all gussied up with a special holiday ornament workshop, a museum scavenger hunt, Sneaux to Geaux science experiments, seasonal screenings


in the planetarium, and an appearance from the Clausey old guy himself in the Coca Cola truck. 10 am–5 pm. Free with admission. December 2: Christmas in Central Parade: Don't miss this festive celebration down Joor Road in the charming community of Central. 11 am. December 2: Broadmoor Christmas Parade: A beloved tradition in Baton Rouge's Broadmoor neighborhood, this parade features local school groups, antique cars, nonprofit organizations, and Santa Claus himself. Kicks off at 11 am, starting from the Broadmoor High School. Details at the Broadmoor's Annual Christmas Parade Facebook Event. December 3: A Very Electric Holiday: Join Lightwire Theater at the Manship for A Very Electric Holiday, chronicling a young bird’s jolly journey through the North Pole. The story features all of the songs of the season, from Tchaikovsky to Mariah Carey. 2 pm. $25. December 3: Baton Rouge Concert Band Christmas Concert: Catch the Baton Rouge Concert Band performing a medley of traditional Christmas music the likes of

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December 3: A Rural Life Christmas: One of the capital city's best-loved holiday traditions, LSU's Rural Life Museum's old-fashioned Louisiana Christmas celebration conjures up a century and a half of reminiscences on the grounds of the museum. Candle-lit historic buildings decorated with freshly cut greenery serve as an atmospheric backdrop for costumed reenactors recreating the Christmas festivities of the nineteenth century. The day’s festivities will conclude with a procession to a traditional Louisiana bonfire to await the appearance of Papa Noël. 10 am–5 pm. $12; $10 for children ages four to eleven; children three and younger free. December 3: Jingle Bell Brunch: A Baton Rouge classic, Juban's is hosting a festive brunch with three courses, photos with Santa, a hot chocolate bar, a cookie decorating bar, mimosas and poinsettias for the grown-ups, and cheerful decor. 9:30 am and 1 pm. $75–$110 at December 3: West Baton Rouge Museum's Holiday Open House: Celebrate the season with traditional arts demonstrations, live music, shopping, and storytelling—while snacking on gingerbread and hot cider. Papa Noël will make an appearance, and the historic buildings will be open for complimentary tours with tableau

performances, as well as presentations by Master Naturalists. 2 pm–5 pm. Free. December 5–6: Cool Winter Nights and Hot Jazz: For the twelfth year, The Manship Theatre will bring a broad assortment of jazz talents to the stage for its Cool Winter Nights and Hot Jazz concert. This year, the evening of contemporary arrangements and holiday classics will be performed by Brian Shaw, Willis Delony, Fr. Greg Daigle, and Robin Barnes, alongside a fifteen-piece ensemble. 7:30 pm both nights. $30–$50. December 7–9 & 14–16: A Cajun Christmas Carol: Ascension Community Theatre is putting a Cajun twist on the favorite Dickens tale. 7 pm. $15–25. December 8: Dailey and Vincent Christmas Show: Renowned bluegrass/country musicians Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent take the stage at the Manship Theatre for a special holiday musical performance showcasing their exceptional vocal harmonies. 7:30 pm. $41–$51. December 8–10 & 14–17: A Christmas Carol: Some classics are timeless for a reason, and this Dickens Christmas tradition is one of them. The same characters we know and love return to the stage: miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, and

all those Christmas ghosts among them. Performances at 7:30 pm, 2 pm Sundays. $35, $25 for students and children seventeen and younger. December 9: Home for the Holidays Concert: The Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra will fill the River Center Theatre with holiday music from favorites like The Polar Express, The Nutcracker, and Home Alone, and invite the audience to carol and sing along. $19–$65. 2 pm–4 pm. December 9: Christmas at Crescent: The city of Donaldsonville will host its annual Christmas Tree Lighting celebration to kick off the season's festivities, featuring food vendors, local businesses open late, various holiday open houses, appearances from the old bearded guy himself, and the lighting of the tree. Free. 6 pm–10 pm at Crescent Park. December 9: Denham Springs Christmas Parade: Head to Denham for this special local tradition. Parade rolls at 2 pm, ending off Veterans in Denham Springs. Visit the Denham Springs Antique Village on Facebook for details. December 9: Cortana Kiwanis Christmas Parade: A favorite of downtown Baton Rouge residents (since 1948), this parade put on by the Cortana Kiwanis Club and the Kiwanis Club of Cortana Baton Rouge Foundation, Inc. celebrates community, spotlighting local marching bands,

celebrities, dance troupes, nonprofits, and businesses. 5:30 pm. December 9: Pancake Breakfast with Santa: Start your Saturday with the utmost Christmas spirit, by participating in Rescue Alliance's breakfast event at 42430 Church Point in Gonzales. Your furry friends will thank you, offering a free breakfast and photo op in exchange for a donation of kitten food, cat litter, laundry detergent, dish detergent, or cash. 9 am. December 9: Let It Sneaux: Santa is coming to BREC's Perkins Road Community Park, and he is bringing all the goodies with him. Gingerbread house making, s'mores, hot chocolate, sneaux, live music by Capital City Soul, a Mini Makers Market, and much more. It all wraps up with Baton Rouge's first-ever holiday drone light show. 5 pm–8 pm. Free. December 9–10: Tri-Parish Nutcracker: Livingston's local Tri–Parish Ballet again enchants audiences with dancing dolls, toy soldiers, waltzing flowers, and a number of new surprises. Since Saturday's (6 pm) performance serves as a benefit, admission is a non-perishable food item for the Baton Rouge Food Bank and the food pantry at the First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs. On Sunday at 2 pm, admission to the full-length performance

is $30; $35 at the door. Both performances will be in the LSU Student Union Theatre, and tickets can be purchased at December 10: Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas: Christmas offers ample opportunities for Fancy Nancy to indulge in her fancy preferences, such as dazzling decorations and glamorous outfits. Bring your little ones to join Fancy Nancy onstage at the Manship Theatre, and see how splendiferous Christmas can be for yourself. 2 pm and 4:30 pm. $25. December 10: Magnolia Mound Creole Christmas and Holiday Fair: This historic home gets dressed up for the holidays. Wander through the decor, listen to holiday songs in French and Spanish, take in period demonstrations, folk crafts, and local vendors. It all closes out with a bonfire to welcome Papa Noël. Noon– 5 pm. December 10 and 22: Santa at the Market: Head to the Red Stick Farmer's market for a special guest appearance from the big guy himself. December 12: Sorrento Christmas Celebration: Find all the charming trappings of small town Christmas, including the lighting of the town tree, Christmas carols, and Santa making a grand entrance on a fire truck. Children can do

arts and crafts, meet Santa, take photos, and receive a goodie bag from his elves. Onsite will also be jambalaya, soft drinks, hot chocolate, and cookies. 6 pm–8 pm. Free. December 14: Holly Jolly PJ Party: The Knock Knock Museum is getting cozy, with a special pajama party planned for good girls and boys, featuring arts and crafts, holiday treats, hot chocolate, and visits from the Big Man himself. 5 pm–7:30 pm. $17; $8 for members. December 14: Caroling in the Galleries: Come join in on the seasonal singing at this caroling experience hosted by the LSU Museum of Art—all while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. 6:30 pm. Free. December 14: Holiday Harmony—A Recital by the Collaborative Piano Institute: This evening of music promises to be mesmerizing, thanks to the talents of professional and student performers with the Collaborative Piano Institute teaching program. Performers will showcase familiar seasonal songs, as well as lesser-known works, and there will be a Q&A afterwards. All will take place in the rotunda at the Energy, Coast & Environment Building at LSU. 8 pm. Free. December 15 & 17: Opéra Louisiane's

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Holiday Events In Greater Baton Rouge & Central and North Louisiana Production of The Christmas Spider: Based on a Ukrainian legend, this performance tells the story of a spider who brought good fortune, through love and togetherness, to a poor family at Christmastime. The show will make its world premiere at the Manship Theatre. 7:30 pm. $10–$140.

Wonderland: The River Center Theatre welcomes the mystifying performance of Cirque Musica to its stage—opening the door to a wonderland of dazzling delights created by the world's greatest cirque performers to a backdrop of symphonic music. 7 pm. $35–$65.

December 16: Reindog Run: BREC is hosting its first annual Reindog Run this year, inviting Christmas pups of all shapes and sizes to compete for the title of Champion Reindog. 9 am–1 pm at the Comite River Conservation Area. $35.

December 21: Story Time with Santa at the Market: Bring the little ones to the Red Stick Farmers Market, where Red Stick Reads will be on hand for a fun seasonal storytime with the jolliest host. 8 am–noon.

December 16–17: The Nutcracker: A Tale from the Bayou: Each year for generations, local and national dancers of all ages have flitted and fluttered across the stage of the River Center, breathing hyperlocal life into Tchaikovsky's masterpiece to the tune of Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra accompaniment and a stage set that invokes Baton Rouge landmarks. 2 pm and 6 pm each day at the River Center for Performing Arts. $30–$90. December 21: Cirque Musica Holiday


December 21–22: Holiday Movies at the Manship: See some of your favorite festive films on the big screen. On Thursday, see the green old Grinch steal Christmas again, in the latest 2018 version of the film at 2 pm. And on Friday, it's as classic as it gets with It's a Wonderful Life at 7 pm. • IN CENTRAL AND NORTH LOUISIANA November 10–December 30: Candy Cane Lane: The Hanson family in Calhoun invites all to drive through the wonderland of over one million Christmas

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lights installed on their fifty-two acres of property—an immersive drive-thru Christmas experience designed to instill all of the excitement and magic of childhood in visitors of every age. 6 pm–10 pm. $25 cash per vehicle. November 11–December 31: Freedom Trees at the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum: The Chennault Aviation & Military Museum honors veterans and those currently serving in the U.S. military with a stunning tribute of its Freedom Trees. See them alight through New Year's Eve. Free. November 18–December 31: Logansport Christmas Festival: The village of Logansport will come together at the start of the season to light up the town, transforming it into a winter wonderland. November 18–January 6: Natchitoches Christmas Festival: The famous Christmas festivities in Natchitoches mean the holiday spirit is in full swing, when over 300,000 holiday lights flicker for six weeks straight. Saturdays bring vendors, live music, fireworks, a boat parade, and kids activities to the Riverbank area and require armbands for anyone older than six. $10. November 25–December 25: Dark Woods Christmas in the Park: Immerse yourself in Christmas Spirit at this annual event, located

just a short drive from the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. Meet the Clauses, enjoy seasonal treats, and brighten your spirits with magical light displays. $7 for ages four and older. November 24–January 29: Sno-Port: Throughout the holiday season, visitors to the Sci-Port Discovery Center in Shreveport will get the opportunity to immerse themselves in a an interactive science "playground," created by local artists to foster a snowy, science-focused, experience. Expect a sock skating rink, a "freeze frame" photo backdrop, snowball pong, and an igloo experience featuring a recreation of the Northern Lights. 9 am– 5 pm Wednesday–Saturday; noon–5 pm Sunday. $6. November 24–December 17, and December 18–23: Christmas in Roseland: The American Rose Center in Shreveport transforms into a whimsical winter wonderland with twinkling lights, giant Christmas cards, and other holiday displays. Each night from 6 pm–9 pm, Santa will be sitting pretty for photographs. The vendor market will be on the weekend of December 8–10, and on the last night of the festivities a candle-lit singalong will signal it's time for Christmas Eve to arrive. 5:30 pm–10 pm. $10 per person; $30 per carload. November 25–December 31: Land of

Lights: Soak up the magic of the light displays throughout Downtown Monroe & West Monroe, which get turned on at 5:30 pm each night. monroe-westmonroe-org. December 2–3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 21, and 23: Believe! Lights the Night: The Shreveport Aquarium gets a holiday makeover for this magical, interactive Christmas journey. Attendees will receive a magical, motionactivated Christmas wand with the ability to turn on lights, make music play, create reindeer footprints, jingle bells, and more as they join Christmas cheer with the wonder of the aquarium's underwater residents. Costumed characters will complete the experience, from Mrs. Claus to a Snow Mermaid. Plus, hot chocolate and cookies, photo ops, and a holiday craft. Christmas jammies encouraged. $30. 5:15 pm–9:30 pm, with last entry at 8:15 pm. November 24–December 25: Christmas at Kiroli: For nineteen nights, Kiroli's winding roads will be transformed into a twinkling wonderland. Drive through the displays for miles throughout the holiday season. 6 pm–9 pm. $10 per vehicle. November 30–December 2: Biedenharn Christmas Open House: Live music, photo ops with Santa, a Christmas Train, and more festive fa-la-las. 5 pm–8 pm.

November 30–December 2: Alex Winter Fete: This family-friendly festival returns to Alexandria with a slate of exciting cozy activities. Try a twirl on the outdoor skating rink, watch in wonder at the fireworks over the Red River, explore the multicultural village and Jolly Junction, and interact with talented stilt walkers, fire breathers, live bands, and more. It all begins with the traditional lighting of the tree and Santa's arrival at Santa's Village at the Alexander Fulton Mini Park downtown. There's also the Ugly Sweater 5K on Saturday at 9 am. December 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9: Lincoln Light Up The Pines: Ruston's only drive-thru Christmas lights display comes from a collaboration with Lincoln Parish Park, the Chamber of Commerce, the CVB, and a local camping group. Drive through the campgrounds, where vintage campers will be elaborately decorated for the season. 5:30 pm–10 pm. $10 per car; $20 per bus. All fees will go to benefit Lincoln Parish Park. Details at November 30–December 3: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: Ruston Community Theatre brings the hilarious holiday show to the stage for their Christmas production. Catch the hilarious, heart-warming story at 7 pm Thursday– Saturday; 2 pm on Sunday. $20; $10 for children and students.

December 1: A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Peabody award-winning story by Charles M. Schulz is coming to the stage of the Strand Theater in Shreveport for a one-night-only show. 7 pm. Tickets start at $30. December 1: Monroe Christmas Tree Lighting: Join the City of Monroe for the annual lighting of the town Christmas Tree at Civic Center Plaza. Hot chocolate and cookies will make the event extra cozy, and the night will close with a screening of a Christmas movie. 6 pm–8 pm. Free. December 2: Grand Cane Christmas Parade & Holiday Market: Head downtown in the little village of Grand Cane for a happy holiday parade, plus plenty of local artisans. 9 am–2 pm, parade rolls at 11 am. December 2: Grand Cane Tour of Homes: The Grand Cane Historic Association shows off the facades of four of its most beautiful historic homes during Christmastime. Noon–4 pm. $20 for adults, $5 for children younger than twelve. December 2: Caddo Fireworks Festival: Come by Earl Williamson Park in Oil City at 3:30 pm for fair food, live music, chats with Santa, and holiday shopping—then stay for the fireworks

display scheduled for 6:30 pm. Free. December 2: Twin City Ballet Christmas Gala: Join the Twin City Ballet at the Monroe Civic Theater Center for their 2023 Christmas gala production, celebrated first with a Patron Party and the annual Festival of Trees. Afterwards, the ballet will perform the production of The Nutcracker. 6:30 pm. $25. December 2: Christmas on the Farm: Ruston's Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center invites all to an outdoor celebration of the season, featuring pony rides, a petting zoo, a maze, crafts, games, a bounce house, hay rides, a rock wall, and more. And, of course, a chance to meet the man in red. Proceeds benefit the Center's therapeutic riding program. 10 am–3 pm. $20/car, cash only. December 2: Christmas on the River Fireworks: Don't miss the annual shebang, best viewed from downtown Monroe or West Monroe. 6 pm. Free. December 3: Teddy Bear Tea at the Biedenharn: Make your little one’s tea party dreams come to life at the Biedenharn Museum & Gardens. This magical holiday treat invites your children and their most loved stuffed animals and dolls and includes a full service tea, photos

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Holiday Events In North Louisiana, Central Louisiana & New Orleans with Santa, and a Christmas wonderland of lights through the Elsong Garden. 4 pm–6 pm. $50. December 7: Renegade Tour with Santa: The Alexandria Museum of Art is bringing in Santa himself to present an unconventional holiday tour of their current exhibition, The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage, and Spirituality. Santa will guide viewers through the Museum, shedding light on the displays through his personal experiences encountering worldwide cultures on his annual international sleigh trips. 5:30 pm–7:30 pm.

& Treats Christmas Porches Tour" and the "Holly and History Tours". Docents will lead commentaries on the history of each property, as well as their unique holiday decorations. Times and prices vary. Find details at December 8–10, 15–17: Winter Wonderettes: Shreveport Little Theatre's Main Stage welcomes the Winter Wonderettes, who use their creativity to save the holiday party when Santa goes missing. 7:30 pm Thursday– Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. $30.

December 7: Ruston Holiday Sip and Stroll: Enjoy the easy-going open-container laws of Louisiana as you finish up your holiday shopping list. Local stores will offer holiday specials and extended hours, along with special signature drinks. 5 pm–7 pm.

December 8: West Monroe Children's Lighted Parade: Don't miss this teeny Christmas Parade in Downtown West Monroe, designed for tykes and tinies, with bicycles, wagons, and battery-powered cars rolling down Trenton—all beneath the city's gorgeous light displays. 6 pm. Free.

December 8–9, 14–16: Natchitoches Christmas Home Tours : These tours from the Natchitoches Historic Foundation take you into some of the historic district's most fascinating homes, all decked out for the season. Special tours include the "Tinsel

December 9: Mansfield Christmas Parade: Marching units, performing groups, and elaborate floats will proceed down Kings Highway in Mansfield to celebrate all the joy of Christmastime. 2 pm. Free.

December 9: Bossier Holiday Night Market: The largest one-day vendor event in the country, the Bossier Holiday Night Market returns to the parking lot of the Pierre Bossier Mall with 75,000 twinkling lights, live Christmas music, free kids' activities, and lots of Bossier swag. Vendors from all over will be peddling everything from one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods to delicious food truck eats to vintage clothing. 3 pm–9 pm. Entry is free.

Alexandria's Mardi Gras krewe. 2 pm. Free. December 15: A Very Merry Oz Christmas: Presented by the Louisiana Delta Ballet at the Monroe Civic Center, A Very Merry Oz Christmas tells the story of Dorothy getting swept back to Oz on Christmas Eve. All other performances at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $25.

December 9: Calhoun Christmas Parade: This year, Calhoun's annual Christmas Parade is themed "Christmas Movies—Old and New". Sit back and watch the festive interpretations displayed on locally-made floats. 11 am. Free. December 9: Many Christmas Festival: The cheerful annual parade starts at 3 pm, with the festival to follow at 4 pm complete with a fireworks show at 7 pm. Free. December 9–10: Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet's Production of The Nutcracker: Over one hundred local dancers take the stage for this holiday performance, telling the beloved story of adventure and holiday magic. 6:30 pm Saturday, 2:30 pm Sunday. $35–$55. December 10: Alexandria Mardi Gras Association Christmas Parade: Celebrate the holidays, Mardi Gras-style, with

December 16: Ruston Christmas Parade: Gather up the family for another chance at watching floats and catching goodies this season, now in downtown Ruston. 10 am. December 16: Christmas Market on the Alley: Head out to West Monroe's Alley Park for a spirited Christmas Market, perfect for all of your last-minute shopping needs. 10 am–3 pm. Free. December 19: Heart of the Holidays with the Monroe Symphony Orchestra: Celebrate the season with orchestral performances of Christmas classics, featuring soloists Kristen Oden and Blake Oden. 7 pm at the North Monroe Baptist Church. $25; $5 for students. December 20: Christmas Coca Cola Truck: The season's most photogenic vehicle is making a stop in Monroe at the Biedenharn, as is the Christmas Train, the Coca Cola Polar Bear, and yummy food



Happening Thursday,




S c a n QR c o d e o r j o i n a t lsu b e r sh i p




6-8 PM

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Annie Oakley (from the Cowboys and Indians series), 1986 by Andy Warhol © 2024 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.



