JUNE 2020 Digital Issue

Page 1

is summer …

Explore the

Tunica His

of St. Francisville HIKE • BIKE • GOLF • BIRDWATCH • CAMP

It’s summertime. And the spectacular Tunica Hills of St. Francisville await. Don’t just sit ere … Staycation!

www.stfrancisville.us • (225) 635-4224 2

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JUNE 2020




Limited re-openings, limitless possibilities

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REFLECTIONS by James Fox-Smith


VO LU M E 37 // I SS U E 0 6


26 33 35

If Tchaikovsky were a Cajun . . . by John Flores

HOLY WATER The Mirabeau Water Garden project transforms the Sisters of St. Joseph’s convent into a flood-asborbing wetland. by Christina Leo



Sweet Crude’s new album re-evaluates the reality we live in. by Lauren Heffker

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Ramsey Ayers, Jason Christian, John Flores, Frank McMains




Creative Director




by Jordan LaHaye

Christina Leo

Ramsay Ayers


An intersection of tradition and technology transports Cajun cuisine nation-wide.

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Cover Artist



Jordan LaHaye

by Frank McMains



Managing Editor

Fossil hunting Natchez’s streambeds

Since its inception, Country Roads has always held as its core mission the goal of assisting its readers in discovering, or rediscovering, the magic of this remarkable region—our home. Perhaps this is why Ramsey Ayers’ mixed media work has continued to draw our eye, this being her fourth CR cover. Ayers’ paintings, depicting the fictional utopia of Juniper Island, stir a universal nostalgia for the simplicity that is home. For a summer in which venturing out has become more difficult and things have slowed down so very much, her work resonates a little differently. It reflects a renewed appreciation for the place we call home, and all of the glimpses of utopia—in its natural beauty, its emphasis on community and family, and in its rich culture and history—this place offers. Read more about Ayers’ work in our Perspectives column on page 54.

by Christina Leo

Associate Publisher

Kourtney Zimmerman


Five creative recipes for local, catchable seafood to get you out of that deep fried, étouféed rut

James Fox-Smith Ashley Fox-Smith

On the Cover





A look back at the heyday of Louisiana health tourism by Jason Christian


Sales Team

Heather Gammill & Heather Gibbons

Custom Content Coordinator

Lauren Heffker

Advertising Coordinator

Baylee Zeringue


Dorcas Woods Brown

Country Roads Magazine 758 Saint Charles Street Baton Rouge, LA 70802 Phone (225) 343-3714 Fax (815) 550-2272 EDITORIAL@COUNTRYROADSMAG.COM WWW.COUNTRYROADSMAG.COM

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PERSPECTIVES Juniper Island: The domestic utopia of Ramsey Ayers’ mixedmedia paintings

ISSN #8756-906X

Copyrighted. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the publisher. The opinions expressed in Country Roads magazine are those of the authors or columnists and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, nor do they constitute an endorsement of products or services herein. Country Roads magazine retains the right to refuse any advertisement. Country Roads cannot be responsible for delays in subscription deliveries due to U.S. Post Office handling of third-class mail.

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n interesting side effect of the whole lockdown thing, and of being confined to our native range, is a renewed appreciation for all things local. Wider world be damned; what’s close at hand matters more than ever. Deprived of the ability to fly halfway across the country (or the world) in search of an Instagrammable moment, circumstances force us to consider, or reconsider, the merits of local attractions. On a beautiful May Saturday, facing yet another weekend weeding my newly installed vegetable garden, contemplating my sourdough bread failures, or figuring out what cross-stitching is anyway, I put my kayak on the car and set off to finally do something I’ve been meaning to do for twenty years: go and find the oldest bald cypress tree in North America. Despite having lived in St. Francisville most of my adult life, I had somehow failed to ever go and visit a tree which, at around fifteen hundred years old, is generally accepted to be the oldest living thing east of the Rocky

Mountains. This despite the fact that it stands only about thirty miles from my house. This, for the publisher of a magazine devoted to celebrating “adventures close to home,” seems to be something of an oversight. Off I went. Apparently you do not get to be fifteen hundred years old by being easy to find. To visit the National Champion Bald Cypress when the river is high—which seems to be most of the time—you need a boat. The tree stands deep in the interior of the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, a ten-thousand-acre tract of bottomland hardwood forest and cypress-tupelo swamp embraced by a bend in the Mississippi River west of St. Francisville. In early May, with the river at forty feet at the Baton Rouge gauge, the closest I could get to by car looked to be about seven miles from where the tree stands, according to compass coordinates given to me by photographer CC Lockwood. So I put my kayak into the water at the old St. Francisville ferry landing and set off for a four-mile slog up the Mississippi, to the mouth of an old canal that leads right into the heart of the refuge. This is where the adventure really begins. Gliding up the canal, surrounded by miles of water sliding silently through

the sunken forest and guided only by some digital compass coordinates, I felt a very small and rather unprepared visitor into that primordial wilderness. I don’t know how Cat Island got its name, but given the size and impenetrable verdancy of the place, it’s easy to imagine some species of huge cat lurking here for hundreds, or thousands, of years. The deeper into the refuge I paddled, the larger the trees became—oak and tupelo gum giving way to towering cypress trees so large I began to wonder whether I’d know the National Champion tree when I found it. I needn’t have worried. An hour after leaving the main river channel the forest opened up on an expanse of open water marked on my map as Lake Platt; CC’s pin marking the big cypress appeared to be little more than two hundred yards away—somewhere behind what appeared to be an impenetrable wall of vegetation growing right to the waterline. But with seven miles of hard paddling

behind me I wasn’t about to give up now, so after floating around for awhile looking for the path of least resistance I charged into the undergrowth, where I thrashed around thanking God my wife hadn’t accepted the invitation to come along this time. When eventually I emerged through the thicket I was in the presence of giants. Tall, graceful, impossibly broad cypress columns rose from the still water, their buttressed trunks pulling the eyes upward to the emerald green canopy far overhead. Drifting in the general direction of CC’s compass point I paddled from one tree to another, each more massive than the last. Finally, in a green glade, where it has stood since the fall of the Roman empire, was the oldest tree east of the Rockies. Even with fourteen feet of water hiding the broadest part of its base, the National Champion Bald Cypress is a massive living thing—a twisted, gnarled, study in the passage of time. I floated around the trunk for awhile, eating a PB&J, running a hand over its grayish bark and trying to decipher the runic inscriptions that have been carved by visiting graffitists over the aeons. None appeared to be in Latin. With a last look up its sweeping trunk I finished my sandwich and, content to be spending a summer discovering the best my native range has to offer, slowly paddled away. —James Fox-Smith, publisher, james@countryroadsmag.com

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In Ascension Parish there is a smooth blending of cultures and backgrounds that sweetens the attraction here, indulging the senses in countless ways. From the brilliant colors in The Gardens of Houmas House Plantation to the vivid color in an Alvin Batiste painting. From the explosion of flavors in a bowl of Jambalaya to the explosion in retail at Tanger Outlets and locally owned shops. From Louisiana’s second largest historic district to a cane distillery, there’s just so much to see, taste, experience and savor In Ascension Parish.


TourAscension.com // J U N E 2 0



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N E W S , T I M E LY F A C T S , A N D O T H E R



hen the winds of the COVID-19 pandemic finish blowing through the small businesses of America, it remains to be seen where they will all fall to earth.

Photo courtesy of Stacy Conde.

One interesting case is that of the fine art gallery Conde Contemporary, which will this month complete a relocation from Coral Gables, Florida to Natchez, Mississippi—a move that Stacy Conde, owner of the primarily Latin American gallery, is

The Possibilities in Pipecleaners




quick to acknowledge might seem counterintuitive. But take a couple of things about our new ‘normal’ into account— namely that we’ve all gotten used to shopping online, and the vast disparity in real estate prices between Miami and Mississippi—and the gallery’s move begins to add up. Add that Conde (née Goodman), a Miami native, spent summers visiting family in rural Mississippi while growing up, and everything begins to make sense. When she was a child … “Natchez was ‘town’,” Conde said. “If you needed to go to the eye doctor or wanted to go out to eat, Natchez was the place.” Once Conde Contemporary opens, Natchez will be the place to find works by highly regarded Latin American artists—and an artists’ teaching studio, too. “We’ve been dreaming about relocating the gallery to Natchez and opening a teaching artist residency program for years,” Conde noted, explaining that she and husband,

Andres Conde, have been prioritizing the gallery’s online presence, and its participation in art fairs nationwide, since 2013. “We still see the value in brick and mortar but are no longer willing to pay the astronomical premium of doing business in Miami,” Conde said. “We really can live where we want, reduce our overhead and … invest in a community we love and assist in its recovery by utilizing the power of art as a socioeconomic driver.” Conde is referring to the successful effects of art on economic development, as demonstrated by the effects of a vibrant art economy in towns from Bilbao, Spain, to Marfa, Texas; Bentonville, Arkansas, and beyond. —James Fox-Smith

Conde Contemporary will open at 334 Main Street, Natchez, by mid-June. condecontemporary.com.



ome say creativity can thrive within parameters, but for children in a world of lockdowns and shut-ins, expressive energy can eventually run out of places to go. Parents––especially those spending more time at home lately––know this, and are currently bracing themselves for a summer without day camps and restrictions on usual summer play. Thankfully, we’ve got our local toymakers to the rescue. On May 30, Will Barrios of Tatro Toy Company will launch his Arts and Crafts Pickup Series, which will run every other Saturday through July 25. Staged at local businesses around town, the events will offer arts and crafts bags bursting with 8

“totally random fun stuff,” as Barrios put it, including things like construction paper, card stock, fabrics, beads, chalk, pipe cleaners, and more provided by donations from local nonprofits and sponsorships. “We asked parents what we could do to help them best keep their kids engaged right now,” said Barrios. “They said this is it. The variety in the bags allows for kids to do a different activity every single day for a week or two. That’s what’s important, keeping things fresh, keeping things new.” Tatro, which celebrated its oneyear anniversary in May, has always proclaimed a mission of “expression through imagination,” giving kids the tools to choose their own creative

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Photo courtesy of Will Barrios.

adventures and innovations. “We like to encourage a child to pursue how they are seeing the world, to create how they want,” said Barrios. “I personally believe that through open-ended play like this, kids discover who they are.” The first June Arts and Crafts Pickup will take place from 2 pm-4 pm on the 13th at a to-be-determined location.

Reserve your arts and crafts bags at tatrotoy.com/summer for $5 a bag or a $20 summer pass, which gets you a bag on each of the five pickup dates through the end of July. —Jordan LaHaye




ince March, readers of our “This Week” e-newsletter might have noticed a shift in content. Included with our typical roundup of weekend events, we’ve also started offering glimpses into each member of our editorial team’s individual experiences during this historic time. In mini-essays telling of drive-by birthdays, the art of Zoom hangouts, the exercise of letter-writing, and even an ode to Victoria’s Secret Amber Romance, we’ve enjoyed documenting a little of what our last few months have been like, and connecting through the empathy of this confusing collective moment.

So in this space, we’ve decided to feature the various ways in which we and the rest of our staff have been spending our time, in hopes that you’ll return the sentiment. We’d love to hear your reflections, your funny stories, and your rambles describing your experience these past three months, and we may even decide to share some! Send us an email at jordan@countryroadsmag.com.

Sign up for our “This Week” e-newsletter at subscribe. countryroadsmagazine. com/newsletters.

With very little traffic going by and perfect weather, listening to the morning chirps on the front porch and watching more than a handful of blue jays torment the neighborhood cats kept us giggling. Well, that and experimenting with tequila and fried cheese tacos, which is, let me tell you ... life changing. Well worth the Google. —Heather Gammill As a movie lover, quarantine has meant time spent catching up on my constantly revolving queue, and I’ve found myself turning to films that ordinarily wouldn’t be at the top of my watchlist for a sense of comfort. Stand-up comedy, old children’s movies, and B horror flicks allow me to turn my brain off and escape into worlds full of humor, familiarity, and delightful absurdity when I need it most. —Lauren Heffker

At first, I spent much of my time deep inside books, reading only fantasies or classics safely removed from COVID-19. When I did finally emerge, it was to realize that—since I had moved back into my family home to self-isolate—I had an opportunity to spend intentional time with my family, so it was nice to play board games or sneak around the garden with my parents and siblings, just experiencing history together. —Christina Leo

During quarantine I’ve cooked so much more —dinners every night for two months straight. I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction from this, setting a pretty table with linens and flowers. And perhaps it’s been important to me to be in control of something. Also, I’ve gardened my little green heart out. It was a joy to have so much extra time to plan and play in the dirt. In good times, I get great happiness from my time in the garden. What I’ve found is that in hard times it calms me, gives me room to breathe deeply, keeps me sane. This April, in a low-lying, wet area, I created a Louisiana Iris bed. Throughout the month I gathered and dug new plants to add. Specifically, some luminescent treasures from my Aunt Edna in Natchez. Oh, and I’ve gone ridiculous lengths of time not washing my hair … But they say that is good for it, right? —Ashley Fox-Smith Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine, but during the quarantine, I've taken it to a whole new level. According to my Goodreads, I've devoured twentysix books so far this year, most of those in March and April. Besides reading at a mad pace, I've been enjoying time with my husband, playing video games, making ungodly amounts of watercolor paints (and selling quite a bit too, I'm happy to say!), and taking advantage of the Google Chrome extension Netflix Party with friends. —Kourtney Zimmerman

In March, I (with sporadic assistance from teenaged children) built a deer-proof vegetable garden, and adopted a puppy. In April, I took to grinding my own flour to make mediocre sourdough bread. By May, I was onto homemade venison jerky. Bathtub gin is only a matter of time. I still haven’t had a haircut. —James Fox-Smith

I've been spending much more time with my family back in Luling, playing with two new puppies, and remodeling my childhood home. I've also been enjoying evening walks on the levee, online shopping, and steadily making my way through the Netflix recommended gallery. —Baylee Zeringue

Growing up, my only real exposure to gardening was not “gardening”— it was weeding my mother’s garden as a chore … so I “hated” gardening. When I got married and moved to St. Francisville, I landed on my husband’s beautiful property, once owned by a legendary gardener from this area, no pressure. Suffice it to say that after two and a half years, quarantine gave me the time and the desire to create and complete three—going on four— gardens that I feel would make Miss Jackie proud. So far everything is alive, but I am still not looking forward to when it is time to weed. —Heather Gibbons

Something that has pre-occupied me a lot during this time has been finding ways to celebrate the milestones of this year, even though they look different. I’ve spent so much, very rewarding, energy writing cards, ordering gifts, and dreaming up ways to make all of the graduations, the birthdays, the baby showers special with decorations and drive-thrus and handwritten notes. If this has taught me anything, it’s that love can be shown in infinite ways. You just have to be creative. —Jordan LaHaye

20 Years of Louisiana Business

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O H H H , W E ’ R E H A L F W A Y T H E R E ! T H E Y E A R H A S R E A C H E D I T S M I D D L E M O S T, A N D W E ’ R E O N LY O P E R A T I N G

A T H A L F - M A S T, B U T S U M M E R



T H E W A Y.


The Northlake Nature Center in Mandeville has reopened its trails as part of Louisiana’s Phase I reopening plan. Take a look at what small classes and gatherings can be held (with all suitable safety measures in place), and don’t let summer pass you by. Photo courtesy of the Northlake Nature Center.

Dear readers, In mid-May, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that the state would be moving forward into its Phase I re-opening plan in the midst of COVID-19’s slowly flattening curve. While this means that many businesses have been allowed to welcome patrons and visitors at twenty-five percent capacity, by the time of this issue’s publication the tides may have changed once again, with fewer limitations, additional openings, and changing details not reflected in this calendar. Luckily, we, too, exist in the virtual plane! Don’t forget to check out our online Events page at countryroadsmag.com to stay updated on the latest changes and additions to Louisiana and Mississippi’s ever-rotating schedules, so you can join us for one of the most memorable summers in our states’ already storied histories. —Christina Leo, Arts & Entertainment Editor




almost as if you were in physically inside of an art gallery. All pieces are for sale, and



artist. In this exhibition, English embarks


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

on a mission to curate an atmosphere

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Abstract Symmetry is a solo exhibition of eighteen original works by emerging Baton Rouge artist Cierra English, originally set to display in The Healthcare Gallery. Now, courtesy of Ellemnop.Art, art-lovers have the chance to view one of the first 3D art exhibitions from the capital area, allowing for the most realistic view of the art possible during these isolating times,

that triggers memories, draws emotion,

In conjunction with the Ebb & Flow Festival Season this spring, the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and Forum 225 present Art Flow 2020, Louisiana’s Premier Artist Showcase Competition, now moved online until June 28 as a virtual exhibition. For this year’s show, more than 338 works of art were submitted from over one hundred

viewers can even donate directly to the

and create a space of vulnerability. The gallery encourages the viewers to associate how colors connect to moments and decisions in their lives —creating endless possibilities for interpreting each piece. Keep checking online to see how art showcases will reopen due to COVID-19. ellemnop.art. k

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Beginning June 1st

Louisiana artists. Of these submissions, forty eight works (painting, drawing, ceramics, photography, sculpture, and printmaking) were accepted by the Art Flow jury as part of the exhibition. The public is encouraged to visit the Digital Gallery, check out the Gallery Guide and 3-D Virtual Tours, and vote on the People’s Choice Award. ebbandflowbr.org. k




Originally presenting two options for a jaunt along False River—a one mile fun run/walk or a four mile race—this year’s New Roads Pecan Classic Race will be conducted virtually, giving all registered participants the opportunity to run, jog, or walk either a one-mile or four-mile course of their choosing, receive the official New Roads Pecan Classic shirt, and continue the tradition of promoting family, fun, health, and fitness throughout the community. How does it work, you ask? First, register for either the one- or four-mile race online (if you have registered prior to the virtual race


transition, you will have the option to withdraw for a refund). Then, record your selected race results on any running app (like Map My Run), watch (like Garmin), or electronic file before the deadline. Go to the park, run on a treadmill or throughout your neighborhood; the choice is up to you. Then, after your run, submit your results (time and distance) on the designated Google form (you will receive an email with submission information). If you do not have a Google account, simply send your results (e.g., picture of time and distance on watch, screenshot of your running app) to the timer, Bertha Lanthier, at blanthier54@ aol.com). You can run your selected race as many times as you want, but you are only allowed one submission. Please send videos and/or pictures to marketing director, Aimee Moreau (aimeeblsu@ gmail.com) so that the Pecan Classic team can share your accomplishments on social media. After all results have been submitted, overall and division winners will be announced. The last day to submit your run is Tuesday, June 30. To stay in the know, visit runsignup.com/Race/LA/ NewRoads/PecanClassic. k

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The Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art will open June 1, before the remainder of the indoor galleries. Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art. See page 16.




The Bossier City Farmers Market made its 2020 return with its first-ever drivethru market every Saturday in April, and is continuing on through November 21 in the Pierre Bossier Mall parking lot. Amid the COVID-19 mandates, the market will continue to offer garden vegetables, fresh meats, homemade goods, and more, all while practicing social distance guidelines. Traffic will flow through two drive-thru lanes, allowing customers to shop from the seat of their car. Each lane follows a loop that passes every vendor, and customers are allowed to drive through these lanes an unlimited amount of times. 9 am–1 pm. For more information, visit the Bossier City Farmers’ Market Facebook page, or visit their website at bossiercityfarmersmarket.com. k




The Historic New Orleans Collection has long upheld its reputation as one of the foremost resources for digging into the past of the Crescent City, from its people to its culture to its artistic heritage. Now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of the museum’s artifacts appear online in 360-degree interactive experiences, where guests can wander the halls and peer into paintings and photographs at will—all from the safety of their computer chairs. Here are some additional choices: • Enigmatic Stream: Industrial Landscapes of the Lower Mississippi River: As it churns toward its terminus in southeastern Louisiana, the Mississippi River becomes a wide, muddy superhighway of activity, matched in might only by the megastructures of heavy industry that line its banks. The section of the river from Baton Rouge to New Orleans doubles as one of the most potent economic corridors in the country. For two decades, photographer Richard Sexton has explored this complicated region. Enigmatic Stream: Industrial Landscapes of the Lower Mississippi River features more than 100 black-and-white photographs by Sexton, accented by other materials drawn from and inspired by the Mississippi River, capturing the essence of a complex and often mysterious section of the country’s largest waterway. • Money, Money, Money!: Currency Holdings from The Historic New Orleans Collection: American

banknotes in the twenty-first century are recognizable for their uniform size, green ink, built-in anti-counterfeiting features, and universal acceptance as the United States’ only paper money. But prior to the American Civil War, we had no single currency, except for small-denomination coinage issued by US mints following the American Revolution. Between 1810 and 1865 thousands of American banks, states, counties, parishes, and municipalities printed their own banknotes for circulation. Because they varied in appearance and quality, counterfeiters easily capitalized on merchants’ lack of familiarity with notes from lesser-known banks. From 1719 French banknotes to early twentiethcentury coins minted in New Orleans, this virtual exhibition illustrates the history of money in America, with a special focus on Louisiana. • Andrew Jackson: Hero of New Orleans: For many, Andrew Jackson is a figure from a remote past—a portrait on a twenty-dollar bill, a statue in an old city square, a lyric in a Johnny Horton song. Yet Jackson was the nineteenthcentury equivalent of a rock star, one of the United States’s most famous heroes, as well as one of its most polarizing figures. Originally presented to commemorate the bicentennial of his famous victory at the Battle of New Orleans, this exhibition— now in virtual form—uses original manuscript documents, prints, artworks, and material culture artifacts to take a retrospective look at this American icon. • French Quarter Life: People and Places in the Vieux Carré: For more than 150 years, artists from around the world have worked to capture and share their impressions of New Orleans’ most iconic and historic neighborhood. This virtual exhibition gathers twenty two paintings from the museum’s permanent collection. From the bustle of the French Market to the jazzmen of Preservation Hall, these artworks explore the streets, buildings, and people of the Quarter over time and through a variety of techniques. Additionally, each image has been paired with a literary quotation that the museum hopes will complement it and convey a more vivid sense of French Quarter life. • New Orleans Medley: Sounds of the City: The music of New Orleans is the living product of dynamic cultural interactions played out over centuries in this diverse southern port city. While the city’s music is often characterized by a single style, rhythm, or beat, the reality is much more layered and complex. New Orleans Medley: Sounds of the City explores how the interactions between many musical cultures shaped the city’s music. Selections from THNOC’s extensive musical holdings weave the narrative of the city’s rich musical story. Visitors // J U N E 2 0



Beginning June 1st will see the first music published in New Orleans, tickets from the French Opera House, Jelly Roll Morton’s handwritten sheet music, video footage of Mardi Gras Indians from the 1970s, and much more. See a full list of online exhibitions at hnoc.org. k




lsumoa.org/online-resources. k

• Revelations: Recent Photography Acquisitions: See photographs made from the early twentieth century to the present and added to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s permanent collection over the last decade. • Melvin Edwards: Crossroads: Peer into Melvin Edwards’ world of twisting, sinuous metal and you will find a place of possibility, an environment where found objects expand—both formally and conceptually— beyond the boundaries of their given form. • What Music Is Within: Black Abstraction from the Permanent Collection: Presenting works that use abstraction as a powerful modality of expression, each of the artists in the exhibition project their own voice to convey their individual visions.

Statewide, Louisiana




The LSU Museum of Art is excited to welcome visitors back to a safe place to recharge through creativity and culture. During this new Phase I period, the museum is pleased to allow access to its wonderful exhibitions and works of art once again, while asking for patience as it opens with a modified schedule and safety protocols. Guidelines allow only twenty-five percent capacity access, and all visitors will be required to wear face masks for their safety and for others’. The LSU Museum of Art will also have safe gallery paths titled “FOLLOW THE FLOW” and other directional signage to protect viewers, along with no-touch digital resources, including a digital J U N E 2 0 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

• Sunday and Monday: Closed. • Tuesday–Thursday: Noon-6 pm. • Saturday: Noon–6 pm. • Friday Noon–7 pm. • 25% Capacity: 4-5 people allowed at one time in the LSU Museum Store; 100 in the LSU Museum of Art.

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art isn’t sleeping in during the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring that Southern art remains at the forefront of New Orleans’ thriving creative scene. See a list of exhibititions and curator talks online, a selection which includes:

To see more, visit ogdenmuseum.org. k


animated gallery map and its safety protocol guidelines that people can access online via their devices. The museum will also introduce single-use disposable paper gallery maps. Phase I hours at the LSU Museum of Art & LSU Museum Store are as follows:




Acadiana is one of the most culturally rich areas of Louisiana, and St. Charles Parish is making sure we don’t lose a minute of beauty and education thanks to the online exhibitions provided by its Virtual Museum. Check out the website to follow in the footsteps of early explorers, visit with founding fathers (and mothers), and access a plethora of resources, including video interviews, documentaries, historical footage, oral histories, town histories, and so much more from the eighteenth century and beyond. scphistory.org. k




On May 16, Louisiana State Museums reopened in accordance with state and local safety guidelines. As the state moves into Phase I of the Governor’s Roadmap to a Resilient Louisiana, the museums are ensuring ​that they meet the highest standards of cleanliness and follow regulations regarding physical distancing. Here are some steps they’re taking to ensure everyone’s safety: • Museum staff will follow CDC guidelines and wear masks at all times. For the safety of others, please wear your mask in our museums. • Additional hand sanitizing stations have been installed in the buildings. • Museums will operate at less than twentyfive percent capacity and practice safe social distancing. • Museums have eliminated all touch-based interactives. • Cleaning crews are taking additional

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Beginning June 1st measures to properly sanitize surfaces throughout the day. • Visitor hours have been adjusted to allow for more cleaning time. Most museums will open from 9 am–4 pm, with last ticket sale at 3:30 pm. • When safe social distancing guidelines cannot be followed, events and tours have been cancelled or moved online to the state musems’ social media channels. The muesums include The Cabildo, The Presbytère, The New Orleans Jazz Museum, 1850 House, and Madame John’s Legacy in New Orleans; the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge; the E.D. White Historic Site and Wedell-Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum in Southeast Louisiana; and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches. louisianastatemuseum.org. k

JUN 1st


In accordance with guidelines and

directives from Governor John Bel Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and the Center for Disease Control, The New Orleans Museum of Art plans to open the gates of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden to visitors on June 1. While many of have sought solace in the beauty of nature during this strange spring, the museum looks forward to inviting guests back to enjoy the combination of a lush landscape and world-renowned works of art. Because of the significant revenue loss NOMA has suffered due to the COVID-19 crisis, NOMA is also asking visitors to pay a small admission fee to the sculpture garden at this time. New rules will be set in place to ensure the safety of all, while still enjoying NOMA’s collection and exploring the museum galleries. As required by the Phase I protocol, the museum will operate at twenty-five percent capacity in the museum building. For more updates about the museum’s opening plans and safety precedures, visit noma.org. k

Clay Parker and Jodi James will be among the first live acts to grace the stage at Baton Rouge’s La Divina, marking a semi-return to normalcy after COVID-19 instigated tough social distancing rules. See page 20. Photo courtesy of Clay Parker and Jodi James.