January 11–March 31, 2024 Learn more at

trucks. 5 pm–8 pm. Free. December 22: A Very Bluesy Christmas with D.K. Harrell: The award-winning blues artist will perform classic holiday hits for a one night performance at the Strauss Theatre Center. 7 pm. $30 in advance. NEW ORLEANS AREA November 16–December 30: Red Hot Holiday Pop-Up at the Pool Club at Virgin Hotels New Orleans: Take in a stunning display of neon-lit red roses, cozy up to loved ones with s'mores or fondu in a heated "igloo" by the rooftop pool, and sip festively-garnished seasonal cocktails at this holiday-themed oasis for grownups. 10 am–10 pm, open later on Friday and Saturday. Prices vary from $10 on Mondays to various VIP packages. November 23–December 30: Celebration in the Oaks: ​​Thousands of visitors pour into City Park to see the magical winter spectacle, for which the park’s famous oaks are swathed in hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights across its twenty-five acres, including the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens. This year, the display will be available as a driving tour as well as a walking experience. Or, by bicycle during a dedicated Bike Night. $35 per person for a walking tour pass, or $40 for a driving tour pass. 5 pm–11 pm, closed Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. November 28–January 1: Waldorf Wonderland: One of the most breathtaking light displays in New Orleans happens when the Roosevelt lights its Grand Lobby, including 112,000 twinkling lights, 1,600 feet of garland, and 4,000 glass ornaments. Free. November 26–December 27: Teddy Bear Tea: This delightful New Orleans tradition has enchanted young ones and adults alike for generations. At the gorgeouslydecorated Roosevelt New Orleans, Santa and Mrs. Claus will welcome all to a presentation of holiday delights, specialty teas, tasty pastries, and mimosas for Mom and Dad. Two to three seatings each day. $95 for everyone older than eleven; $72 for ages three to ten. VIP options available. December 4, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 18, and 21: Jackson Square Concert Series: This holiday tradition brings a mythical aura to the experience of holiday carols, setting local musicians, church choirs, and singers of all genres against the Gothic splendor of the historic St. Louis Cathedral or The Ashe Power House Theatre. Free and open to the public. 6 pm–7 pm. See the schedule at December 1: The Blind Boys of Alabama at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center:

The living gospel music legends and recent Grammy nominees will perform for one night only at 7:30 pm. $38–$73. December 2: Algiers Bonfire and Concert: The city's kickoff to the holiday season includes local musical talent, food, drink, and a bonfire, which will light Santa's way down the Mississippi. The NOLA Burners will once again create a unique bonfire sculpture. 4:30 pm–8 pm at the Algiers Ferry Landing, 200 Morgan Street. December 2: Children's Hospital New Orleans Holiday Parade: This holiday parade made its debut last year, and will roll again in downtown New Orleans featuring over twenty-five Mardi Gras World-created floats outfitted with technology like animatronics, intelligent lighting systems, special effects, and beyond. Starts at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Peters Street, traveling North Peters to Decatur Street through the French Market toward Jackson Square and Oscar Dunn Park. Parade rolls at 11 am, ends in Lafayette Square around 1 pm with a celebration including music from Maggie Koerner and Trombone Shorty, food, and more until 3 pm. Free. December 2: St. Nick Celebration: A very New Orleans celebration of the season, with live music, kids' activities, and a Saint Nick Second Line. Begins at 11 am at the French Market. December 2: Westin Santa Brunch: New Orleans's Westin Hotel welcomes families for a tasty buffet brunch and photos with Mr. Claus from 7 am–1 pm. December 3: Paradigm Gardens Holiday Market: Shop from thirty local art and craft vendors, pet a pygmy goat, get a chair massage, enjoy live music, and even have a farm-to-table brunch with a hot cider at this market in Paradigm Gardens in Central City. Noon–4 pm. Free. December 2: Krewe of Krampus Parade: The Krewe of Krampus's NOLAuf Parade, where you might just end up with a lump of coal from the creepy German folkloric figure himself. Rolls at 7:30 pm. Find the route at December 2: New Orleans Spring Fiesta Association French Quarter Home & Courtyard Tour: Get a look behind the shutters of beautiful French Quarter homes decked out for the season. Begins at the Spring Fiesta Townhouse and lasts from 1:30 pm–4:30 pm. $35. December 3: Holiday Concert at Paradigm Gardens: Enjoy a performance of holiday favorites from Nayo Jones and food from Chef David Barbeau at this intimate // D E C 2 3


Holiday Events In Greater New Orleans & the Cajun Coast outdoor concert. 6 pm and 8 pm. $25 December 3: Norco Christmas Parade: The small-town parade returns, complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Destrehan High School band, the Riverside Academy Band, and marching groups including the 610 Stompers. 1 pm. Free. norcoNoë December 5: Marine Forces Reserve Band Christmas Concert & JPAC Tree Lighting: Join the Jefferson Performing Arts Society in lighting up their twenty-foot-tall tree in the Jefferson Performing Arts Center lobby, followed by a performance from the Marine Forces Reserve Band. Concert at 7 pm, tree lighting prior. Free. December 7–December 15: Hanukkah Nightly Lighting Ceremonies: Each evening at sundown, the Four Seasons Hotel will perform a candle lighting ceremony in their lobby in celebration of Hanukkah. Free.

pictures with Santa. 5 pm–8 pm. $10. December 9–10: Preservation Resource Center Holiday Home Tours: The PRC has once again collaborated with some of the city’s most talented landscape artists and architects to transform private yards and secret gardens into winter wonderlands. 10 am–4 pm. December 10: Festive Favorites, a Celebration of Community Music-Making: The Historic New Orleans Collection presents a special concert of holiday music from New Orleans and throughout history at St. Louis Cathedral. The evening of seasonal music will be performed by by the New Orleans Concert Band and special guest performers, led by Dr. Charles Taylor. 6 pm. Free.

performed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. 6 pm Saturday, 2 pm Sunday at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Tickets start at $35. December 16–17: Jefferson Performing Arts Society's The Nutcracker: Another adaptation of Tchaikovsky's timeless ballet, at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center. 2 pm. $23–$78. December 17: French Quarter Holiday Home Tour: The Patio Planters of the Vieux Carré once again present iconic Quarter homes dressed up for the season. The tour includes details about architectural styles and home furnishings, as well as Christmas decor collections. Self guided walking tours take place between noon–4 pm; $35 in advance, $40 day of. December 17: Caroling in Jackson Square: This free community singalong has illuminated the Square by candlelight since 1946, filling the air with holiday favorites. Complimentary songbooks and candles will be provided. 7 pm. Free.

December 8–10, 15–17: The New Orleans Jazz Nutcracker: The Marigny Opera Ballet, resident dance company of the Marigny Opera House, brings the return of The New Orleans Jazz Nutcracker. Set in Jackson Square on Christmas Eve, the full-length ballet is set against a score based on the original Tchaikovsky by New Orleans jazz musician Lawrence Sieberth and live accompaniment by his ten piece jazz ensemble. 8 pm. $60; $35 for students, seniors, etc. December 9: Running of the Santas: With the return of Running of the Santas, thousands of jolly, be-jingled joggers will descend on New Orleans’s Warehouse District at 2 pm, starting at the South Pole (aka Manning's at 519 Fulton Street). At 6 pm, the Santas set off through the five-block fun run heading for the North Pole (aka Generations Hall, 310 Andrew Higgins Drive). Event organizers are expecting more than four thousand costumed participants this year donned as Santa, Mrs. Claus, Scrooge, Jingle Bells, Jack Frost, Old Man Winter, and so many more; and a raucous costume contest to choose the best one. A portion of proceeds benefit the "That Others May Live" Foundation. 2 pm–11 pm. $15. December 9: Lights on the Lake: Take in the Holiday Boat Parade from the best vantage point on the lake, the New Canal Lighthouse, with the Pontchartrain Conservancy. In addition to the great view, they promise a stellar live music line-up, delicious local food trucks, hot toddies and other seasonal refreshments, kids' educational activities and crafts, and 18

Irma Thomas and John Boutté, a buffet dinner with an open bar, along with a silent auction featuring Daniel Price Award-winning artwork. Tickets to join the patron party range from $170–$290. After 8 pm, the party continues with more performances by Kermit Ruffins, Ivan Neville, and more. $79.50. houseofblues. com. December 21–30: NOLA ChristmasFest: Thousands of Louisianans descend on the Ernest Morial Convention Center, drawn by the vision of carving graceful arcs into the ice skating rink alongside Santa at the center of NOLA ChristmasFest's festivities. In any case, the event promises to heal bruised prides (and bottoms) with holiday characters, amusement rides, themed inflatables, arts & crafts, decorated Christmas trees, and a gingerbread house exhibition. $25 weekdays; $30 weekends. Schedule at December 24: Christmas Eve Dinner Jazz Cruise: No better place to catch a glimpse of Santa on his way than floating on the Mississippi. Enjoy holiday-decorated dining on the Creole Queen riverboat. Boards at 5 pm, returns at 8 pm. $99. • CAJUN COAST November 24–December 31: Centerville Louisiana Light Show: This bayou tradition lights up the night all throughout the holiday season at 135 Yellow Bayou Road, from 5:30 pm–midnight. Details at the Centerville Louisiana Light Show Facebook Page.

The Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans is receiving visitors from the North Pole in time for NOLA ChristmasFest, where kids can ice skate with Santa, partake in festive crafts, and delight in other seasonal fun. Image courtesy of NOLA ChristmasFest. December 10: Danny O’Flaherty’s Celtic Christmas: A joyful tale of the traditional holiday customs of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center. 2 pm. $27–$67. December 13–20: How the Grinch Stole Christmas: He’s mean, green, has all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, and this month Mr. Grinch and his Whoville posse come to life in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical performed at the Saenger Theatre. $30–$95. For showtimes, visit December 16–17: Delta Festival Ballet's The Nutcracker: Join Louisiana's largest resident, professional dance company, the Delta Festival Ballet, for their New Orleans rendition of the sweet, sweet classic, which features accompaniment

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December 19: Harry Shearer and Judith Owen’s Christmas Without Tears: The Welsh-born pianist and singer-songwriter joins her husband, comedian and actor of The Simpsons fame Harry Shearer, for the holiday revue that began in the couple's living room and is now one of New Orleans's favorite irreverently funny Yuletide traditions. Ticket sales benefit The Innocence Project New Orleans. 8 pm at the Orpheum. Tickets start at $39.50. December 20: Home for the Holidays: Home for the Holidays returns to the House of Blues for an enchanting night of art and music supporting the Daniel Price Memorial Fund for Aspiring Artists. The evening will commence with a party for patrons from 6:30 pm–8 pm, including performances by

December 2: Christmas in the Park: The Paul Maillard Business & Arts Initiative is hosting its first ever Christmas event at Monsanto Park in Luling, featuring photos with Santa and friends, an oak tree lighting, a train ride, games, crafts, hot chocolate, and a two-mile levee run (costumes encouraged). Free. Noon. Details at the Christmas in the Park Facebook Event. December 2: Christmas Under the Lampposts Decorated Golf Cart Parade & Christmas on the Bayou Lighting Ceremony: Follow the festive golf carts down to the courthouse, where word has it, they'll be setting the city alight with over 1 million twinkles. Parade begins at 6 pm. Free. Details at the City of Franklin, Louisiana Facebook page. December 2–January 1: Christmas Lights on the Teche: The historic Bayou Teche has seen a lot, but during the holidays, leaders make sure that we can see it in all it's glory, lighting up Parc Sur La Teche with over 1 million lights. (337) 828-3631. December 5: Marine Corps Forces Reserve Band Toys for Tots Christmas Concert: See the remarkable band in action at the Municipal Auditorium in Morgan City,

A Special Advertising Feature from the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge

Access is Everything

Through a variety of innovative programs, the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge ensures everyone can take advantage of the arts


ast year, during a lecture given by Dr. Amir Whitaker for the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, the arts education activist described access to the arts as a “civil right”.

and physical therapists to present affordable (often free) workshops and multi-week dance courses throughout the year, designed especially for dancers with cognitive, social and/or physical disabilities.

Whitaker was speaking about children, and about schools. But Arts Council President and CEO Renee Chatelain believes that the concept can be taken even further. Students should have access to the arts, absolutely. But, if we look at the arts as a civil right, then arises an obligation to also bring the arts to populations that are often overlooked or underserved, such as: the unhoused, the differently-abled, the elderly, and those devastated by natural and human disasters.

Enhancing the quality of individuals’ lives through the arts is also at the heart of the Arts Council’s participation in the National Guild for Community Arts Education’s Catalyzing Creative Aging Program. Selected as one of twenty nonprofit organizations to participate in 2019, the Arts Council has used the Program’s research-based framework to cultivate regular professionally-led workshops for older adults, enhancing their quality of life and inspiring creativity over passive entertainment. Most recently, a spring 2023 writing workshop series led by author Rannah Gray centered the art of writing about social change. Chatelain recalls one participant expressing a sudden realization, through the practice, that her voice could still make a difference in the

Community of Note, for instance, has for five years now been providing a range of live music performances to the community at the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless— featuring beloved local musicians and bands the likes of the Michael Foster

Project, Andy Cloninger, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Hornsound. The program is sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, and according to Chatelain, a visceral example of how local arts can serve vulnerable populations by “providing respite or reducing trauma” through music. Another transformational initiative in the realm of accessible arts in Baton Rouge is Dance for All, which was conceived in 2021 as a way to bring opportunities to engage in the art of movement to differently-abled members of our community. Funded by the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Family Foundation, the Arts Council program thoughtfully brings together professional dancers, teachers, occupational therapists,

world, and that it still mattered, even in her retirement. “She said she saw that she still had an integral role to play, and a vantage point to advocate from,” said Chatelain. “And I thought that was very powerful.” In addition to this vital accessibilitycentered work, the Arts Council has also worked to position itself as a resource for individuals and communities suffering from disasters natural and manmade, as well as infectious disease outbreaks—all through the lenses of the arts. Through its Creative Relief emergency preparedness and response program, the Council aims to provide solutions utilizing the creative thinking found within the cultural sector, as well as relief through grants like the Get Ready Grant

program, a local expansion of the national CERF+Artist Readiness Program, funded by the Mellon Foundation, that supports local artists through funding business protection, studio safeguards, and more during difficult times. The Arts Council’s work in this field has put the organization in the position to assist other arts nonprofits on a state level along with the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts and on a national level with the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Response. In fact, it played an important role in advising officials this past August on developing arts-based relief following the devastating wildfires in Maui.

Arts are a civil right, partly because of their potential as a mechanism for healing and self-realization, pointed out Chatelain. “It’s the expression of who we are as humans,” she said. “And I think that what we’re so passionate about is that, particularly in accessible arts, you are hopefully giving people the tools to regain their sense of humanity and their dignity as people in a society.”

For more information, visit

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Holiday Events On the Cajun Coast & Felicianas, Natchez & Pointe Coupee and all for a great cause. In lieu of an entry fee, bring a new, unwrapped toy. 7 pm. (985) 380-4639. December 9: Bernice Street Christmas by Candlelight: Take in the historic Morgan City street all a-twinkle with the warmth of candlelight. Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and keep an eye out for special guests Santa and Mr. Grinch. Kids can also enjoy a train ride. 5:30 pm–9 pm. Details at the Bernice St. Christmas Lighting Facebook Page. December 9: Miracle on First Street: Come shop over fifty vendors, enjoy live music, delicious food, and more, on First Street in Berwick. 4 pm–8 pm. Free. December 9: Christmas Movie Night at the Berwick Civic Center: Make an evening out of it, dinner and a movie, with Santa on deck. Before the film's screening, meet the old guy himself, grab a hot dog, and enter for a chance to win your children a special holiday gift. 7 pm. Free. December 10: Patterson Annual Christmas Street Parade: Expect all the trappings of a charming Cajun Christmas parade. 2 pm down Main Street in Patterson. Free.

December 10: Patterson 4-Legged Friends Christmas Parade: This adorably festive pup parade rides before the big Christmas Parade in Patterson. Noon. Free. December 12: The Wedell-Williams Aviation & Cypress Sawmill's Christmas Tree Festival: This exhibit open house welcomes visitors to view a variety of decorated trees and listen to singing performances by local schools. 5 pm–7 pm at the Louisiana State Museum in Patterson at Kemper Williams Park. Free, and light refreshments will be served. (985) 399-1268. December 16: The Cajun Spirit of Christmas Parade: The Cajun Nutcracker foundation is excited to bring back the beloved tradition that is Morgan City's Christmas Parade. Dance groups, local businesses, and appearances from Santa and other characters will be featured when the parade rolls starting at Onstead Street, then ending under the Highway 90 bridge. Free. 6 pm. December 17: Teddy Bear Tea: Join the hosts at The Old Building in Patterson for an afternoon Christmas tea with Santa, featuring finger foods, Christmas treats,

champagne and mimosas, coffee and tea, and a build-a-bear opportunity with Teddy Mobile of Acadiana, plus photos. $50; $35 for children younger than $35. • FELICIANAS, NATCHEZ & POINTE COUPEE December 2–3: Poinsettia Sale: Support St. Francisville Beautiful by purchasing your holiday poinsettias from them this year. On the two weekends after Thanksgiving, they will be at the St. Francisville Old Library, offering a gorgeous selection of red, white, and pink blooms. 10 am–4 pm. $12–$40. November 24–December 31: Christmas Tours in Natchez: Natchez has been called the "Christmas movie capital of the South," and in recent years, some of the Bluff City's most beautiful historic homes started opening their wreathed doors for the town's Christmas Tour of Historic Homes. Find more information at . November 27–December 31: Christmas at Rosedown: The Rosedown State Historic Site staff will decorate the 1835 home in an early-to-mid-nineteenth century style, featuring greenery, holly, fruit and nuts on fireplace mantels, evergreen-draped banisters, and other decorative displays. The twenty-eight-acre gardens are naturally

ornamented with every shade of red and green from the countless varieties of blooming camellias, assorted varieties of holly, ardisia (Christmas Berry), and other winter friends. December 1–3: St. Francisville Christmas in the Country: It all begins at the Town Hall at 5:30 pm, where local middle and high school students will perform carols on the front porch on Friday evening. From there the weekend kicks off with the Lighting of the Christmas Tree, the "Jingle Bell Mingle" market, live music in front of Parker Park, and a living Nativity at the First Baptist Church, complete with cookies, crafts, and petting stables. Finish the night with a tour of the lights and decorations at the West Feliciana Hospital campus. Saturday brings more festivities, including an arts market in Parker Park, music in the Gazebo, hymns at the Methodist Church, and more. It all concludes on Sunday with the St. Francisville Christmas Parade at 2 pm. Details at the Christmas in the Country Facebook Page. December 1–31: West Feliciana Hospital Christmas Lights Display Drive-Thru: Spend an evening conjuring holiday magic, courtesy of the lights displays at the local hospital. Opening night will also feature cookies and cocoa for guests. December 1: Chamber Series "Holiday

Battle New Orleans of

Commemoration Week


January 5-8, 2024

For more information please go to

tourist commission WHERE REEL

Vis itS t B e rn m | (50 4 ) 2 78 .4242



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A Tale From the Bayou



chen Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre Artistic Directors Molly fBuchmann and Sharon Matthews set out to stage The fNutcracker for the first time in 1982, they wanted to find a fway to connect the classic Tchaikovsky score to Louisiana. They had the idea that a Louisiana Clara was listening to the score on an old wind-up gramophone, Buchman explained, recalling their excitement when set designer Nels Anderson found an antique gramophone cone to bring the idea to the stage. “That was the key, in my opinion, to us making it work— because why else would we be listening to a Russian score set in Louisiana? It was our Louisiana Clara dreaming, or imagining The Nutcracker as she listens to this score. And imagining it as only a Louisiana girl would: with a castle that looked like the Old State Capitol, and snow in an Oak Alley.” Buchmann and Matthews still credit Anderson’s bayou-inspired sets, utilized for their production of The Nutcracker: A Tale from the Bayou to this day, with setting their dancers in a Louisiana winter wonderland that has delighted audiences for the last thirty years. “He designed, and scenic artists painted, this gorgeous bayou scene—and that really sort of opened the world of this ‘tale from the bayou’ to us.” Fellow dancer and friend John Lilly was also instrumental to the early inspiration of the production, along with many others. “The performance you see today is really a culmination of so many very talented people,” said Matthews. As years went on, they added the effect of snow to the production, “to really delight our Louisiana people, who could never see snow.” In 2007, the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra joined, solidifying The Nutcracker’s place as a cultural holiday staple of Baton Rouge. “So we just kept continuing to try to add, and make it better every year.” As Buchmann and Matthews approach their final production of The Nutcracker as artistic directors before their retirement in summer of 2024, they aren’t done surprising audiences, yet. One example is radio personality T-Bob Hebert joining the cast this year. “They'll have to come and see the new things that we've created,” Matthews said. “It's very exciting.” “At this point in our lives, not only do Molly and I have people we've danced with, but we have trained their daughters and sons, and now their grandchildren, like my grandchildren, are in The Nutcracker,” Matthews explained. “So it's really a family production and there's there's so much history there. So many dancers that we've seen develop as beautiful individuals and they're just all over the all over the world, as we’ve worked with so many thousands of young people.” “And this is not the end,” Buchmann said. “It will continue to do that. It's not stopping now.” Buchmann and Matthews, though retiring this summer, will continue to be involved in a mentorship role as new artistic directors Rebecca Acosta and Jonna Cox step up to lead The Nutcracker in future years. “We're going to try to help them to continue the legacy,” Matthews said.