JUN 1st - JUN 25th


A home museum and botanical garden located beside the Ouachita River in Monroe, The Biedenharm Museum was built in 1913 as the private home of Joseph A. Biedenharn, the man

famous for first bottling Coca-Cola in the summer of 1894 while living in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The gardens have been open since May 28, though the original Biedenharn Home is not currently open for tours due to COVID-19 restrictions and the nature of its confined spaces. The adjoined Bible Museum, featuring a collection of bibles and bible literature collected by Emy-Lou Biedenharn, daughter of

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Joseph A. Biedenharn (including an original 1611 King James Bible and a page from the 1454-55 Gutenberg Bible), will open on June 11. The grounds’ Coca-Cola Museum, which features Coca-Cola memorabilia and historical items, will open to the public on June 25. For more information and updates, visit bmuseum.org. k

The early days of summer mean you won’t sweat your life jacket off quite yet while canoeing on Castine Bayou with the guides of the Northlake Nature Center. See page 21. Photo by Bob Orchard.

Thomas: Femmes Noires and Meg Turner: Here and Now—both of which were originally scheduled to close on June 14. The CAC’s galleries will temporarily close once again on June 15 for the installation of its 2020 Open Call Exhibition, Make America What America Must Become, which will debut at the CAC on September 18, 2020 and remain on view through January 24, 2021. More information about this exhibition, including featured artists and gallery hours, will be posted on the CAC website in late June. Tickets for Sunday, June 7 and Sunday, June 14 are complimentary for Louisiana residents, courtesy of The Helis Foundation’s Art for All program, but online registration is still required. To stay updated about future openings and COVID-19-related guidelines, visit cacno.org. k

JUN 1st - JUN 14th

JUN 1st - JUL 24th

JUN 1st - JUN 30th


The art galleries at the Ogden Museum of Southern art ring with music on Thursdays each month, when the popular Ogden After Hours evening concert series brings Southern musicians to entertain and Southern music scholars to elucidate. Now, during the COVID-19 crisis, the museum will host these musical gatherings online with Hear the South, featuring Southern musicians and DJs performing from the comfort of their own homes. And every fourth Thursday of the month, our esteemed host, Brandon Lattimore, will take you on a nostalgic journey and play musical selections from the Ogden After Hours archive. To learn more about online programs and opening plans, visit ogdenmuseum.org. k


will operate at twenty-five percent capacity and implement proactive health and safety measures including online-only timed-ticketed admissions,

New Orleans, Louisiana

enhanced sanitization, and proper

The Contemporary Arts Center announces the limited re-opening of its galleries, beginning June 1 through 14, 2020. In adherence to the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans’ safety guidelines, the CAC

social distancing measures in the CAC’s expansive galleries. The limited reopening provides an opportunity for locals to enjoy the final two weeks of the CAC’s exhibitions currently onview: critically-acclaimed Mickalene


Registration for Sea-n-Sail Adventure Camp 2020 has begun, and weeks are filling up fast! The Sea-n-Sail Adventure Camp is a day camp designed to bring about a greater awareness of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s original history and maritime heritage through a variety

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Beginning June 2nd

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Gallery 600 Julia in New Orleans will open its doors in limited capacity for its first exhibition of June, Coffee & Cocktails, featuring plein air paintings by local artist Anne Pappas. See page 22. Art: Anne Pappas, CRAZY WHISKEY, Le Bon Temps Rouler Bar.

of fun and educational activities. Camp is open to students ages 6–12. Camp consists of a week of activities including model boat building, fishing, cast netting, swimming, and field trips to places such as the Mississippi Aquarium, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, and the Institute of Marine and Mammal Studies. Seven sessions will be held during the summer: June 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26 (6-8 year olds only), and July 6-10, 13-17, and 20-24. Daily activities will begin at 8 am and end at 4 pm. Campers will be grouped according to age: 6-8 and 9-12 years old. Camp staff for each group will include three counselors who are CPR/First Aid certified. All Sea-n-Sail Adventure Campers will take two sailing trips aboard one of the Museum’s famous replicas of the Biloxi Schooner. Age group 9-12 will take a full day trip to Horn Island through waters fished by Biloxi fisherman for more than two hundred years. Campers age 6-8 will visit Deer Island during one of their half-day sails and learn about marine pollution. During the sail, campers will learn components of sailing a schooner, boating safety, and rules of the road, and participate in many sailing activities. Sign up online at maritimemuseum.org/new/2020-sean-sail-registration and contact Corey Christy at (228) 435-6320 or outreach@ maritimemuseum.org with any further questions. k

JUN 2nd


The seventh annual GiveNOLA Day, an initiative of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, will take place on June 2. 18

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This is a 24-hour online giving event for the thirteen-parish Greater New Orleans Region whose goal is to break the GiveNOLA Day fundraising record and raise at least $6 million for more than 750 regional nonprofits in the region (Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Assumption, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes). These participating nonprofits work on a broad range of issues, including arts and culture, animals, community improvement, education, environment, health, housing, human services, public safety and crime prevention, and youth development. For more information about how to help during GiveNOLA Day, visit www.GiveNOLA.org, send an email to GiveNOLA@gnof.org, or give a call to (504) 598-4663. k

JUN 3rd - JUN 24th


The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is hardly letting a pandemic drain all the color from its service to art-lovers everywhere. Every Wednesday during this period of self-isolation, tune in to the museum’s Facebook page for a half-hour Facebook Live show, “Connect,” WAMA’s arts and culture show connecting you to interesting people and ideas from across the map, including interviews with artists discussing their work. Part of the Our ART+ initiative, “Connect” and the museum’s myriad online resources and exhibitions help make art experiences accessible digitally, and connects the collection to a variety of fields of study including art history, science, social

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Beginning June 4th

studies, and language arts. Each module is targeted to state standards, student creativity, and overall well-being. For more information, visit facebook.com and walterandersonmuseum.org/artplus. k

JUN 4 - JUN 20 th



Gelato, panini (or paninis, for you American types), and the frequent injections of heart and soul from Baton Rouge’s singersongwriter enclave? Divine doesn’t even begin to cut it. Look forward to live music Thursdays–Saturdays, with Fridays being home to the “Original Music Gathering” hosted by Donald Gelpi, where up-andcomers can bring their original songs and sign up for a chance to play two to three songs on a first-come-first-served basis. Here’s the live music that will accompany your dining at La Divina Italian Café in the coming weeks (the café will be following all Stage I COVID-19 guidelines): • June 4: Ben Bell • June 6: Stephen Allen • June 11: Clay Parker & Jodi James

• June 18: Evan & The Riverlites • June 20: David Gautreau 6 pm–8 pm. Free. facebook.com/ ladivinabatonrouge. k


In response to COVID-19 social distancing measures, Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge introduces virtual happy hour concerts designed for companies and businesses in the Capital Region. The T.G.I.F. Music Concerts match a musician to a business, company, or group of individuals, who then performs a thirtyminute virtual live concert on Zoom or Microsoft Teams during that subscriber’s scheduled meeting. The Arts Council curates the program, coordinating the musician match, payment of the artist, and logistics for $150.00, which pays the musician and provides the subscribing company or business with a year-long membership to the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Membership

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The Historic New Orleans Collection has transformed its exhibition New Orleans Medley: Sounds of the City into a 360-degree immersive online experience that lets you wander the halls and peer at artifacts as if you were really there. Image: Original Tuxedo Jazz Band; between ca. 1925 and 1932; gelatin silver print; The William Russell Jazz Collection at The Historic New Orleans Collection, acquisition made possible by the Clarisse Claiborne Grima Fund, 92-48-L.218. Photo courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection. See page 13.

includes opportunities for advance notice on community events and discounts for programs, camps, classes, and concerts throughout the year. Plans are already underway to expand the program to include concerts from other genres, like improv comedy, poetry slams, or other favorites. Dependent upon demand, the Arts Council will continue the program even after restrictions associated with COVID-19 are lifted. To book a

T.G.I.F. digital concert, visit artsbr.org/ tgif-music-concerts. k


Louisiana’s favorite four-mallet jazz vibraphonist, Dr. Charles Brooks, is bringing weekly live music entertainment

Registration for the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum’s Sea-n-Sail Adventure Camp has begun, which means that kids can enjoy a July of nautical activities that both inform and entertain. See page 17. Photo courtesy of the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.

to the masses with his free Friday Night Vibes music series. Each Friday night at 8 pm, Brooks will stream a one-hour concert on Facebook and Periscope live from his music dojo in Central. Set lists include but are not limited to Charles Brooks originals, popular jazz classics, and standards like “What A Wonderful World,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Girl from Impanema,” and “In A Sentimental Mood,” as well as vibraphonic interpretations of popular classic rock, blues, and funk tunes. Each concert features different tunes interpreted on the vibraphone, and there is no fee to tune in live and watch the show, which Brooks plans to continue even after the end of the coronavirus crisis. Shows stream live on Facebook @thecharlesbrooksmusic and on Periscope.tv @theCBDMA . Previous Friday Night Vibes shows can be found online at TheCharlesBrooks.com/music under Live Performances. 8 pm. k

JUN 5th - JUN 27th


The four-hundred-acre Northlake Nature Center in Mandeville has plenty to

offer during this first month of released COVID-19 restrictions across Louisiana, especially for those looking to stretch their legs, breathe in some fresh air, and enjoy the mental relief of experiencing the beauties of nature. June 5 • Canoeing on Castine Bayou with Canoe and Trail Adventures: Enjoy a three-hour paddling outing in a canoe for two. Guide Byron Almquist, a long-time paddling guide and Louisiana Master Naturalist, will discuss and describe the habitats and history of the bayou and provide paddling instructions, if desired. Bayou Castine is a Louisiana natural and scenic stream which flows past the Northlake Nature Center through forested high ground, then transitions to a mixed cypress swamp, passing marshes and marinas before emptying into Lake Pontchartrain. Weight limit 240 pounds, masks to be worn at launch site. 9 am and 2 pm. $40 for one paddler; $70 for two adults; no charge for a maximum of two children (11 or younger) for members; additional $5 per person rate applies for non-members. • Moonlight Hike and Snow and Ice: Ever wondered what the Northlake

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Beginning June 6th Nature Center would be like at night? What would you hear, what would you see, and what would you smell? Take a quiet walk under the full moon and find out! Bring your own flashlight and enjoy snowballs courtesy of Honey’s Snoballs of Abita. Reservations required. 7:50 pm. $5 for non-members; free for members. June 6 • Snakes of Louisiana with Fred Mattingly: A local community snake enthusiast will share his wealth of knowledge and introduce you to Louisiana’s coolest native snakes. Snakes have fascinated Mattingly his entire life, and he will bring his small collection so you can observe their behavior and learn about their habits. 10 am. $5 for nonmembers; free for members. June 20 • Mushroom Walk with John Mansfield: Sign up now to learn all about the mushrooms that sprout up in the fall. Mansfield has forty years of experience studying those little toadstools or sporebearing fruiting bodies of a fungus which typically grow above ground on soil or on their food source. The program


will start in the pavilion with a slide show presentation that Mansfield put together, followed by a scavenger hunt for mushrooms. We will return to the pavilion and identify the mushrooms found. If you have one you’d like to bring from home, please do so! You will learn which ones to leave behind. Reservations required. 10 am. $5 for non-members; free for members. June 27 • Walk in the Woods, Medicinal Plants with Donna Caire, and Plant I.D. with Rue McNeill: The Northlake Nature Center has no shortage of native plants. The “Four Seasons” Tree ID Program aims to enable participants to identify native trees and shrubs year-round. Each session highlights seasonal features often unique to individual species. The Summer Session highlights leaves, flowers, and developing fruit. Caire will point out several medicinals along the way, while McNeill will share her love of trees and their fascinating attributes. Reservations required. 9 am. $5 for nonmembers; free for members. To register, call (985) 626-1238 or email rue@northlakenature.org. k

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The water bodies that cover much of Louisiana are certainly large enough to accommodate social distancing. The Freedom Fest Triathlon in New Roads includes an eight-hundred-meter swim in False River—a bracing beginning to a grueling race. See page 23. Photo by Damir Spanic.