Looking to simplify your Holiday feast this year? Let us make your day delicious and hassle free. Call 601.865.5010 for details.

The Nutcracker: A Tale from the Bayou will be performed at the River Center Theatre for Performing Arts on December 16 and 17 at 2 pm and 6 pm. Tickets are $30–$90 at

Image from The Nutcracker: A Tale from the Bayou courtesy of Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre.

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Holiday Events

cookies, and candy canes. $25. See tour

In the Felicianas, Natchez, Pointe Coupee & Acadiana

November 27–December 31: Victorian

Brass 2023": The full Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra brass and percussion is ready and prepped to put you in the holiday spirit in the magical environs of Hemingbough's amphitheater. 7:30 pm–9:30 pm. $35. December 2: Christmas Spirits: Join in for a progressive "Christmas Spirits" stroll through the historic district of St. Francisville while "illuminating" the streets with 3,000 luminaries. Along the way will be four spirit stops at Historic District homes for ticketed guests ($50). Free activities include a kids' ornament workshop at Old Market Hall, hot chocolate included; hymn singing at the United Methodist Church; and peeks into participating homes in the historic district. 6 pm.

times at

up for the season at this event hosted by the Arts Council of Pointe Coupee, with festive food and drinks, potential to win door prizes, and live holiday performances by Grammy-nominated band, Sweet Cecilia. 6 pm. $55; $25 for students. December 15: Cocktails & Caroling: After enjoying cocktails provided by local shops in St. Francisville from 4 pm–6 pm, join Father Brad for an evening of cocktails and caroling at Parker Park. Details at the Town of St. Francisville Facebook Page. •

Christmas at Rip Van Winkle Gardens: The character Rip Van Winkle was beloved by the children in his village for telling them stories and giving them toys. Sound like anyone we know? What better way to celebrate the season than to enjoy a Victorian Christmas at the Joseph Jefferson Home at Rip Van Winkle Gardens. The twentyfive acre paradise will twinkle with Christmas cheer and the Jefferson Home, decorated for the holidays, will be open for tours from 9 am until 4 pm.

December 2: Sounds of the Season Concert: Clarence Jones and Heritage Choir will perform special holiday classics as part of this beloved holiday tradition at Grace Episcopal Church. A dessert reception will follow at Jackson Hall. All proceeds will go towards the renovation efforts of the Old Benevolent Society Building on Ferdinand Street. 6 pm. December 2: The Friends of the West Feliciana Parish Library Christmas Tour of Homes: Explore five of St. Francisville's most intriguing homes, all dressed in their holiday best, including: The Glynns, Ridgecrest, The Little House, The Charlet Home, and Shadetree. 10 am–4 pm. $30 in advance; $35 day-of. Tickets available online at eventbrite, at Birds of a Feather, the library, or by calling (225) 635-3364. Details at the Friends of the West Feliciana Parish Library Facebook Page. December 2: Breakfast with Santa at Grace Church: The West Feliciana High School dance and cheer teams will once again host their annual breakfast with Santa to kick off the holiday season. Enjoy a delicious breakfast, photos with the big guy himself, and a performance by West Fel High dancers and cheerleaders. Seatings at 8 am, 9:30 am, and 11 am. $12. December 2: A Jane Austen Christmas: Experience a Regency period holiday at Audubon State Historic Site. During tours of a candlelit Oakley House, each room will interpret the last days of Spanish West Florida and social life at the time. Visitors may brush up on social etiquette at a tea or enjoy wassail and chestnuts by the fire; and later, enjoy a period dance as 1810-style Christmas music fills the air. 5:30 pm–8 pm. (225) 635-3739. December 3: Light up the Holidays: The Poydras Center in New Roads will light 22

lot of it: think choirs, arts and crafts, holiday treats, and an opportunity to donate toys to those less fortunate. Friday kicks off with Old Fashioned Christmas downtown, featuring the lighting of the city Christmas tree, with cookies and hot chocolate to set the scene. Saturday brings the parade at 10 am, landing at a vendor village to the Carencro Community Center for Carencro Country Christmas, featuring local eats and choirs. Details on the Christmas in Carencro Facebook Page. December 1–23: Noël Acadien au Village: LARC’s Acadian Village will host its annual Christmas festival fundraiser to benefit persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Noël Acadien au Village will feature half a million lights, themed Acadian home porches, lighted holiday displays, live entertainment, carnival rides, local cuisine, photos with Santa, holiday shopping, and more. Be sure to visit the Gingerbread House and Christmas Carolers. Open nightly from 5:30 pm–9 pm. $10 at the gate. Children ages two and younger, as well as active military, are free. For the full schedule, visit December 2: Christmas in the Village: Small town Christmas and all its charm is epitomized in downtown Loreauville, where the lighting of the town Christmas tree will draw out local food, craft vendors, special surprises, and Santa himself. 6 pm–9 pm. Free. Details at the Loreauville Community Project Facebook Page.

See Lafayette's Moncus Park converted into a winter wonderland of carnival rides, seasonal characters, local vendors, and live music from Pine Leaf Boys, Chubby Carrier, Steve Riley, and more, during Christmas in the Park from December 15–17. See listing on page 25. Image courtesy of Moncus Park.

CHRISTMAS IN ACADIANA November 21–January 1: Downtown Lafayette's Christmas Tree Extravaganza: Bringing together dozens of businesses, families, and nonprofits to spark holiday joy this season, Downtown Lafayette challenges everyone to bring out their tree-decorating chops. Over fifty premium spruce trees will be contenders in this monthlong competition, where the public can vote on their favorite tree. Online voting will be live until December 14, with winners announced on December 15. The tree that receives the most votes throughout the month will receive a $500 donation to the non profit of their choice. December 2–23: McGee's Swamp Tours' Atchafalaya Christmas: Join Papa Noël on the Basin for these incredible oneof-a-kind Cajun holiday experiences. After each tour, guests can take photos with Santa, create their own memento ornament, and enjoy hot chocolate,

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November 30–December 2: Christmas at Coteau: This annual seasonal celebration is a shopping, dining, and holiday event on the lovely grounds of Grand Coteau's Academy of the Sacred Heart. $78 for preview party on Thursday; $15 for the holiday market each day; $5 to taste the Gumbo Cook-off. All proceeds benefit Schools of the Sacred Heart at Grand Coteau. 9 am–4 pm on Friday; 9 am–3 pm Saturday. December 1: Lighting of the Tree Concert: Catch the annual Lighting of the Tree Concert in Parc International in Downtown Lafayette—which has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Enjoy performances by Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band on the main stage. Look forward to photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday crafts, and snacks provided by local restaurants. 5 pm– 8 pm. Free. December 1–2: Christmas in Carencro: Two days of Christmas cheer, and a whole

December 2: Village of Pine Prairie Vendor Market, Parade, and Tree Lighting: The season officially begins in The Village with a market of local vendors, the official Pine Prairie Christmas Parade, and the lighting of the town Christmas Tree. Enjoy taking photos with Santa while snacking on pizza, cookies, and sipping on hot chocolate. It all takes place at the heart of town on Veterans Memorial Highway. December 2: Noël á Broussard: The holiday season leaps to the streets with the annual Broussard Christmas Parade, starting at the corner of Morgan Avenue and Albertson Parkway, and ending at Arceneaux Park. Begins at 3 pm. Afterwards, celebrate the festive spirit in front of Broussard City Hall with Reindeer games, face painting, balloon artistry, a Christmas Market, and the annual lighting of the City Christmas Tree. Caroling begins at 5:45 pm, tree-lighting at 6:30 pm. Free. broussardchamberla. December 2: Jingle Bell Market: An artful shopping event at the Hilliard, bringing options for art and other goodies to your holiday gift list this year. Featuring hot chocolate and family photo opportunities, Christmas movies, creative gifts, and appearances from The Nutcracker characters. 10 am–5 pm.

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Holiday Events In Acadiana December 2: BREVE Christmas Concert: The Baton Rouge Early Vocal Ensemble will perform a concert of lesser-known Christmas songs of the Renaissance and Baroque eras at St. John Episcopal Church in Washington. 6 pm. Free.

on a float as a horse, or a four-wheeler. The holidays bring out the best of 'em. Begins at Carver Elementary School at 2:30 pm. Santa will be at the Community Center for photos afterward. 3 pm.

December 2–23: Lafayette Art Association Christmas Market: Stock up on gifts handcrafted by local artisans at the Lafayette Art Association Christmas Market, held at the Lafayette Art Association. Find the Lafayette Art Association on Facebook for more information.

December 3: City of Ville Platte Christmas Parade: See the holiday spirit of Flat Town at its finest, with hand-decorated floats coming straight down Main Street, starting at 6 pm.

December 3: Merry & Bright Christmas Carnival: Meet in Parc International for a holiday celebration—bolstered by face painting, reptile encounters, pony rides, and fun jumps, not to mention local vendors and appearances from the Clauses. Local vendors, including Reggie's Seafood, Nina Creole, Cajun Cane, Cotton Candies Lafayette, and more will be onsite. 2 pm–5 pm. Free. December 3: Village of Chataignier Christmas Parade: No one throws a better parade than good ole country folk, who might as likely come down the street


December 3: Sonic Christmas Parade and After Party: Welcome Santa to Lafayette this season and meet him on the parade route, which runs from Jefferson through Downtown all the way to the Oil Center. Afterwards, keep the fun going at the official after party in Parc International, featuring cookie decorating, arts and crafts, inflatables, food, beverages, and much more. Parade starts at 1 pm. Free. December 5–8: Vermilionville Gingerbread House Contest: For the Christmas season, Vermilionville is inviting gingerbread bakers and architects of all ages and skill-levels to submit their most creative spiced creations to potentially win prizes.

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All competing projects must be submitted between December 5–8, and visitors to Vermilionville from December 12–15 will have the chance to vote for the People’s Choice project, and judging for winning projects will be December 16, during Old Time Winter Family Day. Free. December 7: Abbeville's Annual Christmas Stroll: Stroll, shop, dine, and bask in the magic of Christmas in downtown Abbeville, where white lights will meet live music and Santa Claus himself for a night of holiday bliss. 5:30 pm–8 pm. Free. December 7–10 and 14–17: An Acadiana Christmas Carol: The ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future put the “gris– gris” on Etta Scrooge in this adaptation of Dickens’s timeless Christmas tale. Head to Cite des Arts to see Alicia Chaisson’s An Acadiana Christmas Carol. $20; $10 for students. For showtimes visit December 9: Queen City Christmas Parade: A festive parade will meander down New Iberia's historic Main Street, directly followed by a boat parade on Bayou Teche, and a grand finale of fireworks. The street parade will include the Berry Queens, local musicians, Bayou Lit Bikes, visiting royalty, and the man in red himself. Following the street parade, Santa will be available for photos in his

workshop in the Bouligny Plaza Gazebo. For the boat parade, head bayou-side to take in the holiday-bedecked boats. Street parade begins at 5:30 pm, the boat parade begins at 6 pm at Bayou Landing (Lewis Street Bridge). December 9: Village of Turkey Creek Christmas Parade: See small town Louisiana at its most festive, with a parade running through the middle of the community, followed by a hotdog lunch at Drouet Park. 11 am. December 9: A Very Berry Christmas Quest: Grab your family and set out on an adventure across New Iberia, completing a list of kid-friendly tasks with stops inside all of your favorite local businesses. Pick up your goody bag—filled with coupons and holiday treats, as well as your quest cards, at the Iberia Chamber office. Each quest task completed earns a sticker, and once participants have earned seven stickers, they can drop off their completed activity card at the office. Every family that turns in a completed card will be entered to win prizes. 9 am–4 pm. $10 for children ages four to seventeen; $5 for adults ages eighteen and older. December 9: Pancakes and PJs with Santa: Families are invited to bring their blankets to the Sliman Theatre in New Iberia for a pancakes and sausage picnic with Santa and

Mrs. Claus, plus holiday face painting, story time, and photo opportunities. 8 am–11 am. $10–$15. December 9: Delcambre Christmas Boat Parade: In Louisiana, we've got two kinds of parades—mainland and boat. Aficionados of the boat parade genre, Delcambre residents will be celebrating the season with the town's annual Christmas Boat Parade, starting at 6 pm at the Delcambre dock and featuring lighted boats of all sizes as they cruise Bayou Carlin, singing your favorite carols. Details at the Decambre Boat Poker Run & Christmas Boat Parade Facebook Page. December 9: St. Lucy Festival of Lights: Each year, Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville hosts the St. Lucy Festival of Lights, a family celebration that begins with 4 pm mass, followed by a children's parade of box floats. The night will close with photos with Santa, the lighting of the Square, live Cajun music, seasonal movies, and Christmas caroling. Free. December 9–10: Lafayette Ballet Theatre presents The Nutcracker: An Acadiana tradition sets the stage again with the full-length, classical ballet, The Nutcracker, performed by the Lafayette Ballet Theatre professional company dancers. Don't miss this timeless tale by E.T.A. Hoffman set to

Tchaikovsky's famous score, presented at the Heymann Performing Arts Center. 7 pm Saturday; 2 pm Sunday. Tickets start at $40. December 10: Delcambre Main Street Christmas Parade: After the boats have been anchored, Delcambre takes the spirit to the streets for the annual Main Street Christmas Parade—Santa joins local marching bands and dance groups to deck the streets in Delcambre. 2 pm–4 pm. (337) 519-2541. December 10: Mamou Christmas Parade: At this spirited holiday showcase of the town's organizations and creatives, the "Cajun Music Capital of the World" comes alive for Christmas. Afterwards, children can enjoy cookies and hot chocolate with Santa at the Rec Center. 6 pm. December 14: The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra Christmas Concert featuring Marc Broussard: The Symphony's longest-running tradition in Acadiana, the Christmas Concert annually brings the community together with traditional orchestral selections brilliantly paired with popular holiday tunes. This year's event will feature over one hundred musicians, including Lafayette's own rockstar Marc Broussard. 7 pm. Tickets start at $40. December 14: The Opelousas Children’s Christmas Parade: Any joyous occasion in

Louisiana calls for a parade, and Christmas is no exception. This one, with kids in mind, includes entertainment, music, marching bands, lighted floats, and most importantly: Santa and his buddies. The parade starts at 6 pm at Academy and Landry Streets, and rolls through downtown Opelousas to the Yambilee Grounds. December 15–17: Christmas in the Park: Celebrate the season in Lafayette's Moncus Park, where local musicians the Pine Leaf Boys, Chubby Carrier, Steve Riley, The Brazos Huval School of Music, and Rockin Dopsie Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters will infuse the air with holiday spirit. On Sunday, come back to see The Polar Express on the big screen. Bring the kids—there will be activities just for them, including sleigh rides and photos with Santa. Food will be available for purchase. 6 pm–9 pm. December 16: Old Time Winter Family Day at Vermilionville: Vermilionville's Historic Village will receive a holiday makeover, transporting visitors back in time to experience the simple beauty of Louisiana Christmases past—drawing on the traditions of the Acadian, Creole, and Native American cultures that lived here. Sing carols, hear stories, decorate cookies, make bousillage ornaments and candles, and more. 10 am–4 pm. Free.

December 22: Once Upon a Christmas in LAUGHayette: Book your seat for Cité des Arts upcoming holiday-themed comedy showcase, featuring a slate of the region's most hysterical talents hosted by Ryan Rogers, and featuring comedians: Tee-Ray Bergeron, Olivia Searcy, Will Merrill, Jeff Vance, and Jestkinni. 7 pm. $15 in advance; $20 at the door. • THE NORTHSHORE November 12–January 1: Christmas on Front Holiday Lights: Don’t miss the dazzling drive-by LED light display on Front Street, presented by The City of Slidell and Keep Slidell Beautiful as part of a beloved Northshore tradition. Free. November 24–Decemer 25: Christmas in the Country: The City of Covington and merchants of Lee Lane present their annual shopping event every Friday through Christmas. Shops throughout downtown Covington will offer special shopping events, featuring refreshments and live music. Free. November 24–January 1: Christmas at the Southern: Stop by the historic Southern Hotel in Covington, which will be decorated to the nines. Santa will be on deck most nights for photos, plus there are special events throughout the month such as carols in the courtyard, a holiday market, and

Upcoming Events Shopping


Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra Antique Village • December 2, 2023 Walker Christmas Parade • December 2, 2023 Juban Crossing Diversion Christmas Boat Parade • December 2, 2023 Bass Pro Springfield Christmas Parade • December 4, 2023 Kiwanis Christmas Tree Lighting • December 7, 2023 Denham Springs Antique District Denham Springs Kiwanis Christmas Parade • December 9, 2023 V-Watts Trade Days • Albany Christmas Parade • December 11, 2023 2nd Saturday of the month Livingston Christmas Parade • December 16, 2023 Farmers Market • Every Saturday A Grand Ole Christmas at Grand Country Junction • December 16, 2023 in Denham Springs • Walker Christmas Alive • December 17, 2023 Christmas in the Denham Springs Village • November 24- December 17, 2023 (225) 567-7899 // D E C 2 3


Holiday Events On the Northshore live music performances. It all culminates in a New Years Eve Party complete with a "pine cone drop" and champagne toast. December 1: Christmas at TerraBella: Join the folks of TerraBella Village for a special event kicking off the holidays, featuring an appearance from Mr. Claus, live holiday music, Christmas crafts, hot cocoa, and the tree lighting. 6 pm–9 pm. December 5: Northlake Performing Arts Society's "A Northshore Christmas" : The community choir will perform a special holiday concert at the Castine Center in Mandeville for one night only. 7:30 pm. Free. December 1: Sips of the Season Stroll: This Girod Street stroll is marked by a beautiful Covington evening, over forty brightly decorated shops and restaurants, holiday-themed craft cocktails enjoyed in the official mug designed by artist Paula Turner Pounds, and plenty of snacks. Starts at 4 pm on Girod Street. $35; must be 21 or older. December 1: Bayou Jam Christmas Spectacular: Heritage Park comes alive


for the start of December with this free concert by Vince Vance and the Valiants, who will bring a holiday twist to their normal set. 5:30 pm–7:30 pm. Free. December 1–3: Christmas Extravaganza Arts & Crafts Expo: Steinhauer Productions returns to the St. Tammany Parish Fairgrounds for one of the largest arts and crafts expos in the South. Shop over four hundred vendors from the region and knock out your entire Christmas list in a single day. 9 am–5 pm each day. $5 for ages thirteen and older. December 1–31: Christmas Under the Stars in Griffith Park: Twinkling lights, festive decorations, and life-sized Christmas Cottages come together for a magical night in Slidell. 6 pm–9 pm. Free. Details on the City of Slidell Facebook Page. December 1–31: Christmas Village at the Abita Springs Trailhead and Museum: Discover a miniature Christmas utopia on display at the Abita Springs Trailhead and Museum throughout the month. December 1–2 and 8–9: Mandeville

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Holiday of Lights: This enchanting Northshore light display is complete with kiddie rides, food trucks, caroling, and visits with Santa. Held on Koop Drive. Free. 6 pm–8 pm. December 1–3, 8–10: 30 by Ninety Theatre presents A Very Merry Christmas Spectacular: This holiday extravaganza features singing, dancing, and comedy, by local performers of all ages. 7 pm on Friday and Saturday; 2:30 pm Sunday. $32; $30 for seniors; $28 for students; $25 for children younger than twelve. December 2: Christmas at the Tea House: Santa is heading to Louisiana’s only tea farm to join families for tea sipping and goodies, professional photos, and live Christmas music sung by Jeremy Threlfall. December 2 and December 9 from 3 pm–5 pm, December 17 from 2 pm–4 pm. $55 for adults, $35 for kids under twelve. December 2 and 9: Santa's Pajama Party: 30 by Ninety Theatre invites all to join Santa and his elves in a handcrafted Winter Wonderland teeming with magical treats, in your pajamas. This event will feature holiday crafts, games, milk and cookies, photo-ops with the Big Guy, elvish entertainment, and snow. Recommended for children ages four to ten. 10 am. $40.