JUN 6 - JUN 30 th



Gallery 600 Julia presents one of its first shows in the midst of reduced COVID-19 restrictions: Coffee and Cocktails, an exhibition by painter Anne Pappas, who trained at the New Orleans Fine Arts Academy and works in plein air. For this show, she set up on the street corners of the

city, capturing the color and vibrancy of everyday life. Stop by the opening reception on June 6 from 6 pm–8pm. Masks are required in New Orleans businesses. To see more, visit gallery600julia.com. k

JUN 13th


Slip on some comfortable walking shoes and follow in the footsteps of Capitol Park

Museum guides as they lead a walking tour to visit the surrounding Capitol Park area. See the footprint of an old Spanish fort, a marker showing the home of a former United States President, the location of the Ole War Skule, and other notable landmarks. The tour begins at 9:30 am at the Capitol Park Museum and lasts approximately ninety minutes. $10 at eventbrite.com. k




On the first Sunday of each month, the LSU Museum of Art welcomes all to enjoy its exhibitions free of charge, promising special family activities, live music, and more. Now, virtual guests from all over the world can check out these special events online, as well as viewing past First Sunday talks with curators and art historians. lsumoa.org. k

JUN 27th The Bible Museum will reopen on the grounds of The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens on June 11, showcasing its collection—which includes a page from the 1454-55 Gutenberg Bible (the first page of which can be seen above)—curated by the daughter of the historic home’s owner. See page 16. Photo courtesy of The British Library.


in the professionals. On the last Saturday of the month, the Arts Council of New Orleans presents the continuation of its #virtualartsmarket, a collection of online resources—searchable by the nominal hashtag—to connect you to New Orleans artists’ and artisans’ work, whether via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. The Arts Council will be posting artist features online, and you can tune into the Arts Market New Orleans’ Facebook page for special video content from local artists to small, handmade businesses. 10 am–4 pm. See a schedule of videos and featured artists at facebook.com. k




There’s plenty of room for social distancing in lakes and rivers, after all. Join False River Paddle Club at the end of the month for Freedom Fest Triathlon, a sprint-distance race consisting of an eight-hundredmeter swim in False River followed by an eighteen-mile bike and a 5K run. Volunteers can sign up at signupgenius.com, while the swim support course map and race

New Orleans, Louisiana

sign-up can be found at active.com/

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V I S I T S T. F R A N C I S V I L L The Spring that Never Sprung


hile the world was in lockdown and all of us were stuck at home, St. Francisville was having the most gorgeous spring in memory. In March there were azaleas and wisteria bursting from every yard. By April each ditch was bright with Louisiana Iris and the Tunica Hills were a blanket of emerald green. And by May the magnolias had joined the party, decorating woods and roadsides with their cabbage-sized blooms. The problem was that there was no-one around to enjoy it all. Ferdinand and Royal streets were quiet; Parker Park was still. On a beautiful Friday afternoon the loudest sound in the Magnolia Café parking lot was the cooing of a couple of mourning doves. This, as anyone who has tried to find a parking space near the Mag on a Friday can tell you, was deeply weird. Well, now it’s June and, with lockdown restrictions relaxed St. Francisville is well and truly back to business. Lucky for you it’s just as beautiful—and welcoming—as ever. With plans, opening hours, and circumstances evolving from one day to the next, St. Francisville has posted a resource guide reflecting the latest opening information for area shops, restaurants, salons, lodgings, and attractions, to the West Feliciana Tourist Commission website. Visit stfrancisville.us and look for the COVID-19 link. Afton Villa’s famous Oak Alley in March.

St. Francisville STRONG


hen COVID-19 cancelled spring, the merchants of St. Francisville banded together to create St Francisville STRONG—an initiative offering those who love the shops, restaurants, attractions and lodgings of “The Ville” a way to support them by purchasing vouchers and gift certificates for use once life returns to normal. So even if you can’t come back yet, you can help. stfrancisvillestrong.com


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Shop our one-of-a-kind items or just sit a spell for coofee and a round of checkers.


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The Cazan Lake Ballet

IN A SECRET SPOT IN EVANGELINE PARISH, A GRAND PERFORMANCE BY THE GREAT EGRET Story and photos by John Flores A male Great Egret at Cazan Lake completes a “stretch” as part of his displays to attract a mate.


ad Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the great Romantic Russian composer, lived in Louisiana when he wrote his Swan Lake ballet, it might just have been titled the Cazan Lake ballet instead. As the story goes: the beautiful Princess Odette, fashioned from Russian and German folktales, is cursed by an evil sorcerer, who turns her into a swan. In another life, though, perhaps Odette might 26




have become the Queen of Great Egrets, a bird whose beauty and dancing displays grace the marshes and bottomland swamps of Acadiana annually. The alluring splendor of the ballet would be no less resplendent. For never have swans had to balance themselves on the branches and limbs of a cypress tree as the Great Egret does, still giving the performance of a lifetime to those who watch. During the late nineteenth and

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twentieth centuries, the Great Egret’s wispy diaphanous breeding feathers, known as aigrettes, were highly sought after by millineries. In 1885 these ornamental plumes sold for as much as $20 per ounce and $32 per ounce by 1915—the price of gold at the time. The demand was so great during the Victorian Era that an estimated ninetyfive percent of Great and Snowy Egret populations were lost. Thankfully, due to twentieth century efforts of conservation-minded

socialites, the American Ornithologists Union, and the National Association of Audubon Societies (now the National Audubon Society), protection laws were passed and some of the United States’ first bird refuges established. In 1918, federal lawmakers enacted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, prohibiting the killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport of protected migratory bird species, including the Great Egret. Since then, egret populations have flourished across the country. Cazan Lake, pronounced kah-zau in the Cajun-French accent of the Evangeline Parish region, is known to hold one of the largest natural wading bird rookeries in the state, and every year hundreds of Great Egrets descend upon it as a breeding site. Part of a private, four-thousand acre farm owned by the late Percy Fontenot, the lake is now managed by his family members as a rice and crawfish farm and as a recreational haven offering camp leases, duck blinds, and hunting leases in addition to nightly rentals. But, as Cazan Lake’s Adminstrative Assistant Kristi Enicke said, Fontenot always believed that the wondrous beauty of the farm and its avian inhabitants would also attract birders and photographers. On a recent weekend getaway, hoping to do a little nature photography, my wife and I chose to target nesting Great Egrets at Cazan Lake. Upon arrival there were no less than seven nature photographers taking pictures of the egrets, mere moments after sunrise in perfect morning light. Travel distance didn’t seem to matter to those taking in the ceremony of the egret courtship rituals. As we spoke with others there, we learned one nature photographer traveled 177 miles one way from Shreveport. Another traveled eighty miles. And still another, Martha Jo Ward, got up before daylight and drove one hundred miles. “I got up at 4:30 this morning and drove from Lake Charles to get here— that’s wanting to see some birds now,”

she laughed. “I can’t make it to church on time, but I can make it here to take a picture of a bird.” My spouse and I, cognitive of our own 112-mile trip to Cazan Lake from our home in Patterson, elected to stay overnight at the “Steamboat Cottages” along Bayou Courtableu in the Town of Washington in St. Landry Parish. Upon beautiful grounds, we found the cottages clean and comfortable, as well as tastefully furnished and decorated inside. More importantly, the cottages were a short twenty-five-minute drive from Cazan Lake. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Cazan Lake is slightly off the beaten path.

Tim Comeaux, a fellow photographer and middle school teacher from Eunice, told us that he found the rookery when he and his wife made a wrong turn on a trip to nearby Chicot State Park. Since then, he’s visited frequently to photograph the wondrous wildlife he came upon. My wife and I made our way from Washington using my vehicle’s OnStar directional assistance, but most Garmin GPS systems or iPhone navigational apps will get you to the rookery. At Cazan Lake, Great Egrets begin courtship displays and nest building in late January and continue mating

The Cazan Lake rookery is one of the largest natural wading rookeries in Louisiana. Every year hundreds of Great Egrets return to it as a breeding site.


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Cazan Ballet continued ...

If You Go . . .


ashington happens to be the third oldest settlement in Louisiana, celebrating its tricentennial in 2020. The quaint town was once a hustling and bustling steamboat port between New Orleans and St. Louis, where cotton, cattle, sugar and molasses were the chief products transported up and downstream supporting the commerce of a growing nation. The old Steamboat Warehouse, a relic from the past, located on Bayou Courtableau has since been converted to the “Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant,” whose cuisine is as close to any upscale restaurants you’ll find in New Orleans. The town has reinvented itself since the old days. The downtown area has numerous antique shops along Main Street and the circa 1936 three story brick school has been converted to the “Old Schoolhouse Antique Mall” that’s full of collectible riches. Notably St. John’s Episcopal Church, built in 1874, was the site of one of the scenes in the movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey. The church and property are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and were acquired and restored by the Washington Garden Club.

Great Egrets begin courtship displays and nest building in late January and continue mating displays on into March. Males typically choose the nesting site and get started building the nest, and chicks can be seen at the Cazan Lake rookery through June.

displays on into March. Males typically choose the nesting site and get started building the nest, all while displaying for females. In Douglas W. Mock’s research published in the American Ornithological Societies Condor Journal in 1978, he described


the displays as social signals, labeling various Great Egret movements the stretch, snap, and bow. Sometimes bachelor male’s displays even incorporate props: bowing with a stick held in his long stiletto-like bill. That morning, we watched a

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he City of Ville Platte is located just eight miles from both Chicot State and Cazan Lake. Chicot offers cabins, RV and primitive camping sites for visitors to the area, along with a host of activities such as fishing, hiking, and canoeing. Ville Platte is also known as the Swamp Pop Capital of the World, and hosts a vibrant, quirky little museum on the subject certainly worth a visit. Travelers looking to stay overnight can find accommodations at The Cottage Bed and Breakfast (Book at 337-363-3388) or at the local Best Western. And, Café Evangeline offers excellent dining and quaint atmosphere for visitors.

male at his nest site arch his back in a movement reminiscent of an arabesque. The stretch of the bird’s neck resembled a dancer’s extension, forming a beautiful curvature. As the Great Egret snapped forward, he bowed his head low with aigrettes displayed wide, as if to say, “At your service my lady.” Once the seasonably monogamous pair of egrets have bonded, together they go about completing their crudelooking nests built from sticks and twigs. Laying three-to-five eggs at two-to-three day intervals, incubation is normally completed in twenty-three to twenty-six days. By days forty-two to forty-nine, the young have usually fledged.

To the nature lover viewing these courtship displays, besides the raising of the ornamental plumes, perhaps nothing is so captivating as the mating colors found around the eyes and bill of the Great Egret—an area known as the lore. During breeding season, the lore of the large white birds become a striking lime or rich olive green. Many inspirations come from our connection with the wild. Nature can be alluring and peaceful. Watching the beautiful splendor of the Cazan Lake Ballet was, for my wife and I—and so many others—one of those remarkable events of nature that left us insatiably wanting more, compelling us to return, again and again. h

Visitors to the Cazan Lake rookery can witness Great Egrets’ courtship displays and nesting rituals and even watch the young hatch, feed, and fledge during the period from late January through June. During these months, visitors can also see Great Blue Herons and Roseate Spoonbills, who also use the cypress trees in Cazan Lake for nesting. Photographers can spend a day at the Cazan Lake rookery for a fee of $20 per person. An annual membership option allows photographers to return as often as they like for a fee of $125. Rates vary for other activities. For more information contact Kristi Enicke at (337) 3631830 or by email at kristi@percyinc.com, or visit Cazan Lake’s Facebook page. A Great Egret presents a stick to its mate for nest building.

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Mange St. Martin Welcome to the summer of #EatLocal In a place like South Louisiana where our cuisine is the heartbeat of our culture, restaurants are the backbone of our communities, both big and small. St. Martin Parish, home to the Crawfish Capital of the World, is no exception. Now more than ever, local food businesses and restaurants need our support. The second annual Mange St. Martin, a campaign from St. Martin Parish Tourist Commission that runs from June through the end of September, highlights more than sixty local eateries to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty Cajun meal, some fresh seafood, or just looking to escape the heat with an ice cold daiquiri by your side, there’s no shortage of options-just bring your appetite. From old-fashioned plate lunches to weekend buffet brunches, the hardest part is deciding what to order. Head to mangestmartin.com for a list of participating restaurants, and remember to eat (and drink) local this summer.