December 2: Christmas Under the Oaks: Held on the grounds of the former Covington Courthouse beneath the giant live oaks, this juried market of arts and crafts, hosted by the St. Tammany Art Association, will feature jewelry, photography, paintings, woodworking, fiber art, pottery, and more. 4 pm–8 pm. December 2: Olde Towne Slidell Community Christmas Golf Cart Parade: This old fashioned parade has community members donning their wildest holiday attire, and decking out their golf carts too. 5 pm–7 pm, going from City Hall, to Second Street, to Griffith Park, then Erlanger Street, before ending downtown for the lighting of the Christmas trees and Christmas Under the Stars. Free. December 2: Winter on the Water Santa Street & Boat Parade: This fun family event brings the magic of the holidays to the Mandeville Lakefront, featuring Mandeville's big annual Santa Street Parade, followed by a parade of boats bedecked for the season on Lake Pontchartrain. Plus live entertainment by the Mandeville Elementary School Bell Chorus, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the lovely lighting of the oaks on the lakefront. Santa’s Walking Parade begins at 4 pm at Lakeshore Drive and

cozy holiday event, featuring hot breakfast, Christmas crafts, kiddie train rides, face painting, a special Christmas movie showing, and a visit with the big man himself. All at Lakeview Regional Medical Center; seating available for fifteen fifteenminute intervals from 9 am–noon. $20 for kids; $5 adult breakfast. covingtonsanta. December 3: Merry Madisonville: Ring in the holidays at the Madisonville Park & Playground for a day of family fun. It all starts with a parade, which rolls at 2 pm at the Maritime Museum and ends at the Playground—where awaiting will be the Market Munchkins & Santa's Workshop, full of kids' activities. Also, expect food trucks, light displays, hot cocoa, and photo ops galore. Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to land their reindeers at 4 pm for gazebo photos.

The little town of Lutcher has made a fiery tradition of lighting grand bonfires on the Mississippi River levee leading up to Christmas each year, during the Festival of the Bonfires December 8–10 and on Christmas Eve. See listings on page 28. Photo by Marvin Roxas. Jackson Street, and ends at the gazebo. The

trailhead, featuring carols performed by

boat parade follows on the lake at 5:30 pm.

The Zion Harmonizers. 6 pm–7:30 pm.



December 8: Covington by Candlelight: A

December 2: Your Santa Breakfast: Learn

magical night of sing-alongs await at the

more about Youth Service Bureau at this

December 2–3, 9–10, and 16–17: A Christmas Story on Stage: Playmakers, Inc. Community Theatre presents the holiday classic A Christmas Story, with dancing lamps and songs galore. The special holiday production is directed by Naomi LeeShawn O'Donnell. 7 pm Saturdays; 2 pm Sundays. $15–20. December 2: Olde Towne Slidell Community Christmas Parade: Greet Santa on his trek through Olde Towne, starting at City Hall and moving down to

Griffith Park, where he will lead the annual lighting of the Christmas trees. 5 pm–7 pm. December 3: Covington Heritage Foundation's History and Holly Home Tour: Tour five festively-adorned homes along a pedestrian-friendly walking route during this Northshore holiday tradition, which starts at Fuhrmann Auditorium. 2 pm–5 pm. $20 at December 8–10: Festival of the Bonfires: The little town of Lutcher has made a tradition of celebrating its Festival of the Bonfires each year. Call it Christmas lightsCajun style, it's a prelude to the Christmas Eve bonfires later in the month. The sparks and holiday cheer ignite Friday afternoon at 2 pm, when the festival grounds at the Lutcher Recreational Park open, live music gets rolling; and the gumbo, potato salad, and bread pudding cook-offs get underway. At 7 pm, the first bonfires will be lit on the levee against live music by Thomas Cain. The festival continues throughout the weekend, with each night including a bonfire lighting and, on Saturday, a fireworks show. December 1–3, 8–10, 15–17: The Christmas Schooner: Slidell Little Theatre brings the musical stage adaptation of this remarkable story, set on the Great Lakes during Christmastime, in which the captain of a schooner once known as

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Holiday Events

check out the interactive wildlife displays. Nature-themed holiday crafts will be available, and the grounds will be open for outdoor explorations. 2 pm–4 pm. Free.

On the Northshore "The Christmas Tree Ship" risks his life to transport trees to Chicago's German immigrants during the late 19th century. 8 pm Fridays; 2 pm Saturdays and Sundays. $35; $25 for students and seniors. December 6: Sugar Plum Market: Hosted by the Junior League of Greater Covington, this Christmas shopping event will be held at Mercedes-Benz of Covington. Come shop over thirty-five small businesses sure to complete your wishlists. 4 am–8 pm. $5. December 8–January 6: Covington’s 12 Days of Christmas Lighted Displays: Wander through the historic district this season seeking out the twelve lighted silhouettes depicting the larger-than-life images from the traditional Old English Christmas Carol. The displays will be lit seven days a week from dusk to dawn through January 6. December 9: Christmas Past Festival: Pull out your ugliest sweater for the occasion of the annual Christmas Past Festival, featuring seventy-five artists and vendors,

a children's village, train rides, visits from Mr. Claus, and live music on Girod Street in historic Old Mandeville. 10 am–4 pm. Free. December 9: Ballet Apetrei’s The Nutcracker: Experience Ballet Apetrei’s rendition of the dazzling holiday favorite at one of their two performances at the Fuhrmann Auditorium this season. 2 pm & 7 pm Saturday. $20; $30 for reserved seating at December 9: Folsom Horse & Wagon Christmas Parade: Santa trades the sleigh for a horse-drawn wagon at this oldfashioned parade, which includes an antique tractor show, "best dressed horse and rider" contest, and "most original wagon" competition. Starts on Hwy 40 right outside of Folsom at 11 am. Free. Find the event on Facebook for more information. December 9: Cajun Christmas at Big Branch: Santa has scheduled an important stop at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge's Bayou Lacombe Visitor Center. Guests are invited to take photos, enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, and

Unlock a Healthier Future

December 16: Wreaths Across America Day: At noon on national "Wreaths Across America Day," the organization will be at Covington Cemetery No. 1 to honor U.S. veterans through the laying of Remembrance wreaths on their graves, and saying the name of each of them aloud. Free. (985) 892-1873.

narrated Nativity display. 6 pm–9 pm. Free. December 24: Christmas Eve Bonfires: Explore the unique tradition of the community-built bonfires along the Mississippi, set up to light the way for Papa Noël. Fires are lit at 7 pm along River Road in Gramercy and Lutcher. •

December 21: Holiday Concert with Northshore Community Orchestra: Enjoy a special holiday concert presented by the Northshore Community Orchestra at the Slidell Municipal Auditorium. 6 pm– 7 pm. Free. December 17: Christmas Brass Spectacular: The Louisiana Brass, led by Erik Morales, will perform a selection of favorite contemporary and traditional holiday music at Christ Episcopal Church in Covington. Free. 5 pm–6 pm. December 15–16, 22–23: Slidell’s Bayou Christmas: This annual fundraiser for the Slidell Boys & Girls Club is hosted in the evenings at Heritage Park, and features ice skating, light displays, Santa appearances, live music, holiday decarations, and a




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Learn more:

Other Events


Through December




Buras, Louisiana

School of Music alumna Lisette Oropesa frequently performs as the leading lady at some of the most prestigious opera

New Orleans, Louisiana

houses in the world, and now you can

This timeless Broadway sensation presented at the Saenger Theatre tells the spellbinding story of a girl with emerald skin as she journeys through the Land of Oz. Tickets start at $39. For showtimes visit •

hear her lyrical coloratura excellence


at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Oropesa is dedicated to fostering the advancement of future opera talents, and her concert will feature a few up and coming artists. 7:30 pm. $32–$235. •

Orange you glad there's something to celebrate besides Christmas? This year the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival returns to the grounds of historic Fort Jackson in Buras. The three-day event celebrates a century of citrus farming with live music, local foods, Civil War re-enactments on the hour, carnival and helicopter rides—and lots of cooking and eating contests. Few festivals offer an array of competitions as diverse as this one: pie

eating, orange eating, orange peeling, duck calling, shrimp peeling, catfish skinning, catfish de-heading, and oyster shucking. Fort Jackson is off Highway 23. Friday is focused on the carnival, but the events begin on Saturday. Read more about the event, and the agricultural legacy behind it, in our feature story on page 34. •

DEC 1st - DEC 29th


Works by members of the Art Guild


Baton Rouge watercolor artist Judi Betts has claimed over one hundred awards for her paintings, most of which impressionistically capture the natural beauty of Louisiana. An exhibition at the LSU Museum of Art foyer and the Manship Gallery at the Shaw Center celebrates sixty years of her paintings. Free. Read more about the Betts exhibition in Jordan LaHaye Fontenot's story on page 62. •



Artist and educator Daniel Rozin is a pioneer of interactive digital art, with a unique approach to digital art, in that he incorporates more tactile objects and invites the viewer to interact with his installations. His newest exhibition will be on display at the LSU Museum of Art. •

DEC 1st

MASQUERADES BAL MASQUE Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Don your most elaborate or mysterious mask and experience the glamor of a walk down the red carpet, dinner, dancing, and a mask competition at Baton Rouge Ballroom and Rivera Productions' Bal Masque at The Oaks Wedding & Event Venue. Cocktail attire is required, and masks are encouraged. Tickets start at $75. Email janicebarrios678@gmail. com for more information or tickets. •

DEC 1st


American operatic soprano and LSU // D E C 2 3




of Louisiana will be shown off in the Main Branch Library on Goodwood. •

a night of dancing, food, and music. Black tie optional. 6:30 pm. Tickets start at $125. •






- DEC 15



Covington, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Break out your festival folding chairs and head to downtown Covington for performances from five bands on five stages—or, porches, that is. Proceeds will support Hope House/Children's Advocacy Center. 2 pm–5 pm. Free. •

The following events are happening at the innovative, arts-forward, group Yes We Cannibal's Government Street space:

DEC 2nd


Experience the Pelican Ball to celebrate those who have helped shape Acadiana through their artistic works and contributions to the arts community. The Pelican Ball will honor Vicki Chrisman, William Daniel Hare, Randy & Daynese Haynie, and Gerd Wuestemann. Set to be

9 pm. For entry guidelines, tickets, festival hours and more information visit •

Opelousas, Louisiana

DEC 8th - DEC 17th


Beginning December 2 - December 31 nd

DEC 6th

December 5: Music and visual art project infinitekiss will perform with acoustic songwriter Brother Nought. 7 pm. December 9: Manon Bellet will create a live ferrofluid drawing on glass, accompanied by experimental musician Klaas Hübert. 6 pm. December 15: Author Lydia Pelot-Hobbs will discuss her book Prison Capital: Mass Incarceration and Struggles for Abolition Democracy in Louisiana, accompanied by a performance by saxophonist and composer Byron Asher. 7 pm. Free, but donations to support touring artists are encouraged. •

John Warner Smith, former Louisiana Poet Laureate and current executive director of Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, will give a talk at the Opelousas Museum, sharing his work at the National Historic Trust property and some of his poetry, as well. 6 pm–8 pm. Free. museum@ •


Henry Turner Jr.’s Listening Room has branched from music and soul food into another realm entirely with its annual film festival, with the goal of highlighting features about music and entertainment from throughout the Southeast area. The festival will screen several local culture documentaries, as well as include panels and live music performances from artists who are featured in the films. The festival will take place both physically and virtually. Friday and Saturday from 3 pm–midnight, Sunday from 3 pm to


See what's happening within the Order of the Little Sisters of Hoboken six months after they take over a high school auditorium to hold a fundraising variety show to raise money to bury several sisters (who were accidentally poisoned by their cook). Fraught with hilarity, both Catholic and otherwise, five nuns try to give their planned performance amidst chaos and calamity. 7:30 pm Thursday–Saturday; 2 pm Sunday. $20. •

DEC 8th - JUN 2nd


Explore The Historic New Orleans Collection’s new exhibit A Mystic Brotherhood: Fraternal Orders of New Orleans, and learn about the centuries–old legacy of Freemasons, Odd Fellows, and other fraternal organizations that have profoundly shaped the city’s social fabric. Free. •

Experience History

Louisiana Prison Museum and Cultural Center

3rd Annual Arts & Crafts Show Free Museum Admission Saturday, December 9, 2023 8AM to 1PM 17544 Tunica Trace, Angola, LA 70712 • 225.655.2592 Regular Hours: Monday - Friday 8AM to 4:30PM 30

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DEC 9th


Prospect New Orleans is unveiling the second installation from its Artists of Public Memory Commission, created by New Orleans artists Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. An unveiling and opening reception featuring a musical performance by Herlin Riley will be held from 4 pm–7:30 pm at the Global Green Community and Climate Action Center; the installation is located in the neutral ground of N. Claiborne Ave between Andry St. and Flood St. Free. •

DEC 9th

FARM PARTIES COMMON GROUND Saint Francisville, Louisiana

The Louisiana chapters of the Weston A. Price Foundation are hosting an afternoon of education and celebration of regenerative agriculture, small farms, and more; with speakers, food, and live music. At Bayou Sara Farms from 2 pm–5 pm. $35 includes food; cash bar. •

DEC 14th


New Orleans native Dawn Richard and multi–instrumentalist Spencer Zahn make their musical debut together with their new album Pigments at the New Orleans Museum of Art for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s Music at the Museum series. 6 pm. Tickets start at $35. •

DEC 16th


Cats strutting their stuff through six judging rings, pet accessory vendors, and local rescue groups will be at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center for the Baton Rouge Cat Club's annual show. 9:30 am–5 pm. $8 adults, $6 seniors and children. Children twelve and younger are free. •

DEC 16th - JAN 11th


Art appreciation and environmental

stewardship intersect at Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, who in collaboration with NOLA Artist Incubator present an exhibition featuring works created during the 2023 “Art in the Park'' project. The exhibit aims to encourage dialogue and action on sustaining nature in urbanized areas of New Orleans. Free. •

Rebels at one of New Orleans's biggest New Year's Eve bashes, this year at the Fillmore. 9 pm. Tickets start at $59.99. •

DEC 21st

Tupelo, Mississippi


Celebrate the longest night all year with The Arts, Hancock County in Bay St. Louis at their second-ever Handmade Parade. Homemade lanterns will be carried from the Arts Center to the beach, where a beach bonfire and pizza will conclude the event. All are invited to bring battery-powered lanterns, flashlights, and other handheld light sources. 6 pm–9 pm. Free. •

DEC 31st


DEC 31st

FIREWORKS TUPELO’S NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY Welcome 2024 in with high-energy live music across two stages, a dance party, and a fireworks show brought to you by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. Music starts at 6 pm, fireworks at 8 pm. Free. •

For our full list of December events, including those we couldn’t fit in print, point your phone camera here.

Greet the new year with performances by Ying Yang Twins and the Soul

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3 4 L O U I S I A N A ' S C I T R U S I N D U S T R Y I S A T T H E F R O N T L I N E S O F C L I M A T E C H A N G E // 3 9 I N B I L O X I , T H E L I G H T S B E G I N O N T H E W A T E R // 4 1 H O W O N E O F L O U I S I A N A ' S M O S T T R A D I T I O N A L A R T S I S E V O L V I N G F O R MODERN AUDIENCES



Story by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot Photos L–R: (1) Ben Becnel Sr., second generation owner of Becnel Farms in Belle Chasse. His son and grandson still work on the citrus farm. Photo by Jackson Hill. (2) 1940s. Woman picking oranges in conjunction with the Orange Festival, Buras, La. Written on photo: "Not generally known is the fact that Louisiana is an important producer of citrus fruits. Louisiana oranges are noted for their exceptionally fine flavor." State Library of Louisiana Historic Photograph Collection. (3) Orange grove, Point Barre, Bayou DuLarge, LA, 1997. Donald W. Davis Slide Collection, Louisiana Sea Grant Collection Images, Louisiana Digital Libraries.


t the delicate, lacy toe of Louisiana, the holidays are ushered in by globes of horange as much as sparkling tinsel; by bulging grocery bags as much as wrapping papered-boxes; by orange wine as much as eggnog, and the zesty aromas of satsuma as much as pine. The citrus that emerges this time of year in Plaquemines Parish has long held claim to being the country’s sweetest. Cradled by the warmer microclimate of this stretch of land extending into the Gulf, and nurtured by soils collected by 34

the Great River from Minnesota through each curve of the Delta, piled high here at the bottom—“the richest soil in the world,” they say—the fruits weigh down their branches fat with juice, bright in color, and thin in rind. The assessment is beyond mere advertisement, or even opinion: it’s scientifically proven. In 1939, two scientists working in LSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station published a study comparing the quality of Louisiana navel and sweet oranges to those in Florida and California. After three years of chemical and physi-

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cal analyses, compounded by blind taste tests, their conclusion was that: “Louisiana oranges, by test, surpass all others in the flavor of the juice or its taste appeal. With very few exceptions, they have the thinnest rind, and in most cases, they will have as high percentages of juice, solids, and total sugars as oranges from any other section.” When the French first claimed the place now called Plaquemines, the vision of an orange-dappled utopia was already there—though the bountiful trees they

encountered were not citrus at all, but native persimmons. This is where Plaquemines gets its name, derived from the Atakapa word for the brightly-colored, plum-like fruit: piakimin. Likely encouraged by the way those fruits thrived here at the end of the world, the Europeans brought the citrus at the beginning of the 18th century. Though, according to the journals of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, those first seeds— planted in what is now Phoenix, Louisiana by the Jesuit priest Father Paul du Ru in 1700—did not take root.

Other Jesuit missionaries had more success. Using seeds from the West Indies, they established successful groves closer to New Orleans by the early 1730s. And within seventy years, many colonists living there along the bottom of the Mississippi had family orchards near their homes. Though the fruits were certainly enjoyed on their own, they were mostly grown for their juices—which were used to flavor drinking water and to create a sweet, strong wine, still passed around in glass bottles and sipped during cold fronts on back porches in Plaquemines Parish. During the first half of the 19th century, a few industrious farmers developed small-scale citrus operations that primarily sold to the markets in New Orleans. The time frame from planting the seeds to harvesting a commercially-viable crop could take anywhere from seven to ten years, while requiring significant investments in fertilizer, water, pesticides, and time—not to mention the ever-present threat of ruin by weather or disease. This made citrus a far less lucrative business than other regional ventures like sugar, cotton, or rice. In 1838, the price of oranges was $15 (equivalent to about $500 today) per 1,000 oranges. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that major citrus enterprises emerged on Louisiana plantation sites, whose owners may have foreseen some benefit to diversifying and rededicating acreage to the less labor-intensive crop should the war result, as it of course did, in them being made to free or pay their enslaved labor force. The largest of these orchards was a collaboration between two of Louisiana’s wealthiest plantation owners of the time—Bradish Johnson, who owned Woodland Plantation, and Effingham Lawrence, who served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1871–1875 and owned Magnolia a few miles away. Together, they established an operation they called “Orange Farm” between Home Place and Nairn, which was said to be the largest citrus grove in the country, and perhaps even the world, at the time—consisting of over 100,000 trees. A journalist from the Times Picayune described the scene from the vantage of a boat passing nearby on the Mississippi River in the summer of 1872: “The magnificent orange groves, which beautify the banks of the river along the Lower Coast, are heavily loaded with young oranges and promise a lavish yield. When autumn comes to touch them with its wand of gold, truly will they be gardens of Hesperian fruit.” The farm was such a novelty in Louisiana, and in the country as a whole, that it was included as an attraction at the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1884. Orange Farm’s success, yielding at its peak up to $20,000 of profit per year (the equivalent of about $505,000), lit the spark of Plaquemines’ citrus industry— encouraging farmers across the “Lower Coast” to get in while they could. This momentum was propelled, also, by the

introduction of propagation as a planting method by growers George Schoenberger and W.S. Reddick in the 1870s, significantly cutting the waiting period until harvest. Now a profitable venture in itself, citrus farming was also an attractive alternative to other industries in the area, such as fishing—which required harder labor and more time away from one’s family. By 1900, there were over one hundred citrus farms in Plaquemines Parish, which had earned the title “the orange belt”. In 1916, many of the farmers came together to rededicate low-lying land previously used to grow rice—a less-economical venture without the exploitation of enslaved labor—into land suitable for orange groves. To do this, they built an elaborate drainage system in Buras that expanded the geographical footprint of the local citrus industry by 80%. By the 1930s and 1940s, the historical height of citrus production in Louisiana, the cottage industry was significantly smaller than those of Florida or California—but considered higher in quality, more specialized and regional. In 1946, the most prosperous year for Plaquemines Parish’s citrus industry, almost 5,000 acres in Louisiana, mostly in Plaquemines Parish, were being utilized to grow citrus, with an output of 410,000 ninety-pound boxes of fruit. The next year, the community rallied around local growers and celebrated their efforts, and the culture they fostered, at the first annual Plaquemines Orange Festival. “When I was a kid, you would drive down to Venice,” said Ben Becnel, the third-generation owner of Becnel Farms, a major citrus grower in the area since 1890, “and it was just orange grove after orange grove after orange grove. “And now, I mean, there are literally less than a handful.” The first time the orange trees came down in droves, it was intentional; an eradication. The highly-contagious citrus canker was spreading across the country, and in the early 1910s had thoroughly infected Louisiana’s groves, causing the fruits to bloom with unsightly wart-like lesions and the trees to drop their leaves. There was no cure, and to prevent further spread, almost all of the trees—many of them over a century old—had to be destroyed. Since then, the story of growing citrus in Plaquemines Parish has been of cycles spent bracing against disaster, felling, and replanting again. In January 1951, just five years after the largest citrus crop in the history of Louisiana’s industry, one of the United States’ most destructive winter storms of all time, called “The Great Southern Glaze Storm of 1951” coated much of the Southeast in ice. The citrus crop in Plaquemines Parish was totally decimated. The groves had almost recovered a decade later, when in 1962 and 1963 temperatures dropped to some of their lowest points in Louisiana history. Once again, farmers replanted—staying afloat // D E C



with the support of government replacement programs. Then came Hurricane Betsy in 1965, followed by Camille in 1969. Then, freezes in 1982, ‘83, and ‘89; Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Plans for a juicing factory were shelved indefinitely. In 2005, the looming threat of the salty Gulf waters’ intrusion into the soil was made manifest overnight by Katrina and her twenty-foot floodwaters—annihilating 80% of production that year and killing about half the citrus trees in Plaquemines. Rod Lincoln, a Plaquemines Parish historian whose ancestors worked on Johnson and Lawrence’s seminal Orange Farm in the mid 1800s, said that Katrina marked the beginning of the end of the industry as it was remembered. Before the historic storm, there were six hundred citrus farmers in Plaquemines Parish—a number that has continued to decline as the effects of coastal erosion increase, major hurricanes become more frequent, industrial and residential developments take over farmland, and it becomes less and less sustainable for most farmers to continue starting over after each new disaster. In addition, in 2013 the canker came back, followed soon after by a new, worse disease called citrus greening— neither of which has been totally eradicated as of yet. Today, according to LSU AgCenter Associate Extension Horticulture Agent Anna Timmerman, there are about thirty-five commercial citrus growers in the parish, and only about one hundred acres devoted to groves. These farmers are presently dealing with the challenges of protecting young, not-yet-producing groves replanted after the devastating effects of Hurricanes Zeta in 2020 and Ida in 2021—which took out 2,000 of Becnel’s trees and 75% of his fruit. Joseph Vanatza of Star Nursery was also devastated by the storms. “They rocked the fruit trees from one direction, then the next year it rocked them back and threw the root systems all amuck,” he said. As the trees

recover from the impact of the past few years, farmers now have to fight the effects of a freeze last year and a drought this year. “It’s been a real challenge to stay in business,” said Vanatza, who recently had to dig up 3,000 naval trees infected with canker, and now grows exclusively disease-resistant satsumas. “This is the first year we’ve really had a crop in three years,” said Becnel, who is now producing half of the size of the crop he was in 2019, and mostly selling to local vendors. “And we had a great crop coming, before we got this drought. So, the fruit we have is kind of small, but it’s a crop, and it’s good.” “You can grow anything in Plaquemines, and it’s gonna grow up well. So long as the saltwater doesn’t get into it,” said Lincoln. It’s a concept that speaks to the duality of fertility and impending doom that has come to define agriculture on this vulnerable corner of the state, but also life more generally. After five generations of farming citrus in Plaquemines Parish, Lincoln, his family, and “almost everyone I know” have been forced to find home elsewhere. His family’s groves— and their decades-old trees—are still there. But left untended for years after they evacuated for Katrina, the oranges grew sour. The displacement has been traumatic not only for the trees, but for the growers ripped from their way of life. “My dad, my grandfather—they hardly ever left Plaquemines Parish, or went further than ten miles of the farm,” said Lincoln. “So we’ve got all these generations that lived and worked there, and now most of them have left. It is a huge cultural shock. They felt like strangers in a strange land when they left Plaquemines.” Ironically, this homesickness has only emphasized the impact of events like the annual Orange Festival each December—which gives people who have left

a reason to come home during the holidays; to enjoy the Louisiana citrus of their past lives, which becomes harder to find outside of Plaquemines every day. “Any time there’s an opportunity to get together, most of these people come back,” said Lincoln. “You’d think it was a family reunion.” For the farmers, like Becnel and Vanatza, who have been able to stay, the challenges have not yet outweighed the satisfaction of carrying the sweetness of Louisiana citrus into the future. “So many people here want our oranges in the fall,” said Becnel. “It’s almost like a ritual. And it’s still profitable for us. As long as it is, we’ll keep doing it.” In fact, as of now Becnel Farms stands to survive another generation, with Becnel’s son already running one of the farm's fruit stands. “I’m pretty sure he's going to continue in some fashion. Timmerman, while acknowledging the hurdles that have contributed to the local industry’s decline, said she has hope for its future. “Three new farms planted groves in the past couple of years, all younger farmers,” she said. “I think as long as people want Louisiana oranges, there’s going to be a future,” said Lincoln. “As long as there’s land that can grow it, there’ll be a future. What I would encourage people, strongly, is to realize that we’re losing the Delta little by little, and we’re losing citrus farms little by little. If people really want to understand the Delta, and they want to understand citrus farming, if they want to see it, they want to taste it, don’t wait. Because we just don’t know how many years it will be before the next big freeze, or the next Katrina.” •

The Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival will take place this year December 1–3 at Historic Fort Jackson in Buras, Louisiana. Details at

Merry Christmas



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Acadian Museum

E R AT H , LO U I S I A N A The Acadian Museum, located in the heart of Cajun country, commemorates and honors the Acadian heritage and Cajun people of Louisiana. Featuring many rare Acadian artifacts, the Acadian Museum strives to preserve a culture and heritage that has endured for over 400 years, here and in the far reaches of France and Canada.

Did You Know?

Cajuns practice their French religiously. A century ago, French was the primary language spoken in the rural Louisiana parishes between Lake Charles and New Orleans. By the 1920s, school districts started forcing children to learn English and punished them for speaking French. Decades later, a movement was born to reclaim that heritage, starting with the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL). Nowadays, towns across the region host a Table Française (French Table) where the locals gather to keep their French skills alive. The Acadian Museum supports French immersion programs in the schools so that new generations can learn the language of their ancestors. Come and visit, to hear how well we speak it in our daily lives. Bienvenue à la Louisiane! Layla Melancon runs a Table Française weekly conversation in Erath, Louisiana—one of many across the region. Read more about Layla and her group at or search for Les Amis du Francais en Vermillion on Facebook.

This fascinating book about traiteurs and the South Louisiana healing arts explores traditional Acadian, Creole, and Native American practices for preserving and restoring good health. Many of the remedies and healthful practices described date back generations. As you will discover, more than a few are still in use today. To place an order, call (337) 456-7729, or visit the museum boutique at

Visit the Acadian Museum! Admission is FREE. 203 South Broadway, Erath, Louisiana 70533 (337) 456-7729

Louisiana Acadian flag // D E C




This holiday season, tackle all of your gift shopping with a weekend getaway to Ridgeland. Choose from 17 hotels, 150+ restaurants, and an array of shopping in this small vibrant town with big city vibes. Book your next visit to Ridgeland at


Light up the Gulf


By Cherie Ward


fter the sun sets on the first hhSaturday of December, the Biloxi beaches—shining sugary-white beneath the moonlight—are full. The crepuscule backdrop of the dark, watery horizon provides a bare tapestry, prepped for the coming saturation of glittering lights. “It's like having a blank canvas we can light up,” said Rusty David, founder of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s annual Christmas on the Water lighted boat parade. As the holiday season descends, the seasonal staple in Biloxi has the fish and shrimping communities hauling out their boats and decking the hulls with light displays, giant candy canes, and plastic reindeer to celebrate the yuletide season with their community. The fleet of glittering, decked-out boats lure myriads of spectators each year eager to enjoy a twinkling twilight show from the picturesque coastal shoreline or the nearby Biloxi Town Green, where they gather with friends and family to sip from hot chocolate-filled thermoses, and relax together before the busy rush of the holiday season. “We never really know what all we are going to get,” David said. “It’s always up to the boat owner, and I think that’s what makes it a fun tradition that brings out generations of families all at once. We are all together, and the Mississippi Sound is completely dark, and the parade just shines. It's just spectacular. And the boat parade is the official Christmas kickoff for Biloxi and the Gulf Coast.” David, a Biloxi native, has been anchored to numerous community traditions, including the Old Biloxi Marching Club—a Mardi Gras custom, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic each summer. But none is more important to him than Christmas on the Water. The parade’s maiden year was 1986, but the concept dates to 1984 when a group of mariners, David among them, were sitting around a dinner table at Mary Mahoney's Old French House restaurant in Biloxi. Mahoney, who was president-elect of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce and the first woman to hold that title, suggested that the chamber create something unique for Christmas that could include local shrimpers, fishermen, and other seafarers during the off-season. “We don't normally use our boats in the wintertime," David said. "It was an opportunity to put people together on the boats during Christmastime and have a real nice family event." Unfortunately, plans were put on hold when Mahoney fell ill and died the following year. In 1986, the group pulled

together and saw her dream brought to fruition with an inaugural parade of twenty-eight boats. Christmas on the Water was an instant hit, and continued to gain traction each year. It peaked at eighty-six boats in 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Coast. “We didn't miss that year either, but we only had eight boats. Still, we managed to keep Mary’s tradition alive,” David said. “We are back up to averaging about fifty boats. The pandemic slowed things down, but I’m hopeful we’ll see that eighty-six number again before too long.” David’s dedication to facilitating the community event throughout years of trials and tribulations on the Coast— including Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 BP oil spill, and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic—have not gone unnoticed. Coastal Mississippi Tourism recently nominated him for a Mississippi Tourism Association award noting, “His commitment to showcasing Coastal Mississippi's maritime roots and fostering a sense of togetherness has solidified the parade's place as an integral part of the region's culture. Rusty David's sentiment captures the essence of the parade's impact. It's just Coast culture. It's about people, togetherness, families, and hospitality. That's what Biloxi is all about." And with David’s committed navigation, the event continues to grow. Four years ago, he enlisted his friend Kelli Dickens, owner of Kelli’s Steps School of Dance in Biloxi, to put on a holiday production to entertain eager viewers while the boats were lining up. Dickens and her SHOWSTOPPER dance team created The Grinch Show, featuring a traditional classic Christmas soundtrack and a few Rockette-style kick-lines to jump-start the yacht rocking parade magic. “We do a choreographed parade dance throughout downtown Biloxi, and we end up on the stage at the Town Green, just in front of the beaches,” Dickens said. “We have people that join in and walk all the way to the stage with us. The whole thing has become quite a tradition that really involves everyone.” In addition to the twenty-minute Grinch production, there is also a myriad of live music performances to add to the festive ambiance. Local artists fill the air with melodies set to complement the gleaming and winking lights reflecting off the water as the boats ease through the Sound. The evening concludes with brilliant professional fireworks shot from a barge near Deer Island. Each year David begins the parade by announcing, “And now that the Grinch Show has dropped all the beats, it’s time to rock the throttles.” •

This year, Christmas on the Water will be held in Biloxi at 6 pm. Find details at the Christmas on the Water Biloxi, Mississippi Facebook Page.

Photos from previous years' Christmas on the Water, courtesy of Coastal Mississippi. // D E C




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Rossini's La Cenerentola, performed by the Shreveport Opera. Photo courtesy of Shreveport Opera.


Tonight at the Opera



f you walk down Bourbon Street between St. Louis and Toulouse, you might notice that the infamous street inexplicably widens halfway hdown the block; it’s as if there’s an extra lane. It’s not there to service the hotel that now sits at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse; it’s the last vestige of an era during which ladies and gentlemen of New Orleans high society would have been dropped off in their horse-drawn carriages: the added lane made it easier. It’s a curbside reminder of a gem of bygone New Orleans cultural life: The Old French Opera House. In a fateful night for the city, December 4, 1919, that building—which had housed local opera performances since 1859—burned to ash. It hadn’t been New Orleans’s first opera house, but had been the longest-lived. The Old French Opera House had become vital to both ordinary and “sophisticated” cultural life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Richard Campanella, in addition to opera, the space hosted vaudeville shows, carnival balls, and other entertainments for all classes, and races, of New Orleanians. The fire was a blow so robust, Campanella believes it actually hastened “the decline of French Creole Culture” in the Quarter. Over one hundred years before that great fire, in 1792, Le Théâtre St. Pierre opened on St. Peter Street. According to New Orleans Opera Archivist Jack Belsom, the space hosted “plays, comedy, and vaudeville,” but soon would make history when, on May 22, 1796, the first known opera production on a New Orleans stage brought André Ernest Grétry’s Sylvain to the city. This marked the beginning of what many now believe to have been the first known opera company in the United States. This historic performance marked the embryonic stages of a musical tradition that still exists in Louisi-

ana today. Over the years the genre has waxed, waned, evolved, and somehow—despite unprecedented shifts in where humans find their entertainment—survived. Which brings us back to that tragic fire of 1919. Following its devastation, the cultural arts scene in the crown jewel of Louisiana cities struggled for some time to regain its foothold. The New Orleans Opera Association, however, resurrected that zeitgeist in part when it became active in the 1940s. Having just celebrated its eighty-first season in 2023, it continues to present traditional operas, while continuously evolving to also reflect a more contemporary mindset. Dr. Tara A. Melvin, New Orleans Opera’s Director of Community Partnerships and Education, understands well the balance between tradition and progress. “We tend to see art as static,” Dr. Melvin explained. “We view art through the lens of preservation, which is okay in ways, but doesn’t allow art to be what it is. “Art shows us the ways artists see the world, and how they work through their issues. Opera is no different,” she continued. As an example, she referenced New Orleans Opera’s first major performance of the 2023-2024 season, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). “[Mozart] infused struggle, and his feelings about class, into the opera,” Dr. Melvin said. “He was shining a light, holding up a mirror, and pointing toward the future. He did all of that in the span of three hours, and even though the opera is named after a man, the central character is a woman.” The story’s relevance has endured, she said. “There’s evidence of class struggle all around us. We don’t usually formalize it the way he did.” Steve Aiken, who is the general and artistic director of the Shreveport Opera, which celebrated its 75th season this year, also understands well how the traditions of op-

era ought to be maintained, while also inviting modern audiences to enjoy them through a new lens. He explained that the company really “got its footing” back in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Metropolitan Opera would tour the country, and “people got to see some of the superstars of the opera world.” Shreveport audiences liked what they heard. “Those tours for the most part don’t exist anymore, but it was a driving force in many cities starting their own companies.” As it has since the company was founded, today the Shreveport Opera still collaborates with the Shreveport symphony for all of its major shows, but is also offering scaled-down performances under the title of “Art After Dark”. These one-hour shows, presented in smaller, lower-cost venues, showcase operas written in the past ten years and offer what Aiken calls an “edgier” message. These productions are designed as entry points to bring new listeners into the fold. “I think it’s the obligation of companies like ours to slowly edge into shorter productions,” Aiken said. “The opera world is changing.” Aiken said a pride of the Shreveport Opera is its artist–in-residence program, wherein four vocalists are selected each year. “I think we’re the only company in Louisiana that has a residency for the entire year,” Aiken said, adding that these performers, part of the “corp,” will do 125 performances a year, including singing leads in the shows of that season and conducting extensive school outreach. Like the Shreveport Opera, Baton Rouge’s Opéra Louisiane has started presenting shorter performances targeting a wider demographic, presented in “non-traditional” spaces like the Old State Capitol. “At Opéra Louisiane, it is our mission to present opera that—like the voices—will tell stories that resonate with everyone,” // D E C



Saint-Saëns' Hell's Bells, performed by Opéra Louisiane. Photo courtesy of Opéra Louisiane.

Blue, performed by the New Orleans Opera. Photo by Cory Weaver, courtesy of New Orleans Opera.