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Into the Water

An artist’s rendering forsees the future of the Mirabeau Water Garden as a property that combines natural beauty with practicality and education. All photos courtesy of Gina Sullivan with the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph.



n the spring of 1718, when Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville set foot at the mouth of the Mississippi with plans to build a new port city for the wouldbe United States, members of the native Chitimacha tribe tried to stop him. “Trust us,” they said (and I’m paraphrasing, here), “you don’t want to do that.” The land was low-lying, swampish, and prone to flooding during seasonal storms; the idea of slipping cobblestones onto loose soil

and raising churches in the alligatored bayous seemed foolish at best, and a detriment at worst. “Maybe this one spot could work for a small village,” the tribe might have said, pointing the way to what would become the Vieux Carré, or French Quarter, “but otherwise, you might want to think again.” The French didn’t listen. Neither did the Spanish, who helped extend the limits of an infant New Orleans not just along the relatively dry Esplanade ridge, but to the edges of the Mississippi, insisting

that human-made levees would hold the river at bay. These settlements reached all the way to the modern-day Gentilly neighborhood, where, hundreds of years later, Hurricane Katrina would cause flooding to significant portions of residences, including the grounds of a

land to the City of New Orleans for $1 a year for the next one hundred years, on the premise that it would be used to create one of the nation’s largest urban wetlands: the Mirabeau Water Garden. The Gentilly area is a former marshland with highly porous soils


Sister Pat Bergen spoke alongside Governor John Bel Edwards at a news conference in January 2016 (above). Bergen has been involved in the Mirabeau project since its inception in 2006.

convent belonging to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The levee idea hadn’t worked, and in successive years, national conversation would use the Katrina disaster—as it has in our current era of COVID-19, with lower pollution rates and renewed vivacity of wildlife—as a spark to light the candle leading to more holistic, environmentally friendly infrastructure. So, after the floods of 2005 dried up, and after a lightning strike damaged the building yet again in 2006, the sisters decided, in 2008, to demolish the house and lease the twenty-five acres of convent

that need water to remain stable. When pump systems drain out water, the soils shrink like a sponge, then swell again during rainfall. This back-andforth causes “differential movement,” which damages streets and building foundations, hence the need for more naturalistic methods of flood-reduction. “We didn’t want to sell it to developers who would turn the land into housing that would just flood again,” said Sister Joan Laplace, who had to evacuate the convent when Katrina hit. “We knew there must be a way to make the land more beneficial to the // J U N E 2 0


city, something with more motive.” When architect David Waggoner of Waggonner & Ball approached the sisters in 2007 with his idea for a wetland that, as part of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, would absorb ten million gallons of water during flooding events before easing it back to the original water sources, as well as provide educational opportunities for students and environmental researchers, the congregation felt that their prayers had been answered. In 2015, landscape architect Shannon Blakeman and landscape designer Amy Norval, both with CARBO Landscape Architecture, joined forces with Waggoner’s team to help make the vision come to life, starting with plans to begin stage one of the construction by 2019. The plans were postponed to 2020 due to rigorous processes of approval by FEMA meant to ensure that it would have the greatest benefit to the community, with more recent delays caused by the intrusion of COVID-19. “I think what we’ve seen with COVID is a lot more people reconnecting with nature,” said Blakeman. “I’ve seen more people than ever outside jogging, riding bikes, playing with their kids, going into parks. There are lots of studies out there that show just how important nature is to your mental and physical health, so that’s been one silver lining we hope the project can attest to.” Landscape architects, he said, ultimately see themselves as problemsolvers, assessing the natural world and finding ways to help humans live in it. The real goal, he said, is to help the people of New Orleans learn to live with water, instead of shunning it. “We know that a lot of New Orleans’ flooding problem has to do with pumping water out of the city,” said Blakeman. “In doing that for years, the natural makeup of the ground became depleted, and New Orleans became a sink, exacerbating the problem it already had.” So much of the conversation around climate change and rising sea levels tends to materialize into imagery of hugeness and imperceptibility—think words like “iceberg,” “ocean,” and “Amazon rainforest. ”The problems can often seem insurmountable, particularly for vulnerable coastal cities like New Orleans, which will bear the brunt of increasingly common weather events. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Mirabeau isn’t a magic bullet,” 34

said Blakeman. “It won’t solve every problem, but it can be a great example of what can be done on a larger scale in this country, in increments. That’s a lot more manageable than trying to fix a world-wide issue all at once, and I hope it triggers more engagement in holistic, green infrastructure.” Norval wants to increase engagement with the beauty of the natural world as well, envisioning natural flora and fauna that leans into the region’s native wetland habitats. “The fact that this land was flooded during Katrina, and that it’s being given back to nature in a way that embraces water—that symbolism has always been something I loved about this project,” said Norval. “We look forward to building up native plant communities, starting with wet meadow species and then moving up the banks of the detention basins with drier meadow species. We can play with plants that like different inundation levels, with pine and dwarf palmetto forests on the backslope of the berms. There are a lot of dynamics we can play with so that students and laypeople can go out and enjoy native plants.” The educational component of Mirabeau—which likely won’t be incorporated until phase two after 2021—has always been one of the primary focuses for the Sisters of St. Joseph, who have served New Orleans since 1855, largely as educators themselves. “This model can be replicated in any

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The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, founded in Lyon, France, have resided in New Orleans since 1855, and in the Gentilly area since 1950, when they broke ground on the Mirabeau Provintial House (bottom photo). Connection to the land and the city of New Orleans has long motivated their prayer and reflection, especially on the Mirabeau property so prone to flooding (top).

urban city in the world,” said Sister Pat Bergen, who sat on the congregation’s board for many years over the course of this project. “Think if something like Mirabeau had existed on the east coast when Sandy hit New York and New Jersey. Or in Houston. So many places could benefit from wetlands like this.” After all, said Bergen, the current state of affairs brought on by COVID-19 has proven more than ever before that the suffering felt by individuals and institutions is not theirs alone. “The way I see it, I’m as sick as the

sickest person on this planet,” she said. “This is a planetary suffering, and we’ve got to begin acting as one planet.” Allowing once-flooded land to give into itself, to lean into its difficulties of soil and water and revive something natural and beautiful—that’s the sacred irony of Mirabeau. “I look to God, who I call Love, to show us how to transform the suffering into insight,” said Bergen. “I believe the human race is being invited to something big right now. And we’re all in this together.” h




he streambeds south of Natchez, Mississippi are full of history. Warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico fuels intense rainstorms, the rainstorms release impressive amounts of water. The water carves the hills around Natchez into deep ravines. Those ravines collect the jumbled history of all that’s come before: the distant time on our planet when most life was still confined to the seas, the more recent time when giant sloths and mastodons foraged through the cool, fern-filled forests that covered this area during the last glacial maximum, and then

Story and photos by Frank McMains of the stream banks effectively isolate the streams from the surrounding woodlands. Here it is open, and you can see the sky. Giant, black, and yellow swallowtail butterflies prowl the border between sun and shade. Beyond the brightly lit creek is an endless mass of green vegetation. To move through it requires a machete and tall boots, and even then you are likely to be stopped by a fallen tree or another steep ravine. Once we are in the stream bed, we follow it for several miles. The forces that formed this area are complex, maybe best understood as the recent work of ancient processes.

and plate movement gradually lifted the area out of the water and the former sea bed and volcanic rock that laid underneath it eroded away. Time and water flows have carried the ancient evidence here, to Natchez, in the form of agates, quartz, and fossil remnants of several extinct species of coral. All of this history gives the act of standing, bent at the waist, and rummaging through gravel a sense of importance. The gravel collects in shoals, in places where the water slows down and the biggest solids in it fall out. Walking down the gravel mounds, the slipping stones make a

the complex, wet, rattling sound, TIME AND EXPERIENCE COLLAPSE IN semi-urbanized like chain poured civilization that from a bucket. MOMENTS OF DISCOVERY, WHEN IT thrived here before Groups of minnows BRIEFLY FEELS AS THOUGH THE BARRIERS the arrival of flicker through the TO UNDERSTANDING HAVE DISAPPEARED Europeans. opalescent, blueAND YOU CAN DIMLY SEE HOW THE PAST However, one green water. When AND THE FUTURE ARE JUST INCOMPLETE could mistake all I stop for a moment that for the slurry mid-stream, I WAYS OF TALKING ABOUT of small, brown, am awake to the THE ENDLESS NOW. grey, and off-white contrast between rocks I crunch through on a cool The Mississippi River might appear the sweat on my face and the cold spring morning. Accompanied by to be the prime geological force water around my feet. The wind two friends with whom I have shared acting on the Natchez hills, but that moves through the tree canopy of the the occasional previous adventure, is incorrect. Between about 100,000 surrounding forest, making it sound on this outing, I had suggested that and 15,000 years ago, the planet like something gigantic is shuffling we would find giant sloth teeth, or was much cooler; glaciers extended around in the middle distance. It is maybe giant sloth claws, or even an deep into North America. The loess glorious and a tiny bit ominous, like intact giant sloth. These enticements soil that makes up these hills was a walk during plague-time should be. ended up being unnecessary because, deposited by wind that blew across People who have recently spent like the rest of the quarintied world, the dry shallow seas that developed time in some variety of quarantine we three were content to take a long seasonally on the edges of these are likely to be more receptive to walk outside. glaciers. From these dry sea beds, the observation that, “time is an The width of the stream channels the wind picked up fine silt and silica illusion.” My companions and I are vary. Sometimes one walks across a particles, then deposited them in primed for such a philosophical wide bed of pale buff sand; in other what would become the southeastern abstraction, this being all of our first places the streams are filled with United States, through which my outing is since most of the world boulders of oily grey clay or tongues friends and I now tromp. had shut down to slow the spread of of rounded pebbles constricting the Much, much further back in this novel zoonotic disease (a subject switchback bends. Regardless, the geological time, between three covered in these pages, by this writer, sides of the streams all slope steeply hundred and four hundred million in 2015), but a surprising discovery up. The banks are thick with thorny years ago, before dinosaurs, the area emphasizes the observation. A pot vines, saplings, and woody scrub. around present-day Nashville was shard is found. The dense foliage and dramatic angle beneath the sea. Volcanic activity We unearth no sloth parts of any

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Like the glimpses of the past offered by fragments found in streambeds, the engravings of French ethnographer Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz offer precious insights into the every day practices of ancient civilizations. Le Page du Pratz, who lived in Natchez, Mississippi for a period in the early 18th century, studied the ways of life of Native Americans in the area and published the landmark publication Histoire de la Louisiane in 1758. Images courtesy of Frank McMains. On the adjacent page, pictured are uniform loess deposits (far left), banded with gravel. “What you are seeing is tens of thousands of years of deposited dust, a massive cataclysm wherein a volume of water the size of the Great Lakes burst out of glacial dams, and carried the mid-continent rocks down here all in a rush, then another 30K year sof dust, then another flood, etc.”—McMains Pictured in the middle: the 1100-1800 year old shard of pottery found on the author’s trek thorugh the Natchez streambeds (depicted in photo on far right, taken by Brandon Morgan).


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kind, but my friend Chris spots a piece of grey pottery, roughly as long as a thumb amongst the confusion of rounded stones. It has no fewer than nineteen small marks on its surface, distributed in a loose pattern. Correspondence with a specialist in the early inhabitants of the Mississippi valley would later identify the shard as a piece of Evansville punctated-ware, Wilkinson-type—placing the shard at between eleven hundred and

eight hundred years old. This was a relic of a lost people who were only indifferently remembered through place names: the Natchez, the Tensas, the Tunica. Pottery is one of the few materials that endures from previous civilizations, the tiniest keyhole through which we get the slimmest view of the complex society that created and disposed of it. This is a product of a nearly vanished culture that thrived in southern North

America for thousands of years and then was all but erased by unfamiliar diseases, some war, and time. They built complex ceremonial centers, often oriented to astronomical phenomena, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of mathematics. Early European accounts describe bright white pyramids decorated with shells and skulls rising from great communal corn plots; sheets of copper with embossed bird-warrior figures hung

in temples attended by hereditary fire-priests. Time and experience collapse in moments of discovery, when it briefly feels as though the barriers to understanding have disappeared and you can dimly see how the past and the future are just incomplete ways of talking about the endless now. Potshards, pyramids, pandemics— separate and disconnected but jumbled together like pebbles in a streambed. h




JUNE 2020


F R E S H - C A U G H T, H O M E - M A D E

// 4 4 Y O U ’ V E G O T M A I L

// W


If You Give a Man a Fish . . .


by Christina Leo


know what you’re thinking: “Summer? How can it be summer? It’s barely been spring!” And it’s true, most of us have found ourselves stuck indoors for nearly a whole season, racing into grocery stores for only the bare necessities and slathering on hand sanitizer the minute a strange particle touches our skin (Pollen? Viral clump of doom? Who can say?). The good news is that the fish and mollusks of our lakes and oceans have no idea about the waning chaos on our foreign shores, and await, as always, to do their thing as the centerpiece of Louisiana summer cooking. So, to kick off the sunniest side of the year, we’ve asked a handful of chefs about some local, catchable seafood recipes beyond the go-to deep fried, etouféed staples we’ve become so comfortable with, and easy enough to turn even the most unpracticed home chef into a culinary whiz.