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said the company’s General Director and CEO Kathryn Frady. “Opera is about the tradition of singing with a technique that allows singers to project their voices over the orchestra to the back of the hall without any additional amplification,” she said. “So when audiences, supporters, and producers keep that fact in mind, it becomes easy to blend the ideas of traditional opera and modern opera, or opera for a modern audience, into a season.” A more recent development in Louisiana’s opera scene

is the New Orleans company OperaCréole. Founded in 2011 by Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason, this company is dedicated to performing “lost or rarely performed works” by composers of African descent. “We have to remember that no matter our color, opera is in the DNA of New Orleans,” Joseph said, adding that OperaCréole is interested in a “restorative justice element, primarily for the 19th century free composers of color.” She said another primary goal is to use appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to “introduce what we do, but through a different lens, for someone who usually wouldn’t come to opera.” In October, OperaCréole teamed up with the New Orleans Symphony to create a musical experience that’s sure draw the attention of new audiences. They performed live the score to the film Get Out, Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed psychological thriller. The show was a unique multi-disciplinary event wherein operatic voices combined with music and film to create something altogether new; it, along with the similar recent production of Jurassic Park In Concert, just might serve to elicit fresh interest in classical and operatic genres. Joseph also does a lot of outreach in classrooms, hoping to introduce opera to youth. “They love it,” she said. An example she gave was when she introduced 4th graders to the Bizet opera, Carmen. She’d play them the original version; then the Dorothy Dandridge version from the 1950s; followed by a modern interpretation by contemporary superstar, Beyoncé Knowles. Surprisingly, Joseph discovered they usually preferred the original. “I didn’t think they would like this … it turned out they ended up loving it!” Outreach targeted to new generations is also a major tenet of Dr. Melvin’s work at the New Orleans Opera. It’s important to her to stress how many moving parts go into a production, and that there’s a place for people with passion. “Opera uses so many artforms to tell a story, I think it’s important for students to see that,” she said. “Some may identify with singers or instrumentalists playing in the orchestra, but there are four hundred other jobs that have to be done before the opera hits the stage.” To give young people the chance to explore these opportunities, the New Orleans Opera hosts a regular, free, program called “Career Day: Jobs off the Stage,” during which kids can talk to scenic designers, scenic painters, wardrobe people, sound engineers, and more. “The students learn that no job is more important than another, and they are essential to any theatrical production,” Dr. Melvin explained. “They also get to speak with creatives and ask any questions they may have. There is so much more to opera than singing on a stage.”

Upcoming Opera Performances in Louisiana Opéra Louisiane The Christmas Spider (World Premiere): December 15 & 17, 2023 The Barber of Seville: May 3 & 5, 2024

New Orleans Opera Association Lucia Di Lammermoor: March 22 & 24, 2024

OpéraCreole Chevalier and Charlotte: A Masked Ball : January 12, 2024

Shreveport Opera La Petite Boheme (Art After Dark) : February 23, 2024 Così fan tutte: April 20, 2024

In Baton Rouge, Opéra Louisiane is also working to push the music forward for the next generation. In addition to its main productions, the company creates free child-centric productions in schools. Tens of thousands of area 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in the Capital City have been able to see a fully-staged opera through the “Young People’s Opera Program.” It’s one of this company's many efforts to create a bridge to new audiences. In these ways and others, just as the floundering Crescent City opera scene was literally revived from ashes following the infamous 1919 fire, the contemporary opera milieu in Louisiana is continually being remade, either by building bridges to traditions of the past or by creating all new ways of enjoying la belle musique. •

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4 4 I N R O D R I G U E ' S WO R L D, A R T A LW A YS M E E T S F O O D

Images courtesy of the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts. L-R: Winning paintings from the George Rodrigue Visual Arts Contest, as featured in The Pot and the Palette Cookbook II: Callan Thornton, "Fresher Than Expected"; Emily Bonin,"Les Cadien"; Anna Miley, "Awe Shucks".



Pot & Palette



Story by Alexandra Kennon

t’s hard to imagine that the artist George Rodrigue—famous for his Louisiana-inspired paintings, hespecially the Blue Dog series— never won an art competition during his childhood growing up in New Iberia. According to his son Jacques, George had felt such contests were “rigged” back then in the ‘50s, with awards usually going to relatives of the judges. So in 2010, his reputation as an artist established and his Foundation for the Arts in place, Rodrigue created a student art competition of his own. The themes inspiring the submissions for each year’s contest were to be in the spirit of Rodrigue’s own creative inspiration—which he drew from the deep well of his home state’s scenery, folklore, and culture. The contest evolved in 2020 to partner with the Trombone Shorty Foundation to include a Songwriting Contest component, as well. “Dad always said if he wasn't from Louisiana, he probably never would have started painting in the first place,” said Jacques, who now serves as the Executive Director of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA). The Acadian 44

culture Rodrigue grew up immersed in was always integral to his paintings and inspiration as an artist—with the distinct flavors and dishes of Cajun cuisine, and the experience of gathering around a table to share it, often the centerpiece. “For Dad, when you think about Louisiana, and you think about what he was painting and creating, and the culture he was trying to capture, you can't speak about what Cajun is unless you talk about the food, and our restaurants and our different dishes,” Jacques explained. “It's a cuisine that comes from the story of these exiles, who were traditionally French-speaking, but took a lot of their methods and applied them to the land of Louisiana. And so making things like gumbo, and boiling crawfish, is all part of what it meant to be Cajun.” These sentiments are the heart behind The Pot & The Palette Cookbook II, released earlier this year as a ten-year follow up to the original 2013 edition. After inviting student applicants to the 2022 competition to submit work under the same theme that inspired the original cookbook, “Louisiana’s culinary

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heritage,” the GRFA then sought out a culturally-inspired collection of recipes by local chefs to accompany them. Part of the recurring theme’s significance, besides the obvious importance of cuisine to Louisiana culture, stems from George Rodrique’s lifelong friendship with Chef Paul Prudhomme, who grew up in Opelousas around the same time Rodrigue did in New Iberia. “The two were just basically from different bayous,” laughed Jacques. The first page of The Pot & The Palette Cookbook II dedicates the book to Prudhomme’s memory, including a biography of the chef (who passed away in 2015, two years after Rodrigue), alongside a photograph of the friends together, smiling wide. Not only did these two early ambassadors of Cajun culture frequently paint and cook respectively at festivals together; Jacques recalled countless memories of birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations his family spent at Prudhomme’s laid-back French Quarter restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, and fondly remembered their time as Prudhomme’s across-the-street neighbors in the

Marigny neighborhood. “I mean, Paul and dad went way back.” Rodrigue also painted three iconic portraits of Prudhomme, each with his signature draping live oaks to the chef’s back. “Dad always credited Paul with making the word ‘Cajun’ a word in popular culture, because before Paul, no one knew what ‘Cajun’ was,” Jacques explained, noting that at that time, “Cajun” was most often used as a derogatory word. “But Paul and dad really embraced it as a positive thing that reflected the region's history.” When Prudhomme’s first national cooking show, Fork in the Road, aired on PBS in 1995, many Americans outside of Louisiana for the first time learned what Cajun meant—as a reflection of the region’s cuisine, music, and people. “Without Paul, Dad felt that his paintings wouldn't have had the same impact.” Dickie Brennan, whose restaurants include Palace Café, Bourbon House, Tableau, and now Pascal’s Manale—contributed dishes like a crab meat cheesecake and a Bourbon BBQ Shrimp Poboy to the cookbook’s collection of recipes. “We

were honored to participate in the foundation’s cookbook,” said Brennan. “It is especially meaningful to me because of the dedication to Chef Paul Prudhomme, who was a close friend for many years.” With help from the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the cookbook includes recipes from prominent restaurants and chefs throughout Louisiana. Blue Crab Beignets from Chef John Folse’s Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans, Bananas Foster Bread Pudding from Chef Cory Bahr’s Parish Restaurant in Monroe, and Creole Tomato Soup by Chef Peter Sclafini at Phil’s Oyster Bar in Baton Rouge are just a few examples among the nearly two-hundred pages of delicacies. Thankfully they’re thoroughly indexed, and divided into categories that can easily be worked into a meal; complete with appetizers, soups/salads, entrées, desserts, and even cocktails. “I love this cookbook,” said Chef Bahr, who has appeared on major cooking shows like Food Network Star and Chopped. “The recipes are delicious, and the artwork is beautiful.” “I mean, Dad famously said, he ‘didn't know how to cook, but loved to eat,’” Jacques said with a chuckle. “So he certainly enjoyed going to great restaurants and eating a lot of these dishes that are in the cookbook, and getting to know the chefs that are in this cookbook, as well.” Proceeds from sales of The Pot & The Palette Cookbook II will go to support the many projects of the George Rodrigue

Foundation for the Arts. These include providing scholarships to the student winners whose work is published in the cookbook, as well as funding George’s Art Closet, which provides Louisiana public schools with art supplies for students. GRFA also advocates for arts-integration in education through its support of the nonprofit (originally founded as an initiative of the GRFA) Louisiana A+ Schools, which offers professional development opportunities so teachers can learn to better integrate creative learning experiences like music in math class, or tableau in history class. “The research shows that when you do that, it's a more joyful student, and student environment,” Jacques said. “But also it's more enjoyable for teachers. Test scores go up. Creativity, imagination, goes up.” And of course, there are the winners of the student art and songwriting contests, whose lives and educations directly benefit from their scholarship awards. “The talent really just jumps off the page at you. And immediately, you understand, ‘Oh, this looks like professional artists did all this.’ You wouldn't think they were just high school students,” Jacques said. “And that's a testament to the art programs in so many great schools across the state, and the talent that is here.” Callan Thornton from Monroe, the first prize winner for 2022, said the scholarship has been an enormous aid in paying for her first year studying studio art at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.

While she had fun working on her submission, titled “Fresher Than Expected,” Thornton never expected that it would win first place. “I almost dropped my phone,” she said. “I just did it to have fun with the experience. And so actually winning was, I don't know, an unexpected surprise. As soon as I got off the phone, I ran to my parents. I was like, ‘You guys are not gonna believe it.’ And then I called my talented art teacher, and he was super proud of me too. ” Thornton initially heard about the competition from her aunt, and was grateful for an opportunity to create a piece outside of the realm of what she’d normally draw in her high school talented art class, which mostly focused on still lifes and realism. She was inspired by her grandparents’ chicken farm, where she spent time growing up. “I felt like that was kind of in my roots, to do sort of chicken-inspired piece,” Thornton said. “And I also wanted to show the community that I feel like Southerners really have, because we move at a slower pace than other locations—you know, up north everyone's like, going all the time. Whereas I feel like we tend to sit back and enjoy each other's presence moreso.” Even for someone so young, the cultural preservation aspect of the GRFA’s mission is not lost on Thornton. “I think it's important, just for us to remember our culture. We are a very diverse place, and so many different people are coming

together here,” Thornton said. "And I feel like we forget about the arts a lot of the time, and how big of an impact they have in Louisiana.” Thornton’s goal is to get her masters degree and eventually teach art at the university level. “I want to become an art professor, so I can share my love of art, and empower other people to be able to pursue art as a profession.” According to Jacques, when he was alive, his father would, “just be blown away, anytime we would have the art contest.” George Rodrigue was able to attend the first few award ceremonies before he passed away in 2013. “He always loved meeting the students and encouraging them with their work. And we're just so proud of all of it. And so we're honored to carry that on, and to carry on these programs and missions that he started.” •

A comprehensive retrospective of George Rodrique’s work will be on display at the Hilliard Art Museum in Lafayette, opening in January 2024. The first full-length documentary about George Rodrigue’s life and work is set to premiere nationally on PBS American Masters in time for what would have been the artist’s eightieth birthday in March 2024. Find The Pot & The Palette Cookbook II at

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// 5 0 8 L O C A L B O O K S T O R E S W O R T H V I S I T -

I N G T H I S H O L I D A Y S E A S O N // 5 4 S A T I R E : C A J U N D O L L S F O R U N D E R Y O U R T R E E


In the New Isle


This article was published in partnership with the Louisiana French language digital newspaper Le Louisianais, where you can read the French version of this story at


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hris Brunet spent most of his life on Isle de Jean Charles, tucked away in marshes on the edge of civilization a stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico. The island once spanned 22,000 acres, dotted with pockets of forest and enough room to graze cattle. Today, it is a sliver of land, totaling around 320 acres and surrounded by an expanse of water. In September 2022, Brunet made the decision to move forty miles north to Gray, Louisiana. He realized that staying on the island meant a storm surge from even a weak hurricane could flood the area or damage his home, like it has many times in the last two decades. Each year, he’d watched the marsh around him dwindle One day nothing but the encroaching sea will remain. “I didn't think relocation was going to happen in my lifetime,” Brunet said. “I felt it coming maybe two generations after me, but certainly not for me to experience that. But I did.” Brunet now lives in a government-built home in a subdivision called The New Isle, part of the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement program spearheaded by the Louisiana Office of Community Development (OCD). The voluntary retreat project was funded with $48.3 million the state agency received as a result of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Disaster Resilience Competition, which OCD used to buy 515 acres and build thirty-four homes to resettle families who once lived on the island. Residents started moving to The New Isle in August 2022. In 2002, almost 300 people called Isle de Jean Charles home. In the years since, little by little, they’ve left for higher ground, usually after a flood or a strong hurricane struck the area. Before the relocation last year, there were about a dozen left. There are four families who decided to not resettle on

the New Isle, instead remaining on Isle de Jean Charles. Sense of place—attachment to the land that birthed stories, holds cultural memory and contains ties to ancestors—has always been strong for the island people. The community has been almost exclusively Indigenous with the majority of residents now enrolled in the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation, and others who belong to the United Houma Nation. For some, the island is the only home they have ever known. Brunet’s family has lived on Isle de Jean Charles since the 19th century. “Because of climate change and man-made decisions, I was forced to make a decision I didn't want to make,” Brunet said. “I did decide to move, but I'll always have this sense of displacement because of that.”

Keeping Community Together

The relocation of Isle de Jean Charles’s predominantly Indigenous residents is often framed as an urgent necessity under the assumption that the island will soon be underwater. The real story, however, is more complicated. While coastal land loss has claimed over ninety-five percent of Isle de Jean Charles since the 1950s, the currently-inhabited strip of land has no imminent risk of being submerged by rising tides, thanks to a six-foothigh ring levee installed in the early 2000s that is maintained by the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District (TLCD) and the Terrebonne Parish government. The ring levee, however, isn’t designed to stop storm

surges from hurricanes, and the island has been inundated numerous times in recent years. In 2019, Hurricane Barry, only a Category 1 storm, flooded the island with eight feet of water, and the U.S Coast Guard evacuated about a dozen people. During the active 2020 hurricane season, island residents evacuated seven different times. The powerful winds from Hurricane Ida in 2021 destroyed the majority of homes that were left. The island could have been better protected from flooding that resulted from these sorts of storms—and at one time such an initiative was included in a plan called the Morganza to the Gulf Hurricane Protection System, an eighty-nine-mile system of locks, levees and flood gates that would provide hurricane storm surge protection to 150,000 coastal residents in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. However, in 2001, Isle de Jean Charles was excluded from the plan. While the majority of residents at the time still didn’t want to move, relocation slowly began to appear as the only option.


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Elder Chief of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation Albert Naquin is a native of the island who now lives a few miles away in Pointe-aux-Chênes; he relocated after a storm destroyed his home on the island in 1974. After the Army Corps announced its decision to exclude Isle de Jean Charles, in order to maintain community cohesion, Naquin decided to apply for the HUD grant to fund a relocation plan for his people. On behalf of his tribe—then called the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimatcha-Choctaw—Naquin developed and led the grant application process with Kristina Peterson of the Lowlander Center. “The original plan was to move all the island people together again, like it had been,” Naquin said. The hope was for Naquin’s tribe to assemble after being displaced by storms, and to retain their cultural traditions. When the federal money was awarded by HUD in 2016, the tribe couldn’t receive it directly because they are not federally recognized, explained Naquin. Instead, the $48.3 million had to be administered by the state. After the project was in the hands of OCD, Naquin said tribal leaders were left out of decision-making, and its scope changed so much that his tribe and the Lowlander Center eventually didn’t support it; the tribe even asked that Isle de Jean Charles be removed from the project’s name, a request OCD denied. Naquin said the original resettlement requirements included being a tribal citizen, but those conditions abruptly changed. Under the OCD plan, in order to qualify for a home, state officials said a person had to currently live on the island or had moved after Hurricane Isaac in 2012—under these rules, forty-two households qualified for a new home. Naquin described these restrictions as too exclusive, leaving out too many former island residents who had been affected by the loss of their homes. Those who accepted a new home and have moved to The New Isle also have restrictions on what they can do with their Ise de Jean Charles property. Specifically, signees cannot sell their property to anyone without approval by OCD or another entity approved by the agency. They cannot use their island property as a residence, cannot rent or lease it, cannot apply for disaster assistance funds for it, and cannot make or allow for substantial repairs. While these provisions might seem restrictive, Pat Forbes, executive director of OCD, pointed out that this is the first time in history HUD has allowed people to retain their homes and property after a buyout. “Allowing somebody to keep their land and their home on the land is unheard of,” Forbes said. “It's never been done with federal funds before, and HUD recognized the importance of that place to this community and culture.” According to Forbes, the federal restrictions ensure that those who took the free home from HUD use it as a primary residence. It also ensures that former island residents aren’t in harm's way on the island—federal or state funds are often used for evacuation and repairs after hurricanes strike. In the second phase of The New Isle project, the Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) is working with Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative to build twenty-seven single-family homes, the first of which could be completed next year. They will cost potential residents between $150,000 to $175,000 to purchase, with initial preference given to former island residents with low to mid-range incomes.

Isle de Jean Charles once encompassed over 22,000 acres—which due to coastal erosion, sea level rise, and the impact of increasing storms, has been reduced to 320.

Eventually, though, the homes will be offered to anyone who has a qualifying income. As of November 2023, parts of Phase One of the project remain incomplete, such as the community center, retail spaces, playground, and marketplace. Naquin argues that these homes and the remaining lots should be given to former island residents or tribal members who, at one time, were interested in resettling with their community but didn’t meet the government’s requirements. Many former residents of the island and tribal members remain scattered. Some are only a few miles away, like Naquin, while others have relocated to Houma or nearby cities and states to escape the constant threat of hurricanes and rising tides. “We have some along Pointe-aux-Chênes; we have probably fifteen families of them,” Naquin said. “Probably ten in Montegut, Bourg, Chauvin. And we have some in Houma.” As long as those families are still out there, Naquin said he won’t give up his dream of assembling his tribe together. He’s trying to figure out a way for the tribe to buy land for a second relocation area with up to seventy-five homes that would allow everyone to resettle together—like he had originally planned.

Looking to the Future

For Brunet, the resettlement plan wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was one that allowed some former island residents to remain together. “And I know that for Chief Albert, a lot of it didn't go his way,” Brunet said. “But I think there's one thing that came out of this that was his number one intention: it was the preservation of the community of Isle de Jean Charles foremost of all. At least he got that.” No one knows for sure how long the island itself has left. Reggie Dupre from the Terrebonne levee district said his staff will maintain their half of the ring levee as long as possible. But, he noted, if a powerful future storm damages the levee severely, fixing and maintaining it might not be a viable option. The four island families who chose to stay don’t have any restrictions at all; neither do the owners of the fishing camps that dot the island. Since Hurricane Ida struck, many of those camps have been renovated, while the homes of the very last full-time residents remain damaged. For Brunet, Isle de Jean Charles is never far from his mind. On the New Isle, the breeze doesn’t carry the smell of the ocean. The marsh isn’t just a stone’s throw away. You can’t spot shrimping boats on this horizon. The New Isle isn’t an island at all, in fact, but a subdivision in a former sugarcane field. Replicating the home he came from, Brunet contended, will never be possible. At the same time, he recognizes he has a lot to be grateful for. His community is nearby, his home is in a more sustainable location and, above all, his people’s culture and ancestral ties will be preserved. “It's a small example of not bringing it back like it was, but to be able to preserve what you have,” he said. “And that's what it's about. That's the significance. The significance of it is being able to preserve what you have.” •

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The New Isle is part of the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement program spearheaded by the Louisiana Office of Community Development (OCD). The 515-acre property now has thirty-four homes available to families who once lived on the island.