Melissa Martin

Mosquito Supper Club, New Orleans “An easy and heartwarming comfort food would definitely be shrimp spaghetti. It may take a little while because it draws on Creole techniques like cooking your tomato sauce for a very long time, but you can’t mess it up, since spaghetti is in everyone’s wheelhouse. The shrimp adds a very sweet, succulent, supple flavor, and from there you can add basil in it if you want, or Parmesan cheese, or ricotta, or even some kale— whatever you have growing in your garden. Besides netting your own, you can order packs of frozen shrimp online already peeled from a local supplier like Anna Marie Shrimp—they’re great to keep in your freezer for future recipes.”

Lucien’s Shrimp Spaghetti Ingredients: Serves 6 to 8 ½ cup (120 ml) canola oil 2¼ pounds (1 kg) yellow onions, finely diced 1½ tablespoons kosher salt 1 garlic clove, minced ½ cup (75 g) finely diced celery ½ cup (70 g) finely diced green bell pepper 5 cups (1.3 L) canned tomato sauce (from three 14.5-ounce/410 g cans; *see Note) 5 teaspoons sugar 2½ pounds (1.2 kg) peeled and deveined small or medium shrimp ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper Pinch of cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon hot sauce, preferably Original Louisiana Hot Sauce Recipe excerpted from Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin (Artisan Books). Copyright 2020. Photograph by Denny Culbert. 38

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1 pound (455 g) spaghetti, cooked as directed on the package (*see Note) 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion, for garnish Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (*see Note) Directions: Warm a wide, heavy-bottomed 15-quart (14  L) Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then add the oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions—you should hear a sizzle when they hit the oil—and season with the salt. Stir well to coat the onions with the oil, then cook, stirring often, for about 25 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden (they should not have a lot of color at this point). Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the celery and bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 45 minutes. Now you’re going to add the tomato

sauce ½  cup (120  ml) at a time. Each time you add tomato sauce, add ½  teaspoon sugar. (Scandalous, I know.) So, let’s begin. Add ½ cup (120 ml) of the sauce and ½ teaspoon of the sugar, stir, and heat until the sauce is simmering and bubbling but not boiling, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this process until you’ve added all the sauce and all the sugar, then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, for 45 minutes more. Meanwhile, put the shrimp in a large bowl and season it with the black pepper, cayenne, and hot sauce. Let it marinate on the counter while the sauce simmers. When the sauce has simmered for 45 minutes, add the shrimp and 4 cups

(1 L) hot water to the pot and stir to combine. Raise the heat to mediumhigh to bring the tomato sauce back up to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of pizza sauce and no longer looks watery. Turn off the heat and let everything sit together for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Serve the sauce over the cooked spaghetti, garnished with the parsley and green onion and topped with Parmesan. *Notes: Buy canned tomato sauce (not pasta sauce) with no added sugar or salt. This is important, because canned tomatoes are often racked with sugar and sodium. Try to buy organic, if possible. I like making this recipe with organic Muir Glen tomato sauce; my mom uses Del Monte sauce.

If you’d like one less pot to wash, cook the spaghetti right in the sauce the way some Cajuns do: 8 to 10 minutes before the sauce is done, crack the spaghetti in half and add it to the pot along with ¼ cup (60 ml) water. The pasta’s starch helps to thicken the sauce. Cover the pot and simmer the noodles in the sauce for about 15 minutes. When I was growing up, there was no real cheese in the grocery aisles down the bayou—only the “Parmesan cheese” that came in a green can. We all know that what comes out of that green can isn’t true cheese, so get a nice chunk of the real stuff and smother your spaghetti with freshly grated Parmesan.

Get more of Chef Martin’s recipes in her recently released cookbook Mosquito Supper Club, or visit her New Orleans restaurant at 3824 Dryades St. mosquitosupperclub.com.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Trahan.

Ryan Trahan

Vestal, Lafayette “Chargrilled oysters are actually pretty simple, even though you’d typically have to go out to a restaurant to get them. We make these with leftover cornbread, which we make breadcrumbs out of, and then some bone marrow butter if I have some bones laying around. As far as sourcing our seafood, we get our oysters from a variety of different places, but I like Grand Isle oysters from the Sea Island Oyster Company, and Gulf oysters from Alabama. You can grill them over wood, but you can do it over a gas grill, too.”

Chargrilled Oysters

Bone Marrow Herb Butter 3 large marrow bones (canoe cut) 1 stick butter 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped) 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (chopped) 1 teaspoon salt Heat oven to 425 degrees and roast marrow bones for 15 to 20 minutes until completely cooked through. Temper butter in the microwave in a small bowl on low setting in 30 second intervals until completely melted. Remove marrow from bones and add to butter along with any fat from the roasting pan. Fill a medium bowl with ice and place small bowl inside. Add remaining ingredients to the butter and whisk until butter has re-emulsified and solidified. Store cold until ready to use.

Baked Oysters: 1 dozen fresh oysters (in the shell, preferably Gulf caught) 4 tablespoons butter 3/4 cup bread crumbs or cornbread crumbs Garnish: fresh chopped parsley Pickled red onion (optional) 2 to 3 wedges lemon (for serving) Add a layer of rock salt to a rimmed baking sheet, or substitute dry, uncooked rice. This will keep the oyster shells from wobbling. Scrub the oyster shells with a stiff brush. Carefully shuck the oysters over a bowl (to catch any liquids that might spill out). Run the knife along the bottom of the inside of the shell to loosen the oyster. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until the crumbs are lightly browned. Top each oyster with a heaping teaspoon of the marrow herb butter and then sprinkle each one with the buttered crumbs. Bake the oysters in the preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the oysters are cooked through and the topping is golden brown. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, top with pickled red onion and serve with lemon wedges.

Try more of Chef Trahan’s dishes at his new restaurant, Vestal, opening in Downtown Lafayette at 555 Jefferson later this spring. Visit Vestal Restaurant on Facebook for details. // J U N E 2 0


Give a Man a Fish continued . . . ..

Jude Huval

Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf, Henderson “Crawfish enchiladas are the way to go. Since our restaurant’s been around since 1948, we’re used to using fresh oysters, fresh shrimp, and crab meat out of New Iberia, but everyone loves anything when you add cheese on top. You basically start by making an étouffée, which is a staple of Louisiana seafood cooking, but when you turn it into an enchilada, you can put a little spin on something familiar while still being able to prepare it at home.”

Crawfish Enchiladas Ingredients: 1lb of Pat’s Fresh Louisiana Crawfish Tails (sold in grocery stores across Louisiana) 1/2 cup of medium diced onions 1/4 cup of medium diced bell pepper 1/8 cup of fresh chopped garlic 1/2 stick of unsalted butter Pinch of salt Pinch of cayenne pepper 4 ounces of heavy cream 4 ounces of cubed mild cheddar 8 ounces of shredded jack cheese for topping 6 flour tortillas—8 inch

Serves 3 (2 enchiladas per person) Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cooking on medium heat, sauté onions, bell pepper, and garlic in butter. Add crawfish, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 to 8 mins. Add cubed cheese and heavy cream cook until reduced/thickened. Turn off fire and let cool. Scoop 3-4 ounce portions into the tortilla, and roll—2 per baking dish. Top with a handful of shredded jack cheese and bake for 8 mins or until edges are brown.

Try more of Chef Huval’s Cajun cuisine at Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant in Henderson at 1008 Henderson Levee Road. patsfishermanswharf.com/restaurant-la.

Photos by Jordan LaHaye


Thursday, September 17 12PM Online Registration Closes Friday, September 18 6PM-10PM Welcome Party & Package Pickup (LAST chance to register) Saturday, September 19 7AM Package Pickup Broadway St. 7AM-8AM Riders will line up 8AM Ride Begins 1PM SAG Stops Close 11AM-2:30PM Post-Ride Lunch TBD Post-Ride Poolside Sunday, September 20 8AM-10AM Recovery Ride Led by Natchez Bicycle Club TBD Recovery Brunch

The Natchez Young Professionals and Natchez Adams-County Chamber of Commerce will host the 1st Annual YP Natchez Bicycle Classic. It’s been 20 years since the last Natchez Bicycle Classic Race and our Young Professionals ar thrilled to announce its return are with a ride featuring the option of either a paved or gravel surface. Nothing can beat the beautiful scenery of the Natchez Trace and paired with the town’s famous food and music, its sure to be a fantastic weekend! For more information & registration www.natchezbicycleclassic.com

St. Tammany Parish Stir your soul on Louisiana’s Northshore, where outdoor adventure and small-town charm awaits you. Just one hour from Baton Rouge. Request your FREE

www.visitnatchez.org Follow us on Facebook Natchez Young Professionals


Get Back to Nature in

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EXPLORE THE NORTHSHORE VISITOR GUIDE and start planning your weekend retreat.

L ouisian aNor t hshore.com/cr | (800) 634 -9443

Lauren Guidroz

Morel’s Restaurant, New Roads “In the summertime, especially in South Louisiana, it’s hard to eat heavy. This mango-crab spread is a universal favorite, with the freshness of the cucumber and the fruitiness of the mango pairing well with the cream cheese and Louisiana crabmeat. The lime juice adds the right zestiness and acidity, and the cayenne gives it the right amount

of zip. It’s light and fresh and can be used in any way—a dip, stuffed in an avocado (my personal favorite), finger sandwiches, in an heirloom or homegrown tomato, or on a salad. You can top a chicken breast or grilled fish with it. You can make lettuce wraps. The list is endless, and it’s super easy to make.”

Mango-Crab Spread Ingredients: Directions: 8 ounces cream cheese, softened Mix it all together in a bowl with 3.5-4 ounces diced mango (fresh or frozen) either your hands like I do (gloves help) Zest of 1 lime or a spoon. You want to be careful to not Juice of that 1 zested lime break the crabmeat up too much. 1/2 English cucumber, diced 4-5 ounces fresh Louisiana crabmeat 1/4 teaspoon salt (I prefer sea salt) 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Visit Morel’s in New Roads at 210 Morrison Parkway for more of Chef Guidroz’s creative classics. morelsrestaurant.com.

Photos courtesy of Lauren Guidroz.

Celebrating the bounty of southeast Louisiana!

Fest with us virtually at the 34th annual Creole Tomato Festival TO-GO! Learn more at FrenchMarket.org




Give a Man a Fish continued ...

Chris Motto

Mansur’s on the Boulevard, Baton Rouge “Seafood salad, or fried fish salad, is something that we might eat in the kitchen as we cook. It uses simple, leftover ingredients, but with a warm tomato vinaigrette, it becomes light and summery, and lends a different flavor than a typical citrus-based sauce, or something along those lines. I usually use something like catfish or redfish, which are very familiar to us here in Louisiana, and it’s a great way to use tomatoes from your own garden, if you have them.”

Seafood Salad Ingredients for Warm Tomato Vinaigrette: 6 or 7 ripe tomatoes, diced (roma size) 3 cloves shaved garlic 1/4 red onion diced 1 cup sugar 1 cup water 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon celery salt Directions Combine all ingredients, and reduce until vinaigrette coats the back of a spoon. Serve Paneed Redfish over chopped iceberg lettuce with shredded red cabbage and cucumber. Top with fresh cilantro and toasted sliced almonds.

Try more of Chef Motto’s dishes at Mansurs’ on the Boulevard in Baton Rouge at 5720 Corporate Blvd. mansursontheboulevard.com. Photograph by Christina Leo.




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Today, the culinary traditions of Cajun seasoned and smoked meats reaches far beyond the bounds of Acadiana, thanks to the rise of e-commerce and modern day shipping practices (not accurately represented here— all perishable food products distributed by the businesses included in this article are shipped frozen in insulated containers with iced packaging, and are shipped within a strict time frame to ensure all products are delivered freshly and safely).


Meat in the Mail


Story and photos by Jordan LaHaye


magine it: right now, 1,400 miles away, a man stands at the stove in his New York City apartment, the unmistakable smell of Evangeline Parish smoked sausage wafting through the living room, a gumbo on the way. Since February, Ville Platte native and thirty-eight-year Manhattanite Joe Soileau has ordered a package of Cajun products from T-Boys Slaughter House in Mamou once every two weeks. “We started with an order of cracklins,” he said. “We haven’t been home in probably five or six years, but when we’d visit, my wife—who is from New York—fell in love with the stuff. I asked my cousin, who still lives in Ville Platte, where to get the best cracklins and boudin, and we ordered a couple of pounds of both. Now, we’ve gotten into tasso, smoked sausage, smoked ponce, and crawfish tails.” For people like Joe—people like me—who grow up in the center of rural Cajun Country, part of the coming-ofage experience includes realizing that our food doesn’t exist everywhere. In fact, there is almost nowhere beyond the 44

14,500 square miles that make up the Acadiana region where people eat rice and gravy virtually every single night. And the staples of this (very nutritious) diet—smoked sausage, boudin, ponce, crawfish, roux, Slap Ya Mama, and medium-grain rice—live only in a couple hundred meat markets and gas stations in between Calcasieu, Avoyelles, and Lafourche parishes. Some people claim the range is even tighter. I’ve always been told that the only smoked sausage worth its salt comes from Evangeline Parish. Even upon moving just seventy miles to Baton Rouge six years ago, I began a regular practice of loading up on the goods at Teet’s Food Store on my visits home to Ville Platte. Check the freezer of any LSU student from Evangeline Parish, any day of the week, and there will be a sausage stash, leaving just barely enough room for a tub of ice cream or some hot pockets. The fact is, we can’t live without it. There’s a reason why in this part of the world there are so many multigenerational families living together in the same towns. But still, there will

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always be the ones who leave. And how are they supposed to start their day if not with a link of boudin? In a remarkable intersection of tradition and technology, over the past decade, a small but growing Cajun meats e-commerce trend has resulted in gravies and étoufées and gumbos being properly browned and seasoned and enjoyed in home kitchens all across the country. “When we started, it blew my grandpa’s mind that we could send meats anywhere,” said Luke Deville, the third generation owner of Teet’s. “He was stationed in Alaska during World War II. When I told him one time that we were sending out an order to Alaska, he about fell out of his chair.” Specialty Cajun meat markets like Teet’s and T-Boy’s—usually found at the center of Acadiana’s smallest, most remote communities—represent the heart of surviving Acadian culture: its cuisine. Offering traditional staples you can’t find at Walmart, including meats and bits appropriately smoked, marinated, and—most importantly— local, these places remain the

gatekeepers to a tradition entrenched in the spirit of the boucherie—community, preservation, and using everything we’ve got. Hyper-local as they are, most of these places have remained unchanged for decades—doing what they do best, serving the communities in their immediate vicinity from modest, gas-station-esque shops with a Coke machine by the door, the butcher shop behind the aisles of canned goods, and home-baked breads and cookies Saranwrapped in piles by the register. The opportunities brought on by incorporating shipping options and online orders into their business models, though, have brought on not only growth in terms of revenue, but also in terms of range. Billy’s Boudin & Cracklin started offering shipment orders in 2014 as it began to see a demand for it. “We started slow, trial and error, just to see if it would work,” explained head of shipping department Annette Briscoe. “Within just a few short months, we got calls from every single state.” After T-Boy’s started shipping their

products in 2012, they received orders from as far as Iraq and Italy. Though, like most shops, T-Boys limits its shipments to within the United States to ensure the product is delivered fresh. “It was a major change for us,” explained Paul “T-Boy” Berzas. “We’re just some little country boys cutting meat over here, and now we’ve got to work on this computer. But we make the products, and when we’ve got orders we’ve got to prepare for them ahead of time. It’s become like having two businesses in one.” According to Deville, about seventyfive percent of his orders come from Louisiana expats, people like Soileau who leave and no longer have access to the food they grew up with. The other twenty five percent, he said, are people who wanted to try the products on recommendation or who were curious enough to Google them. “For me it’s been an amazing ride because I’ve met a lot of people,” he said. “People who have never heard of us before found us online, and now they want to come visit. They’ll travel all the way out here to Ville Platte, Louisiana, to come see us.” Another round of national customers comes straight from word of mouth: “A lot of our customer base are travelers who have come through the area for one

reason or another, tasted our products and want to share it with their friends and family at home, wherever home may be,” said Briscoe. “Then their friends become customers.” Paul Deville (of no relation to Luke Deville) started getting Cajun meats delivered when he moved to San Antonio for work and wanted to cook a gumbo for two hundred of his coworkers—ordering several pounds of smoked sausage, some hens, and roux from T Boys. “I realized, shoot, I don’t need to wait for someone to travel from Louisiana out this way to bring me my meat. I’ll just start doing this over the Internet.” Since then, he’s taken advantage of the service to share his culture with friends in Texas. “I’ll cook a ponce and have people over for dinner,” he said. “They’re amazed at what they’re eating and how good it tastes. It’s a staple, right? For us. I can’t imagine not having it. If you think back twenty five years ago, though, there was no way for people elsewhere to experience that kind of food unless they showed up.” h

tboysboudin.com teetsfoodstore.com billysboudincracklin.com At Billy’s Boudin & Cracklins’ Opelousas location, an entire back room is dedicated to shipping out their food products to places as far as the West Coast.

Baton Rouge is OPEN FOR BUSINESS! It’s a new day in Baton Rouge, a new day in business and as a business community we will show the world our resilience and commitment to our community. Let’s do this together and make Baton Rouge proud! Let’s shop. Dine out. Celebrate the arts. Enjoy the outdoors. And BUY LOCAL. A strong economy is important to the future and BR needs our support now. Be safe, stay healthy—and keep Baton Rouge moving forward. Together, WE ARE BACK TO BUSINESS.



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JUNE 2020






airy wings. That’s what I remember most about the first time I saw Sweet Crude perform. It was 2014, and my first year attending Bayou Boogaloo, and I was waiting for Tank & the Bangas (who, coincidentally, would later embark on a national tour with Sweet Crude) with a plateful of alligator tacos when Sam Craft approached the mic, violin in hand, fairy wings strapped around his shoulders. He said something about how they were a band who liked to have fun, liked to get a little weird with their sets, hence the wings. Six years, two new albums, and one record deal later, Sweet Crude still dons iconic costumes onstage. Only, instead of fairy wings, they wear matching custom-made ensembles, usually reserved for a debut at their favorite venue in the world: Jazz Fest. This year, instead of performing on the Gentilly Stage at the New Orleans Fair Grounds and embarking on the

M I E L //




Officiel//Artificiel SWEET CRUDE’S NEW ALBUM INVITES SELF-(RE)DISCOVERY By Lauren Heffker scheduled summer tour for their new album, Officiel//Artificiel, Sweet Crude celebrated the record’s release with a front porch performance, the band’s six members each six feet apart as they livestreamed the show for followers on social media. It almost didn’t happen; they thought about pushing back the release date, unsure if the album would resonate with audiences in the midst of a pandemic. Turns out, an album resounding with self-reflection and re-evaluations of reality is just what the world needed right now. Together, the twelve tracks on Officiel// Artificiel trace the introspective process of

Photo courtesy of Sweet Crude. J U N E 2 0 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M


“discovering the authentic self,” as lead vocalists and instrumentalists Sam Craft and Alexis Marceaux put it. Released in late April, the record feels like a soundtrack for this time, where the world as we know it has fundamentally shifted. On levels both collective and personal, the COVID-19 pandemic has stripped away everything and forced us to take a good, hard look at what is left. “It works with what we’re going through as a society because we’re all alone with ourselves, whether we like it or not, right now, digging deep and figuring out what we want and need from ourselves,” said Marceaux. “I think that has been a challenge for a lot of us in

the band in the last several years, so I’m glad that we were able to, without really trying, find that somatic thing.” Officiel//Artificiel, released by Verve Forecast Records, is a departure from the bilingual group’s 2017 debut fulllength album, Créatures. While Officiel// Artificiel maintains the percussionheavy, high-energy call and response performance style Sweet Crude has come to be known for onstage, it also slows things down a pace in order to wade deeper into this dichotomy between real and unreal. If Créatures is the party, Officiel//Artificiel is the word-of-mouth after party that lasts twice as long because that’s when things really get interesting. At times nostalgic and tender, as in the track “Sun Sept”’s recalling of childhood days spent playing in the streets of New Orleans as a tropical storm approaches; at others, the album is a poignant and forceful coming-to-terms with a faulty relationship, such as in “Ultimatum” and “Impuissance,” (which translates to “Powerlessness”)—both tracks placing

Marceaux’s powerhouse vocals front and center. And still, it finds room to build tension in darker, raucous anthems like “Porkupine” and “Rougarou.” As a whole, the release is an ever-earnest exploration of the ways vulnerability and volatility can overlap, and the unapologetic catharsis that results. Creating a cohesive record about selfdiscovery with six people may seem antithetical, but Sweet Crude thrives on collaboration. Sonically, they know when to make space for one another and when to pile on instrumentally. Bringing in Los Angeles producer Sonny Diperri, who’s worked with the likes of Portugal. The Man, Animal Collective, and Dirty Projectors, proved to be their best decision throughout the process of creating the record, said Marceaux. Diperri brought an experienced ear to their music while encouraging them to experiment sonically, allowing for a more raw, unrefined sound by recording demos at home and keeping many of the original takes in the final track. This unconventional, home-made approach is reminiscent of another recently released album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple. Interestingly enough, Officiel// Artificiel was largely influenced by Apple’s earlier work, namely her 1996 single “Sleep to Dream” from her debut album Tidal. Seeking to emulate the songwriter’s signature broodiness and her approach to percussive engineering, “We attempted to let that run through every track on the record in some way, shape or form,” said Craft. Singing in half Louisiana French, half English, the New Orleans-based band certainly draws from aspects of Cajun culture, from their bilingualism to the use of Cajun folklore in their lyrics. However, their modern pop melodies defy paradigms for traditional Cajun or classic New Orleans music, setting them apart in a state known for its musical talent and diversity. Craft likens the group’s musical hybridity to a Frankenstein of sorts, which served as the inspiration for the cover art of Officiel// Artificiel (which was created by Kristen Sorace and Joe Spix). This melding or collapsing of genre enables Sweet Crude to reach new audiences outside of Louisiana who may not otherwise be exposed to the culture here. “I think we all were on the wavelength that it needed to be celebratory in some way,” said Craft on how Sweet Crude found their distinct sound. “If we needed to invite people to a party, we knew that it needed to be exuberant. We knew that the emotions needed to be running high. We did not want it to be shoegazing. We didn’t want it to be static. We knew it

needed to be dynamic, and vibrant, and all of these things. I think we all kind of see eye to eye on that.” Sweet Crude’s mission is not necessarily to preserve Louisiana French, but to present the language in an accessible, contemporary context—pop music—where it can adapt and continue. “We intentionally decided that we’re going to make it so that we gave this language in this culture a totally different set of clothes to put on, so that it could be looked at as something that’s a living document and not just a repeat of what has happened,” continued Craft, who is the only fluent band member; the rest are learning the language as they go. “I think it pays homage to all of these things that have happened musically and culturally. We intentionally decided we’re going to put this thing in a spaceship and send it out to space just to see how far it can go, because we’re dealing with what has largely been an un-updated dialect of French.” Though they aren’t yet able to tour for Officiel//Artificiel, Sweet Crude has adapted to the digital landscape by hosting livestreams via the band’s Facebook or Instagram accounts several times a week. Craft and Marceaux alternate among playing a set—likely the first time an acoustic guitar has been introduced to the band’s instrument repertoire—showing followers how a particular track was produced in the studio, or translating the track’s French lyrics for non-French speaking fans. During one livestream, the lyrics to the dreamy track “Skin” drift through the computer speakers. “Starting today/I’m peeling the plastic away/I’m looking for confidence, competence, confluence, common sense, a contradiction to the commonplace,” Craft and Marceaux sing in unison. “I’ve been this one thing all of this time, but it’s time now that I shed this cocoon and do my butterfly thing,” summarized Craft. To this longtime listener, Officiel//Artificiel feels less like a discovery of self than it does as a return. There’s a sense of recognition which manifests in the third track, “Déballez,” or “Unpack.” The chorus builds and dips then builds once more until it erupts in shouts of the following affirmation not once, not twice, but nine times, each more punctuated than the last: “I see you I see you I see you I see you I see you I see you I see you I see you!” You were always there. You can show up for yourself, learn how to unpack, to peel away the layers of plastic, and emerge for real.


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Old Centenary Inn. (225) 634-5901 www.milbankbandb.com • (225) 634-5050 www.oldcentenaryinn.com // J U N E 2 0



JUNE 2020








Abita Springs, Land of Healing Waters



pproaching Abita Springs from any direction, you can’t help but notice the pines. The town is nestled among them. They stand as straight as telephone poles, some twice as tall. It was those pines, and the fresh air, and especially the bubbling springs that for generations drew countless New Orleanians to the Northshore. Beneath much of St. Tammany Parish lies an artesian aquifer, but more than any other water in the region, Abita’s was known to heal the sick. All throughout the nineteenth-century, and into the twentieth, New Orleans battled a yearly outbreak of yellow fever. From 1817 (the beginning of reliable statistics) until 1905 (the year of the last epidemic) at least 41,000 people died in New Orleans from yellow fever alone. That doesn’t count all the deaths from malaria, influenza, cholera, smallpox, and other nameless ailments that perennially plagued the city. It got so bad that the sensationalist press began to call New Orleans the “Necropolis of the South.” People with the means to travel were desperate for a safe place to go for treatment or just to get away from crowds. And then on September 24, 1881, the St. Tammany Farmer ran a poem in its pages called “The Legend of Abita,” penned by the “talented young authoress ‘Rehnle,’” as they put it, whose identity remains a mystery to this day. Hence a legend was born. “The Legend of Abita” tells the story of a young New Orleanian called Henriquez, “of noble Spanish birth,” who visits a Choctaw village on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where he meets Abita, the daughter of a chief, and sweeps her off her feet. The couple marries and the groom takes his bride back to the Crescent City. But her health soon declines. She is sure to die but for an intervention by a “Medicine Man” who commands Abita to return to the healing waters across the lake. She obeys and is miraculously healed. The villagers “viewed the spring with wondrous awe and pride, and named it for the Indian girl.” The authenticity of the story is still in dispute, 48

Photo by CC Lockwood.