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Story by Mimi Greenwood Knight • Photos by Alexandra Kennon Photos of Red Stick Reads in Baton Rouge.


or me, there’s just nothing like a visit to my local independent bookstore. The sights. The smells. The sounds. My fellow bibliophiles around me. That friendly bookseller who knows the authors I love and remembers which titles I’ve already read. We engage in a brief, or not, chat about the books and authors that have us excited. On the counter are notices of upcoming community events, book signings, lectures, and book club meetings. This place is a celebration of the written word, a cornerstone of the community promoting culture, inclusivity, and connection. And I can shop here knowing that an estimated 73% of the dollars I spend will stay within my community. Now, contrast that with ordering a book online or at a big-box bookstore. Each scenario usually ends with a book in my hand. But do they really compare? With that in mind, here’s a brief introduction to—and celebration of—the folks behind many of the independent booksellers in our area.

Red Stick Reads

Baldwin & Co.

What was the vision behind Red Stick Reads?

Can you give us a brief history of your store?

Baton Rouge, Louisiana • Owner James Hyfield I'm a local and for years my favorite place to hang out was Elliot’s Bookstore (in Baton Rouge). I wanted to bring back that feeling… eclectic, smart, and cool. Elliot’s was like a book apothecary and my wife and I share that vision of prescribing stories to people. My wife, Tere, is first-generation Cuban-America with English her second language. She wants our store to be representative of everyone, for anyone to be able to find themselves in a book, on a cover, especially in the children’s books. We’re diligent about providing author diversity and giving authors a place for their books and author events.

What sets Red Stick Reads apart from other booksellers?

We’re the only locally-owned indie bookstore [in Baton Rouge] and we’re boutique by design with a curated selection of books and book-related items chosen with direct feedback from our customers. Twenty-five percent of our inventory is geared toward kids.

Tell us about your regular programming.

We sponsor monthly book clubs for adults and middle-grade readers, story time every Saturday for little kids, often with local authors or guest readers. We also team up with local businesses that cater to kiddos and do events with them. We offer adult book signings and author events. And we team up with Red Stick Spice Co. to offer cooking class/book club events we call "Cook the Book." I also run periodic "Dungeons and Dragons" games in the store.

Recommendations from James and Tere Hyfield:

Historical Fantasy Fiction: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden Historic Fiction: Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy Young Adult Romance: Whiteout by Dhonielle Clayton,Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon Kids Picture Books: Mistletoe by Tad Hills 50

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New Orleans, Louisiana • Manager Elizabeth Dowdy Our store is named after James Baldwin, who was not only a brilliant author, but also a civil rights activist. Encompassing his legacy, we ensure that approximately 80% of our books are from BIPOC authors, so that we can help promote their books which may not be stocked in other bookstores.

What sets Baldwin & Co. apart?

We’re the only bookstore in New Orleans offering mostly authors of color. We’re also a coffee shop with a wide selection of curated coffee, tea, and pastries from local New Orleans companies—offering a quiet place to work, study, or meet with friends. This has helped us build a community of regulars who come in for coffee daily. We also have a podcast studio that can be rented out as a meeting space, or for podcast recordings.

Tell us about your regular programming.

Every month we host a story time where families can enjoy a children's book reading, after which we give the children a free copy of one of the books to help grow their home library. We also host regular author events for the community.

Recommendations from Elizabeth Dowdy

Fiction: Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward Poetry: Remember Love by Cleo Wade Non-fiction: Finding Me by Viola Davis Childrens: Magnolia Flower by Zora Neal Hurston

Lemuria Books

Jackson, Mississippi • Owner John Evans

Can you give us a brief history of your store?

The name, Lemuria, refers to a mythical civilization that existed before Atlantis. When we opened in 1975, we were very interested in alternative lifestyles—counter cultural, metaphysical, and mythological existence. As a literary bookstore, we were able to represent the local culture while bringing the national culture into our town and developing relationships with local authors. Eventually authors came to us. By the ‘90s John Grisham and others started coming here and we began putting Mississippi on the literary map.

How does Lemuria represent this region's cultural character?

I’ve been a bookseller all these years in a neighborhood I rode my bike through as a kid. My goal is to give my community the best bookstore I can. I’ve been lucky enough to call authors like Eudora Welty and Walker Percy friends. Those friendships helped us develop ‘a sense of place’ as Miss Welty would say. It’s all about trying to create a literary presence in your community, to make writers come alive in the store.

What sets Lemuria apart?

Every bookstore strives to have its own unique inventory. The books that are in it should represent the booksellers themselves and the breadth of their readership and understanding with distinct representation of their brand. Hopefully, when you come in our store and browse, you feel the difference and know us by the books we share and the authors we choose to work with.

Recommendations from John Evans

Fiction: The Oceans and the Stars by Mark Helpern Children’s Book: Oh, Olive by author/illustrator Lian Cho

Cross Stitch and Quilting Supplies 225-635-7316 • 5237 Commerce Street, Suite C • St. Francisville, LA 70775 Monday - Friday 10am-5pm • Saturday- 9am-2pm • Closed on Sunday

Beausoleil Books & Whisper Room Lafayette, Louisiana • Manager of Culture & Procurement Bryan Dupree

How does Beausoleil Books represent this region's cultural character?

Beausoleil Books is the first independent bookstore in downtown Lafayette since the 1970s, selling new and used books as well as gifts, art, stickers, and more. We consider ourselves much more than a store. We host an array of events and cultural programming throughout the year such as local and national author book signings and releases, mental health talks, poetry nights, pride events, trivia nights, wine tastings, private book-club meetings, and more.

What sets Beausoleil Books apart?

We were Louisiana's first bookstore bar. The bar offers seasonal cocktails and often specialty cocktails for different book releases or author visits. We’re also the only bilingual English-French bookstore in the state with French-language books for readers of all ages. We have books in French published by Louisiana authors (anthologies, fiction, poetry, non-fiction) as well as books by Francophone authors from all over the world— from classics to new releases.

Tell us about your regular programming.

Our regular programming includes the "Book du Mois" monthly book club meeting, our Thursday Night Reading Series—which is a monthly meeting of ULL writing students, a monthly meeting of the Acadiana Scribes in The Whisper Room, and "Pour It & Poet," a monthly poetry open mic for featured poets and locals.

Recommendations from Bryan Dupree

The hottest book of the year for us is Healing Traditions of South Louisiana by Mary Broussard Perrin and Beverly Constantine Fuselier. This book is quickly becoming a staple of the South Louisiana bookshelf. If your child is taking French or in French immersion, we have a great selection of books for them such as L'ogre de la librairie.

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The Conundrum Bookshop

St. Francisville, Louisiana • Owner Missy Couhig

Can you give us a brief history of your store?

Our bookstore was born in 2015 as a result of a habit my husband and I have of visiting the local bookstore wherever we travel, always discussing how, one day, I’d retire and open a bookstore in St. Francisville.

How does the Conundrum represent this region's cultural character?

We have a strong emphasis on Southern literature—both classic and current—but we also stock the latest bestsellers and a healthy dose of gardening, cooking, and children’s books, many with a regional theme.

What sets The Conundrum apart?

The day we were asked to close our doors due to COVID, I began a daily blog called "Chatting Books Online," a daily internet feed that’s now lasted over three years. I feature a book each day, Monday through Saturday, ranging through all genres. Customers can message us to hold a copy in store for them or have it shipped. We also host book-club retreats where folks Lorelei Books who follow us on social media can book lunch at Vicksburg, Mississippi • a St. Francisville restaurant, tour around town a Owner Kelle Barfield bit, and schedule a bookstore visit where we greet them with refreshments and I give them a presenWhat sets Lorelei Books apart from other tation on new books, great classics, good books for gifting, etc. We’ll even bring in a local or regional booksellers? author for a private book signing. Lorelei Books is in a beautiful post-Civil-War building that includes many of its 19th-century architectural feaDo you offer any regular programming? tures. We support independent authors and publishers, We do regular readings and book signings, and we and we curate regional literature in particular, including help host literary festivals. We also "pop-up" at litfiction, poetry, and topics such as Civil War, civil rights, erary festivals, gardening events, and markets. the Mississippi River, southern cooking, gardening, and nature.

Recommendations from Missy Couhig

Fiction: Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese Children: St. Francisville astronaut Hayley Arceneaux has adapted her memoir Wild Ride for young readers, telling her tale of going from "Cancer Kid" to astronaut.


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Recommendations by Kelle Barfield

Nonfiction: Echoes from the Bluffs by Michael Logue Children: Thunder: Junior Park Ranger by Trish Madell

The Book and the Bean

Mandeville, Louisiana • Owner Karrie Mattia

Can you give us a brief history of your store?

We started as an online bookstore and locally-roasted coffee-bean seller and grew to 300+ online affiliates. It was growing so well we decided to open a brick-andmortar location in an old circa-1874 stained-glass art studio. We still have many of the gorgeous stained-glass pieces on display as well as the original shaker shingles showing inside, and a tin roof on top, making it very cozy. And, of course, there’s Mr. Boots, our stray, adopted-us, shop cat.

How does The Book and the Bean represent this region's cultural character?

We commission with thirty-plus local Louisiana authors, artists, and food suppliers. We try to keep everything local, including using locally-roasted Flamjeaux Coffee.

Tell us about your regular programming.

We have two book clubs per month. The first one is usually a murder/mystery. The second is everything else.

Recommendations by Karrie Mattia The Gumbeaux Sistahs by Jax Frey

Get your Holiday outifts!

Books Along The Teche

New Iberia, Louisiana • Owner Howard Kingston

Can you give us a brief history of your store?

We’re the un-official bookstore of author James Lee Burke, who has family in New Iberia and, growing up, spent time with grandparents and cousins here. His character, Dave Robicheaux, a New Iberia Parish Sheriff’s detective, is the star of more than twenty of his novels set in New Iberia. Burke spent winters here and became a true friend of the bookstore.

140 Liberty Road, Natchez, MS 601-446-8664 Mon - Fri: 10 -5 Sat: 10 - 4

Tell us about how you interact with the larger literary community.

For eight years, we’ve co-sponsored the annual Books Along The Teche Literary Festival and have welcomed such notable authors as Earnest Gaines, Rebecca Wells, Ken Wells, Lisa Wingate, and Ted Jackson. This year’s featured author is Natalie Baszille, author of Queen Sugar. We also have author workshops and over fifty authors selling their books along Main Street.

What’s sets Books Along The Teche apart ?

We feature a large selection of regional books and Cajun-themed children's books. We specialize in finding rare and out-of-print books for our customers. We welcome all authors to sell their books in our store. (Burke) signs his books for us from his home in Montana, which we ship all over the world. Fans come into the store telling us they came to New Iberia just to see if it’s as beautiful as he described it in his books (and it is).

Blue Cypress

New Orleans, Louisiana • Owner Elizabeth Ahlquist

How does Blue Cypress represent this region's cultural character? We strive to represent both our New Orleans community at large and our neighborhood, Carrollton, by providing a broad selection of new and second-hand books.

Do you offer any regular programming?

We have a full events calendar with regular events like book clubs, author readings and signings, children's story times, and Book Banter—a virtual author event series.

Recommendations from Elizabeth Ahlquist

Local Nonfiction: Drink like a Local: New Orleans by Cider Mill Press For Children: Rainbow Rodney by Laura Carroll •

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Meet The American Girl Acadian Collection



Story by Megan Broussard • Illustrations by Burton Durand For almost forty years, we at American Girl® have created powerful stories with smart, curious, and courageous heroines that have helped shape an entire generation of women—but left out Acadians. Whoops! Sorry about that! (In our defense, we thought “Cajun” was a type of chicken until last year’s sales conference in New Orleans.) This holiday season, celebrate the magic of Cajun culture by taking home three new friends from families responsible for giving our nation spicy salt blends, French last names ending in “x”, and some of the scariest mythical bayou creatures cryptologists have ever “seen”. But, hurry! Collect them all while supplies last—which won’t be long because we just received an expedited bulk order from a father with the largest number of children we’ve ever heard of. A *checks notes* Papa Noël?

Meet Yvette It’s 1755, and for Yvette Marie LeBlanc, life has just taken a surprising turn. In between quilt-making and skipping rocks with her crush Étienne Vernice Augustin Benoit, the Nova Scotian Governor Charles Lawrence has ordered her deportation. Yvette’s father is always too busy for her these days, locked in a church for refusing to sign an oath to England. Her mother isn’t much better, constantly distracted by soldiers throwing Yvette’s siblings onto ships to different countries to notice her daughter’s budding gift for the visual arts! At least she’s not the only hard-headed one of the family. Yvette’s youngest brother, Alphonse, escaped to the woods to help Nonc Joseph Beausoleil Broussard form a resistance. Now, Yvette’s got to live at sea for who knows how long with her cousin, Evangeline, who has somehow made the whole Le Grand Dérangement all about her. If Yvette has to hear her cry about a man who wasn’t that into her one more time, she’s going to give Evangeline something to cry about. She’ll remind her that if the loup-garou could follow their peasant ancestors from Poitou, France to Grand Pré, Canada, it most certainly can travel to La Louisiane with them on this refugee ship.

The “Meet Yvette” set includes:

• One sweat-stained linen chemise and splintered pair of wooden clogs • A cow • The British Army carrying torches

Meet Clotile It’s 1930 in South Louisiana, the start of the Great Depression, but for Clotile Anne Savoie, she doesn’t feel any poorer than before. A man in a suit arrives at her house to count the members of her family for government records, and Clotile’s mom tries to shoo him away; he’s just going to misspell her name anyway, cher! The man insists they clarify if they are Black, Cajun, or “white Creoles”, and Clotile tells him to write down whatever he wants because she doesn't care about “the consensus-census-no senses” this man is talking about; she has supper to fix! Clotile celebrates her fourteenth birthday for the third year in a row because she’s too scared to tell Momma she’s wrong—that would be talking back! Secretly, Clotile is sixteen and hopes to get her very own spear to go giggin’ with her daddy. Les ouaouarons, bullfrogs, are in high demand this year in New Orleans restaurants. If she can catch enough tonight, Momma will let her go to the fais do-do, not just so she can dance, but also so she can break up with that couillon who keeps singing about her. Clotile doesn’t know how many times she has to tell him: she is NOT his “jolie blon”! She’s not even blonde! Which brings up another point…she thinks it’s high time they come up with a new word for “girlfriend” that has nothing to do with hair color in Louisiana French.

The “Meet Clotile” set includes:

• Scars from roux burns and bruises from getting caught speaking French at school • Traiteur tinctures • A jar of mirliton • A Family Bible that doubles as the family birth tracker and grudge ledger • A Catahoula pup named Bleue • Nosy neighbors who suspect Bleue is the local shapeshifting, bloodthirsty Rougarou who killed their chickens and grandpa 54

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Meet Renée It’s 2002, and for Renée Margaret Broussard, Y2K wasn’t nearly as scary as the time her parents almost forgot her at school when evacuating Hurricane Andrew. It’s hard keeping all the unspoken and unwritten rules in her household straight. Family and friends are welcomed through the back door, but the front door is for people who pronounce their last name “Browssard”. The dining room is only used for holidays or if someone dies, and there are never enough dishes to justify using the dishwasher. EVER. One day, Renée is shocked to learn the secret ingredient to her mom’s award-winning gumbo is a pre-made jar of Savoie’s roux! She’s always dreaming of moving away to a big city like in the rom-coms Sweet Home Alabama and the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but she’d be lying if she said she wouldn’t miss being in everyone’s business. Everyone tells her she looks like her great-great-grandmother, who was Creole and Native American— though no one is sure of what tribe or from what area. Renée vows to find out and solve the mystery of her lineage. She wishes her grandparents would have taught her parents French so she knew what the old people were always gossiping about on Sundays (and so she could finally know what JP Thibodeaux says in his car commercials). She rolls her eyes every time her grandparents waltz to the old song “Jolie Blon”. Haven’t they heard of the new “Jolie Blon”? The only Jolie Blon that matters in the new millennium? The Princess of Pop, Britney Spears? Renée hates that she’s still terrified to go tee-tee at night at her maw maw’s house. It always feels like something is watching her, probably because there is: a Blue Dog painting. If it’s an original Rodrigue, she hopes she’ll inherit it. It’s the only way she’ll be able to retire someday.

The “Meet Renée” set includes:

• Ragin’ Cajun Soffe shorts and old tennis shoes for when Renée’s mom makes her get down at Rouses • A keychain from Blue Bayou • An airbrushed T-shirt that says “2001 Destin, FL” • A D+ on a French test for answering the question “Comment dit-on ‘Merry Christmas’ en francais” with “Heaux heaux heaux” • A shrine to Ali Landry • A memento for Renée’s first kiss, a ticket stub from the Cajun Heartland State Fair • Half-eaten bag of Zapp’s crawtators *Batteries not included. Emotional eating, Catholic guilt, and generational trauma sold separately.


Call 225-931-2011 to make your appointment today with one of the Capitol City's leading estheticians!

Becky Parrish Advanced Skincare at Kiki Culture Salon in Bocage 7640 Old Hammond Highway, Baton Rouge, LA

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T R E A T //


A City Full of Fruitcakes


Story by Nina Flournoy


Photos courtesy of Collin Street Bakery. 56

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unning it down I-45 halfway between the bustling metropolis of Dallas and traffic-choked Austin, the only thing enticing a detour into tiny Corsicana is a billboard touting Collin Street Bakery’s world-famous fruitcake. Yeah, fruitcake. Take your foot off the accelerator, turn onto rural State Highway 31 W, and set your watch back one hundred years. There’s more to this outof-the-way town, and its fruitcake, than you’d expect. The skinny rural road passing cattle farms and grain silos crosses a maze of train tracks on the outskirts of town. Steel rails lining what once was one of the country’s busiest crossroads lay frozen in time. Rusted relics of a famed oil boom squat silent. Further up, a lonesome antiquated train car sits across from a sign rising in an arch over Beaton Street announcing, “Historic Corsicana.” If the sign doesn’t connote the historic district, the sound of your tires rumbling over the original brick streets will. The shady oak-lined lanes’ well-preserved 19th-century buildings, quaint boutiques, and antique shops are a testament to Corsicana's reverence for its past. Further evidence can be seen in the life-sized bronze statues on downtown sidewalks—a series of commissioned works emphasizing significant events in Corsicana history. Each carries a plaque with a QR code allowing visitors to “hear the history.” One at the corner of 6th Avenue and Beaton Street depicts an oil field worker heading home after a tough day of drilling. In 1894, a contractor drilling for water accidentally hit oil, making Corsicana the "birthplace of Texas oil" (even before Spindletop) and first city to build a commercial refinery west of the Mississippi River, the J.S. Cullinan Company— which was later consolidated with other refineries into the Magnolia Petroleum Company, and in 1959 was incorporated into the Mobil Oil Corporation. The oil boom drew folks from around the world to Corsicana, including master baker Augustus “Gus” Weidmann, who

immigrated from Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1896. He’s represented by a bronze statue of a baker a couple of blocks over, commemorating his contribution to Corsicana’s notoriety as the “Fruitcake Capital of the World.” Weidmann started out baking bread while adapting his European fruitcake recipe to Texas by swapping out walnuts for local pecans, loads of them. Weidmann and partner Thomas McElwee operated their bakery below a Corsicana hotel and began catering to the throngs of visitors traveling through the rich oil boomtown—from opera great Enrico Caruso to humorist Will Rogers. In 1914, when the Ringling Brothers Circus came through, they became such big fans of the fruitcakes that they took loads of them on the road. Soon, hundreds of their friends, family, and fans from across the country were sending letters to the bakery asking if they could send them in the mail. Thus, Collin Street Bakery launched perhaps the first U.S. food mail-order business, ushering in the fruitcake empire that again put Corsicana on the map. “We caught a comet by the tail,” said Hayden Crawford, Vice President of Public Relations and partner at Collin Street Bakery. “Ever since John Ringling began taking our fruitcakes home in his steamer trunks, we became a trailblazer in the mail order business.” The mom-and-pop bakery has held onto that comet for more than 125 years—through ownership changes, production expansion, mail order growth, implementation of new products, and financial missteps. Over the decades, business at family-owned and operated Collin Street Bakery has steadily climbed, with sales during the last two decades hovering between $25 to $40 million annually, selling more than 1.5 million fruitcakes annually in 196 countries. Its clientele includes royalty, presidents, heads of state, film, music, and sports celebrities, not to mention almost 1 million loyal Texans. Frames lining the walls of the bakery’s 7th Street headquarters display envelopes postmarked from all over the world, with

orders from Grace Kelly, country music artist Lyle Lovett, the president of Malawi, cowboy actor Gene Autry, and more. But, admitted Crawford, “Success hasn’t been without its bumps, no ma’am.” The second-generation bakery spokesperson grew up watching his dad deftly manage hard knocks for the company, and is the first to call out the company’s flaws. Holding up fingers, he counted a few low points for the bakery, starting with Johnny Carson’s fruitcake-dissing wisecracks in the 1970s. “The worst Christmas gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other,” Carson said on The Tonight Show in 1978. Carson kept the joke alive for years, and the company felt the brunt. The bakery’s CEO and President, Bob McNutt, whose grandfather bought the business in the 1940s, responded with a catchy quote of his own, "What Dom Perignon is to champagne, Collin Street Bakery is to fruitcakes." McNutt’s son Thomas, a fourth-generation family owner-operator laughingly refers to his father as the “visionary” while he is “the implementer who reports to the visionary.” In describing his job, he humbly stated, “I do very little. I just make sure all the trains leave on time.” Keeping those trains on track has significantly greased the economic wheels in Corsicana. In a city with a population of about 25,000, the bakery hires close to seven hundred seasonal workers to fill the mountain of annual holiday fruitcake orders. For the remainder of the year, a reduced production line oversees ovens that can bake around two thousand cakes at a time. Additionally, the company co-owns and operates the Navarro Pecan Company, which is among the largest pecan shelling plants in the world. This helps ensure consistent production of Collin Street Bakery’s number one seller, the DeLuxe Fruitcake, which is made up of eighty percent fruit and nuts, and of that, thirty percent consists of pecans. This density accounts in part for the cake’s early popularity, as it can stay fresh in the metal tin for months without refrigeration. In addition, Collin Street Bakery established one of the world’s largest organic pineapple farms in Costa Rica, Finca Corsicana (which has since been mostly sold to Dole Pineapple). It also jumped into the coffee business by growing coffee beans in the mountains of Costa Rica, which are sold under the brand Cinchona Coffee at the bakery. Closer to home, the partners started a computer-based company in Dallas to manage the mail-order business. “We’ve branched out in all aspects of our company to avoid being exposed to the whims of fluctuations that can impact our business,” Crawford stated. He noted that the diverse corporate facets contributed to the scandal that nearly took the historic company down a decade ago.

The Fruitcake Scandal

In 2014, the Collin Street Bakery became the setting for a bizarre crime investigation when the bakery’s long-time corporate controller and accountant, Sandy Jenkins, and his wife, were caught in an embezzlement scheme that siphoned off about $17 million from the bakery to finance their secret lavish lifestyle. Jenkins, who’d handled the bakery’s books for fifteen years, managed to keep his theft under the radar, spending the company’s money on private jets, exotic vacations, jewelry, watches and so many luxury items that Neiman-Marcus in Dallas nick-named him “Fruitcake” and his wife “Cupcake.” The company, with its wildly successful international sales, was baffled each year as to why it continued hemorrhaging money. “To get it, you have to understand the culture around here. We’re like a family. We couldn’t imagine one of our own stealing from us,” Crawford said. “Trust is a key value in the company and this town. Always has been,” said Jerry Grimmett, who worked at the bakery for sixty years and served as the model for the bronze statue representing Collin Street Bakery’s founder. He frequently drops by the bakery, even though he recently retired. To get to the bottom of things, the company hired a young accounting clerk, Semetric Walker, to review the books. She scoured years of financial documents and when things didn’t add up, she dug deeper, only to find that the culprit was her boss. She blew the whistle. After a long trial, Jenkins was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison, where he committed suicide, but not before personally apologizing to the folks at Collin Street Bakery. “He called us from jail. He couldn’t explain it, but said once he started, he couldn’t stop,” Crawford said. “It shook up everyone, and not just at the bakery. The whole town felt it.” The scandal had a profound impact on the community, especially as FBI investigators poured in, followed by a documentary film crew, and a bevy of journalists. The residents of Corsicana became part of the story, with many featured in the documentary series, Fruitcake Fraud. One line in the movie aptly sizes up the small-town character of Corsicana: “The gossip is home before you get home.”

Corsicana’s 175th Anniversary

Throughout 2023, ongoing festivities have packed local calendars with parades, art exhibits, galas, and theatre performances, all culminating in a citywide time capsule ceremony in October. Locals gathered to bury pieces of town history that won’t be uncovered until the year 2048, for its 200th birthday celebration. In attendence was Sylvia Navarro Tillotson, great-great-great granddaughter of Jose Antonio Navarro, a Tejano patriot and one of the founders of Texas who helped to establish Corsicana in 1848.

Although the 175th kept the chamber busy over the past year, the town is now abuzz with plans to make Corsicana a key destination for the upcoming April 8, 2024 solar eclipse. Since the eclipse's path will make the city an ideal spot for viewing the phenomenon, the city formed a Solar Eclipse Committee to prepare for the event. One example of promotion concepts sits on the corner of Crawford’s desk at Collin Street Bakery: an artist’s rendering of the eclipse logo, being considered for a special fruitcake tin to mark the occasion. Artistic endeavors, even on a cake tin, are a signature aspect of Corsicana— whose art scene has risen dynamically in recent years, beginning in 2015 when visual artist Kyle Hobratschk opened 100 West Corsicana, an artist-in-residence program. Housed in the former Odd Fellows Lodge building, the bohemian digs regularly host world-class artists. The town’s artistic leanings show up in the scattered murals covering the library and other walls downtown, most paying homage to regional history and local commercial ventures that have stood the test of time, like Wolf Brand Chili (founded in Corsicana). A cornerstone in Corsicana’s arts scene is the Palace Theatre, a restored 1921 Vaudeville-era venue presenting concerts, comedies, and musicals. Other performance venues include The Warehouse Living Arts Center, a gallery and performance hub, the Corsicana Opry, and Outside the Lines Creative Studios—featuring theatrical productions, stand-up comedy, and live music. Offsetting the more intimate theatrical venues downtown is Schulman's Movie Bowl Grille—a theater, dining, and arcade complex covering nearly 34,000 square feet on eight acres in the Corsicana Crossing retail district. Before heading out of the historic area, have coffee at Mita’s Coffee House or grab a bite at Across the Street Diner or Across the Street Bistro. Then check out shops like Peace, Love, Retro—a funky resale store on Beaton Street with an eclectic mix of vintage apparel, concert T-shirts, vinyl records, and kitschy home décor. Next, drive through the Carriage District along Second, Third, and Fourth Avenues, where many grand homes built between 1846 and 1900 feature side entrances to house horse carriages and are marked with a Texas or Corsicana Historic Landmark plaque. If that’s not enough history for one afternoon, visit Pioneer Village to get a feel for life on the Texas frontier, or drive through Petroleum Park, the site of the first oil discovery in Texas, which forever changed the Lone Star State. And before veering back to the highway, swing by the Collin Street Bakery to pick up a fruitcake for Christmas. Don’t worry if you’re passing through when it’s nowhere near Christmas time. It’ll keep. • // D E C 2 3



We'll Always Be Royals


Story and photos by Alexandra Kennon


he curated excess signature to the modern maximalist style has experienced a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Those who have visited one of designer Brandon Branch’s properties in St. Francisville—The St. Francisville Inn, and now the Royal on Royal— might assume Branch himself is responsible for the revival. “I love, like, the jewelry of the room. I love all the eye candy, I love the little treasures,” Branch explained across a table of unusually shaped glass vases with tall, narrow necks, each bearing a single long-stemmed lily, nestled into a colorful assortment of books, antique plates, and hunks of amethyst and coral. “I mean, I want you to sit in my room and just look for amazing little pieces and things, like a treasure hunt.” When Branch and his husband and business partner Jim Johnston first reopened The St. Francisville Inn following massive renovations in 2019, the pair introduced a brand of high-end hospitality draped in artful luxury to St. Francisville. Four years into the Inn and its ac58

companying restaurant and craft cocktail bar, The Saint’s, massively successful tenure, the opening of The Royal on Royal in October 2023 raised the bar— or the heated towel rack, to be more precise—on luxurious accommodations in the small town yet again. “Jim and I have traveled the whole world and stayed at some of the nicest hotels in the world. So I wanted to bring that back here,” Branch explained. Full butler service provided by Keri Overland (who will do everything from unpack your bags to drive you to dinner) and bathrooms floored with heated tiles, towel warmers, and even heated toilet seats are only the beginning of the small luxurious touches that elevate The Royal experience. “I hate a cold towel,” Branch said. “They're just little luxuries, but they mean a world of difference. Like a heated toilet seat makes all the difference in the world in January.” Branch bridges these “practical” luxurious touches seamlessly with the aesthetic beauty of the spaces, each more eclectic, colorful, and captivating than the last. “I’m like a unicorn, because I

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can walk in a room and I can see it fully done. And then I have to go backwards to get there,” Branch explained. “Like, I walked in the front door for the first time and I saw this room as you see it today.” His starting point from there is often a particular color, for which he calls on Ellen Kennon, local color expert and creator of Ellen Kennon Full Spectrum Paints, who was a fast friend and collaborator of Branch and Johnston’s from their first arrival in St. Francisville. For the main sitting room, for example, Branch knew he wanted a cheerful yellow paint that matched the tones in the adjacent dining room’s botanical mural wallpaper he so loved. “Now it's bright. I wanted it to be happy,” Branch said. “And who can’t be happy in a yellow room?” Kennon also created custom colors, including one called “Royal Green” for the kitchen cabinets and butler pantry, tailored to Branch’s vision. Beneath the custom paint colors and fine wallpapers, thoughtful details abound. Bay St. Louis artist Kevin Wiggs, who also painted the mural in the dining room of the St. Francisville Inn,

spent eight days painting a bathroom mural inspired by the foyer at Rosedown, with more of an Indian/South Asian flair. Contemporary accents pop from tables and walls, and stately antiques have their beauty accentuated by vibrant backdrops. “I love to mix modern and traditional. I love everything to have a story and a history, and I can give you the history of everything in this room that I've selected from all over the world,” said Branch. Paintings from Santa Fe and Alaska, hand-crafted wooden boxes from Wales, and a secretary desk that Johnston purchased from Sotheby’s in New York as a birthday gift for Branch are just a few that jumped out in our immediate vicinity. Most of the furniture, Branch said, was sourced at Fireside Antiques in Baton Rouge and Provence Antiques in Port Allen, which provided all of the chandeliers and the sitting room’s green velvet sofa. “You can furnish anything in the world from those two places,” Branch insisted. Before Branch had ever set foot in St.

Francisville, he found himself lying in bed at his home in Savannah, scrolling through Zillow listings. The former cast member of Bravo’s Southern Charm Savannah and indulgent bon vivant had heard St. Francisville was filled with beautiful historic homes, which is exactly what he and Johnston were in the market for. He had no idea, at the time, that the place he was eyeing as a potential new home was only around an hour and forty-five minutes’ drive from his hometown of Tylertown, Mississippi. ”I had no clue it was so close to where I grew up.” During their first several years in St. Francisville, Johnston and Branch lived in a small but (of course) finely decorated apartment on the second floor of The St. Francisville Inn. From the beginning, they had their eyes on the property on Royal Street in the Historic District, which at the time housed The Barrow House Bed & Breakfast. “We always loved this property,” Branch explained. “And we always wanted to buy it.” The owner and innkeeper at the time, Shirley Dittloff, had been unwilling to part with the beloved historic Camilla Leake Barrow House, which consists of two structures built in 1780 and 1790, respectively, that were combined into one in 1800. When Branch and Johnston were ready to convert their previous living space at the Inn into a spa (which opens this month) and begin work on another venture, they had their realtor inquire about the Barrow House with

Dittloff again. This time, she agreed to meet with the two for an interview, which Branch said lasted two hours. “She wanted to make sure we were going to keep the interior of the house, that we were going to save the house, that we weren’t going to destroy the house,” Branch said. “I was like, ‘I am not going to destroy this house. I want this house because I love this home.’” Dittloff was convinced, and agreed to sell to the couple. After eight months of extensive renovations, including installing all new Ever since they moved to St. Francisville, St. Francisville Inn owners Branch and Johnston have had their eye on electrical, plumbing, and the historic building on Royal Street. Finally, they had the opportunity to buy it and open it as a new luxury bed more—plus all of the more and breakfast, The Royal, this year. aesthetic design work of painting, wallpapering, and outfitting hosting houseguests, even with the daily sipping martinis on the porch, or playing each space with the perfect fixtures, drap- homemade hot breakfasts, butler service, homemaker as he cooks hors d'oeuvres eries, furniture, artwork, and trinkets— and martini happy hours. “It’s very inti- and breakfasts for guests, Branch is enthe Royal welcomed its first guests the mate, very personalized. And we can rent tirely in his element. “Every day, it’s whatlast week of October. The initial reviews it as much or as little as we want. We love ever I'm inspired to do,” Branch said, have been exclusively raves, and the new to travel, so we just block off times we from his antique green velvet sofa. “I'm proprietors are thrilled with it, too. won’t be here.” having fun with it.” • The couple now occupies the upstairs One of Branch’s favorite aspects of the suite of their new property, which allows property is its winding gardens, which, Find The Royal on Royal on them more space and privacy, as their once trimmed back, revealed such gems Instagram @the_royal_on_royal, new B&B contains a manageable three as two-hundred-year-old camellia bushor book at suites. With a maximum of six guests, es, and a cold frame greenhouse from The Royal, for Branch, feels almost like the 1800s. Between tending the gardens, Editor's Note/Disclaimer: Ellen Kennon, who created paint colors used in the Royal, is the writer’s mother.

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“Pieces of Color”

SIXTY YEARS LATER, JUDI BETTS STILL PAINTS WHAT INSPIRES HER, BUT WITH MORE COLOR By Jordan LaHaye Fontenot Judi Betts. (1)”Day is Done, 2014, (2) “Savannah Remembered,” 2013, (3) “Day Care,” 2013.


t eighty-seven years old, watercolorist Judi Betts works amidst what she calls “a creative mess,” punctuated by eclectic interiors featuring a dining room where each chair is upholstered differently, a sofa that is seven different colors, and countless art objects hanging from the ceiling. In her upstairs studio, the news drolls on in the background from a television behind her, and over the balcony she can see into the kitchen downstairs—so as to keep an eye, and a nose, on anything she might be cooking while she works. She’s surrounded by the sorts of odds and ends that some might consider clutter, but she calls her “treasures,” and fodder for ideas. This is how she “lives a painting,” she says. “If you don’t exist and dress and act and admire things the same way you create, then you aren’t being true to yourself.” Across the course of her remarkable career, Betts’s defining motifs have changed little. She was painting cattle in pastures as early as the 1970s, and in early November 2023 her drawing board was full of photographs of heifers to inspire a new commissioned piece. After all this time, she continues to be charmed by tableaux of boats on the water, farm animals gazing out from their fields, historic homes obscured by lacy branches, and rocking chairs on front porches in the summer. But as in life, no two paintings are the same; and as the harbors and the pastures and the neighborhoods undergo the subtleties of daily change, so too has the process of this master artist. Selections from Betts’s body of work, spanning sixty years, are on display through the end of the year in a groundbreaking retrospective at the Manship Gallery in Baton Rouge, where the artist has lived and worked since 1959. Sourced mostly from private collections across the 62

country, many of the paintings included arrived at Betts’s home weeks before the installation. Many of them she hadn’t seen in decades. “I didn’t know how I’d react when I saw them all at one time,” she said. “When we opened it all up, it was like opening a photograph album from the past. I almost wanted to use words like ‘Oh, you’re so cute.’ It was very emotional.” Many of the earliest works in the show represent the period of Betts’s life when the Chicago native first moved to Baton Rouge, following her husband Tom’s work. “Out to Sea,” (early 1960s) for instance, depicts fishing boats cradled by coastline waves, and earned Betts some of her first official acclaim here in the South. Since then, she’s received countless accolades here in Louisiana, including a commission by Senator Russell Long in 1998, and the Governor’s Award for Professional Artists in 2000. She was the first art teacher hired in Ascension Parish public schools, where she taught high school art for twenty-five years. During that time, she also completed a masters in education at LSU and some postgraduate work in art at Brigham Young and Southern Oregon State College. All the while, she kept up her studio practice—gathering scenes that captivated her in a sketchbook, and occasionally using a camera, before going home to recreate the moment in watercolor. “I was so fascinated with how light and shadow interact here in the South,” she said. “I like the architecture of the houses here, and the patterns of sunlight on a porch.” Over the years, she’s returned specifically to painting chairs on porches—often empty ones. “It has to do with the shadows. I’d rather do, say, a wicker chair with a lot of undulations than a straight rocker.” When it comes to her subject matter, Betts says she’s always approached it in-

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tuitively. “It has to do with where I am at that time, and things I have an affinity for. I just see things that I want to paint and gather information. It has to evoke a strong emotion.” Betts’s farm animals, for instance—chickens pecking the ground at Madewood and cattle gathered round the trough at a farm in Burnside—remind her of her childhood, visiting her family’s dairy farm. Boats continue to capture her imagination after frequently accompanying Tom, who worked for Cargo Carriers, to the shipyards over the course of their marriage. Many of Betts’s paintings emerge from the wonder of traveling to new places. During the summers while she was teaching, Tom would frequently surprise her with plane tickets to attend artist workshops, where she worked with masters of the California School of Watercolor including Barse Miller, Rex Brandt, Millard Sheets, Milford Zornes, Chen KneeChee, and Dong Kingman. As her work continued to gain attention and awards, organizations started requesting for her to teach watercolor workshops. To date, she’s taught over five hundred courses all across the world, including in every state in the United States except for South Dakota and Delaware. She’s traveled extensively to show her work as well, participating in exhibitions and competitions across the world with the National Academy of Design, Butler Institute, National Arts Club, American Watercolor Society, Societe Canadienne de l’aquarelle, the Federation of Canadian Artists, and others. She’s also served as a juror for over one hundred competitions with the American Watercolor Society, Watercolor West, Pikes Peak International, and Artist’s Magazine’s international competition. The worlds of her travels have often made their way onto Betts’s canvases, such as in her paintings depict-

ing the steady coordination of ranch life or concentrated energy of Mexican markets. “When I see these things that interest me,” she said, “I just stare at them. My husband used to tell me to stop staring. But what I’m doing is looking hard at something, drawing it in my mind, gathering information.” Though she travels less these days, Betts still sees potential for creation in all the world around her—especially in the colors. When asked to describe how she believes her paintings have changed over these sixty years, she points to this. “Watercolor tends to be timid, and some people think watercolor is thin and delicate,” she explained. “I used to do more what we call ‘local color’—green trees, gray shadows. But I have increased the amount of paint I use, and added more layers of paint, the way you do with other media like oil or acrylic. I invent more, and play with my ‘pieces of color’.” These ‘pieces of color’— or ‘sparkles,’ as she sometimes calls them—have come to be Betts’s signature mark in a sense: abstract dapplings of colored light that infuse traditional compositions of scenery with something more alive, more spirited. “But see, that’s what I see,” she explained. “For instance, I was looking out the window this morning, and seeing how much more yellow some of the trees are today. Those trees had been green, but now—some of it’s from the drought, and some of it’s just fall. But it would be boring for me to make a tree just green. I see so much more. A red cardinal in the tree. Blue skies through its holes.” Sparkles. •

The Judi Betts Retrospective can be viewed at the Gallery at the Manship Theatre through December 31. Details at and

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