The New Camelia lake steamer (pictured on top) brought travelers from the south shore of the Pontchartrain to the Northshore—a two-and-a-half hour round trip—for fifty cents one way during the week and fifty cents roundtrip on weekends. Visitors would disembark and take gas powered streetcars into Abita Springs for a holiday or weekend. Later, in 1887, the introduction of the East Louisiana Railroad’s railway (pictured on bottom) from New Orleans to town spurred a tourism boom in Abita Springs. Photos courtesy of Mary Davis at the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum.

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and indeed others say the name “Abita” is actually derived from the Choctaw word “ibetap,” which roughly means “water source.” By the time the poem appeared, the Choctaws were long gone, pushed northwest to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) after the 1830 Indian Removal Act. The poem, whether historically accurate or not, answered a need for such a refuge in the area, and helped turn Abita Springs into a tourist destination. The settlement that later grew into the town began in earnest after 1853, when Captain Joseph St. Auge Bossiere purchased from the government the land on both sides of the Abita River, and later built a few houses. The other big investor was one Colonel William Christy, who tapped into the springs and named them after himself. For a long time, people referred to the place as Christy Springs. Development from there came in waves. The first major hotel, the Longbranch, was built even before the poem appeared, in the winter of 1879 and in 1880, boasting of sixteen luxury rooms and other quarters besides. More hotels and boarding houses followed. Private wells were dug behind the hotels and homes, and the town built a public fountain at its center. A boom was


In an 1811 edition of the St. Tammany Farmer, a writer by the name of Rehnle published the poem “The Legend of Abita.” The tale contributed to the growing mystique of Abita Springs’ waters at the time. Over the next fifty years, the town would become a much-esteemed travel destination for healing and wellness. At the Abita Springs Trailhead, a statue of the Native American woman Abita rests under the town’s pavilion. Photo courtesy of George Long.

underway, but transportation was still a challenge. At forty-odd miles due north of New Orleans, it was much farther around the lake, and in those days roads were


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in pitiful shape. Still, some people came by horse and buggy. But steamboats were faster and more comfortable than a wagon, and could carry dozens of travelers at a time. A steamer route

was established to connect the north shore with the south, serviced by the Susquehanna and the New Camelia. The latter charged fifty cents one way during the week and fifty cents round-trip on weekends. The trip took two and a half hours, and on board, there was food and music and dancing. Passengers would disembark and take horsedrawn “omnibus” wagons, and later gas powered streetcars, into town. And if boats didn’t suit the traveler, in 1887, the East Louisiana Railroad laid the first tracks directly from Abita Springs from New Orleans, offering regular passage to and fro. A healing water bonanza had begun. A.L. Metz, a chemist from the Louisiana Board of Health and Tulane University, tested the water and declared it “of superior quality from a sanitary and hygienic point of view.” Ads ran in newspapers urging people to come stay for a while. But not everyone could make the trip, and thus the Abita Spring Water Co. Ltd., a company out of New Orleans run by an ambitious Mr. Edwin J. Larkin, bottled Abita’s water and distributed it to the masses. The company also sold “syrups” and “extracts.” At its height, Abita Springs hosted



15% OFF


join today lsumoa.org/membership

Regina’s Kitchen will be reopening in July for small group cooking classes & dinners. SEE YOU SOON!

The museum is now open to the public with Phase One hours. For updates, online resources, and virtual programming: Follow us @lsumoa lsumoa.org *15% off discount only applies to new members, not membership renewals

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Stay connected at home.

Ask your smart speaker to “Play NPR” At the height of Abita Springs’ destination days, the town hosted dozens of hotels to accommodate its visitors. Longbranch, built in 1880, was the first (top right, courtesy of Mary Davis). The Abita Springs Hotel (top left, by Jason Christian), owned by the Preble family, is the last functioning hotel in Abita Springs. In the garden, a small private pool receives waters from the town’s storied springs (right middle, by Jason Christian).


Season 5


Premiering Sunday, June 14 at 8PM

Monday, June 1 at 7PM

A new 3-part series! Wednesdays: June 17 at 9PM June 24 at 10PM, & July 1 at 9PM

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J U N E 2 0 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

about two thousand summer residents a year, with every boarding house and hotel full. The peak of “health tourism” was around 1920, said John Preble, amateur historian, artist, and proprietor of the Abita Springs Hotel and the indescribable, interactive art space known as the Abita Mystery House. “Doctors would send people here with tuberculosis and things like that. Many houses were built with large porches so if they were in a wheelchair they could accommodate the wheelchairs, and even beds, out on the porch during the day.” Called “convalescing porches,” these typically wrapped around three sides. It’s a unique architecture feature to the town, said Mary Davis, the first director and curator of the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum, where much of this history is laid out. The museum is housed in an old bachelor quarters building that once formed part of the famous Longbranch Hotel. There were seven hotels at one time, nearly all of which have burned in various fires over the years. The decline in health tourism was gradual, Davis explained, beginning with New Orleans solving its yellow fever problem. The invention of automobiles and the subsequent development of the highway system were other major factors, which gave New Orleanians cheap and easy access to the Gulf Coast and beyond. Over the years the town got even quieter. Many springs were capped off, or run dry, and those that remain are privately owned, with the exception of a public fountain, which pumps out the

town’s treated water. Still today, the town is lovely and quaint, and there remains a steady stream of visitors seeking serenity and fresh air. Davis and Preble both were part of an influx of newcomers in the 1970s, when artists and culture makers took advantage of cheap properties and came to build a community that reflected their dreams. New shops opened and art was made. The old railroad tracks were converted into thirty-one miles of bicycle trails and dubbed the Tammany Trace. The Piney Woods Opry was founded, and later the Abita Springs Opry took its place. The town reinvented itself. Another advantage of living in Abita, Preble shared, is that the temperature there is always cooler than in New Orleans. Perhaps it’s the trees. Preble’s boutique Abita Springs Hotel is newly renovated, the only functioning hotel left. In the garden, surrounded by leafy banana trees, sits a small private springfed pool. “The water comes out five gallons a minute,” Preble said. “It’s like a big hot tub, but it’s always seventy degrees. In the winter it’s warm, and in the summer it’s cold.” Health tourism hasn’t disappeared. If anything, it’s on the rise. One finds ample online “listicles” touting health resorts and spas and yoga and nature retreats the world round. We’ve got health on our minds now more than ever. Sometimes though, all you need to set your spirits aright is a short drive out in the country, a decent poboy and beer, and a walk through majestic woods. h


...a way to give and to receive®

Our caregivers are required to follow CDC and State guidelines for essential workers: face masks, gloves, hand washing and hand sanitizer.

225.778.7699 • www.seniorcarebatonrougela.com

Escapes delivered daily follow us on Since the decline of Abita Springs’ popularity as a health destination, the town has reinvented itself, drawing on its beautiful natural landscapes and artist community. Photo by Jason Christian.

countryroadsmag // J U N E 2 0


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All Wood Furniture 20 45 Back to Business Baton Rouge Blue Cross Blue Shield 16 Calandro’s 11 East Baton Rouge Library 56 47 Elizabethan Gallery Keep Baton Rouge Serving 21 47 Lagniappe Antiques Louisiana Office of Tourism (LOT) 10 Louisiana Public Broadcasting 50 LSU Museum of Art 49 13 Manship Theatre Ocken Photography 22 Pinetta’s 47 14 Preserve Louisiana Seniors Helping Seniors 51 Stafford Tile and Stone 9 51 Via Veneto Wilson & Wilson, LLC 27 Window World of Baton Rouge 29 50 WRKF 89.3 FM

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J U N E 2 0 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

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Explore the history of Wolf Rock Cave, the only known rock shelter cave used by Native Americans of the late Archaic Period, 2,500-1,000 years BC. Relax as you visit Little Cypress Recreation Center, stroll the Ol' Sarge Walking Trail, and drop a fishing line into the pond. Vernon Parish Tourism Commission

201 South Third St., Leesville, LA 71446 337-238-0783 • www.LouisianaLegendCountry.com

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Sponsored by Tangipahoa Parish Tourism




n a gorgeous afternoon in May, Lafayette artist Ramsey Ayers captures a glimpse of the idyll. She’s got all three of her children at home—her daughter rolling pasta downstairs, her son catching fish across the way. The sun is out, the temperature just right, the flowers blooming. There’s nowhere to be. Within the perimeters of her home, this moment couldn’t be more perfect. Of course—as Ayers is sure to point out— there are layers to reality, and just as real as her moment of domestic heaven is the tumult and suffering of our shared larger world. This is the human experience, of course: the constant burden of awareness that every joyful moment joins with an incomprehensible multitude of chaos just outside of it. As an artist, Ayers’ life’s work has been a vocation of capturing the joy untainted, distilling it into a simple, pure expression of tranquility: Juniper Island. “It’s my own little make believe world,” she said. “It’s easy living over there, no pressures, no telling where on the continent they are, a place of

to the others, creating a legacy tableau of Ayers’ personal utopia. When asked about her inspiration for Juniper Island, Ayers shook her head. “I’ve often wondered what led me to this place,” she said, explaining that she’s long been at a loss to try and draw it to any external influences. Since its

That such a personal expression of her unique inner sanctuary has for so long resonated with so many others is perhaps a testament to Ayers’ capacity for empathy and attunement to the collective needs of her larger community. Since her first gallery show at CC’s Coffeehouse in 2002, she’s

And over the course of the last twenty years, Juniper Island has accompanied Ayers as a realm parallel to her life, evolving—if subtly—with her as a retreat that’s always there, though never an absolute escape. In the end, even with paradise at her fingertips, Ayers has always chosen to be present in reality— even taking time away from her art entirely to hold her family together in difficult times—such as during the 2016 flood that totally destroyed their home—or to simply focus on being a good mother. But after each of these breaks, Ayers said, Juniper Island was there when she returned. “I remember being nervous that I would forget how to paint this, that it would be gone,” she said. “But I always came right back to it.” These days, with all of the kids home from school and a pandemic rocking the world as we know it, Ayers said it’s been difficult to find time to paint. Somewhat ironically, her life— quieter and simpler than usual—resembles her paintings now a little more than ever. But as the headlines remind us daily, this isn’t Juniper Island. So when she does find a moment, she’ll go

absolute simplicity and tranquility.” Ayers has been painting this warmtoned fantasyland—teeming with motifs of home, harvest, canoes, and her iconic starburst trees—for almost twenty years now. Her body of acrylics—adorned in mixed media ranging from sticks to beads to fishing wire—is presented in a signature folk art style recognizable from a mile away, a style that unites each individual piece

“emergence” right out of Louisiana State University’s painting and drawing program, Ayers said, she’s always discovered each scene organically, following her emotional instincts toward color to achieve calmness and energy, then using found objects to apply layers and texture and life. “Every single leaf’s placement is chosen based on where my eye sees fit,” she said. “Color is what leads me in my work.”

landed exhibitions at Galerie Eclaireuse in Lafayette and The Canary Gallery in New Orleans, was featured as the poster artist for Festival International in 2004, and her work has graced the cover of this very magazine no less than four times. She’s also sold countless commissions, offering a more personalized piece of paradise to the many customers who come looking for it.

upstairs and she’ll follow the colors, discovering another corner of this carefree, peaceful place—this refuge that the world so needs right now. h


J U N E 2 0 // C O U N T R Y R O A D S M A G . C O M

Ramsey Ayers’ work can be found for sale at The Birds’ Nest and Entre Nous in Lafayette, and commissions can be ordered via ramseyayers.com.

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Imagine Your Story There are reading challenges available for all ages. This year, we’re offering a new Red Stick @ Home challenge to explore our wonderful community. Sign up for your East Baton Rouge Parish Library reading challenge today! June 1 - August 15


TAKE A JOURNEY Read. Join Challenges. Earn Activity Badges.

Your Digital Library is Always Open! Check out these FREE and fun learning tools for elementary-aged students in the Digital Library: · TumbleBooks · Pebble Go Next · Scholastic Watch & Learn · World Book e-book · Homework Louisiana for FREE tutoring with Master Teachers · AND MORE! Visit the Library’s Kids Page at ebrpl.com/Kids to get started. All you need is your Library card!