Monday, March 17, 2014

Where can you find those magnificent azaleas?

     Spring is here, folks, and the flowers are bursting forth like a mule smelling the barn. After all, it’s been a tough winter. Even though our friends up north would laugh in comparison, we’ve had a more colder, icier and snowy winter than usual. 
     But that’s all done now and for those of you still struggling with all that wintry stuff, come visit and defrost, enjoy some of our great cuisine and listen to our fabulous music while sitting outside among the flowers. 
     One of the greatest shows of color this time of year is our azaleas. These large displays of pink, red, salmon, purple and white appear in March and decorate the horizon with grand color. Approximately 20 miles of Lafayette city streets are lined with azaleas that adorn beautiful homes and historical points. Some of the bushes of gigantic proportions are more than 50 years old! In Lafayette, the predominant variety is the Formosa, christened the “General Lafayette,” which blooms in colors of lavender and fuchsia.
      You can find the best azalea exhibits by following the Lafayette Azalea Trail, either online or by picking up a brochure at the Lafayette Visitor Center on Evangeline Thruway. The Lafayette Azalea Trail starts at the Visitor Center and meanders through the city past many of Lafayette's landmarks, such as City Hall, Girard Park and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
     Iberia Parish to our south has a self-guided driving tour as well this time of year. And attractions such as Jungle Gardens of Avery Island and Jefferson Island Rip Van Winkle Gardens are choked full of color. For information, visit the Iberia Parish Convention and Visitor’s Bureau web site or stop by their visitor’s center at 2513 Highway 14 in New Iberia.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Playing Pétanque: A bit of France right here in Lafayette!

     You might know the game from seeing Frenchmen in berets rolling chrome balls down an outside court. The game is Pétanque, and you don’t have to travel to France to experience it.
     The Sixth International Pétanque Tournament will be held Friday-Sunday, March 28-30, 2014, right here in Lafayette, Louisiana. Naturally, because it’s Lafayette, we’ll have lots of fun at the same time.
Photos by Josh Coen
     Scheduled events in Lafayette’s Girard Park include:
     March 28: Welcome to visiting players at the French Table (where folks enjoy company and French conversation) at 5 p.m. at Johnston Street Java, a local coffee house; 
     March 29: Practice and pickup games at 2 p.m. at Girard Park, followed by Cajun music and food events beginning at 6 p.m. at local restaurants and venues; and
     March 30: Adult Tournament beginning at 9 a.m. 
     Just what is Pétanque anyway? The present form of the game originated in La Ciotat, in southern France by boule player Jules Lenoir who couldn’t run before throwing the ball due to his rheumatism. The field was cut in half with players stationary, hence its Provencal name meaning “feet together” or “feet anchored.” 
     “The first pétanque tournament with the new rules was organized in 1910 by the brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot, proprietors of a café at La Ciotat,” according to Lafayette’s La Boule Cadienne de Lafayette, the Cajun Boules of Lafayette, sponsor of the event. “After that the sport grew with great speed, and soon became the most popular form of boules.” 
     Now there are about 600,000 pétanque members in 52 countries.
     In Lafayette, the organization meets every fourth Sunday of the month and holds tournaments annually.
     The March events will be held in the north end of Girard Park on Girard Park Lane near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Alumni House; look for the Acadian flag. The tournament is being sponsored by La Boule Cadienne de Lafayette, a local club of pétanque players who are members of the Pétanque Federation of USA. For more information, contact Mike LeBlanc at (337) 654-9467 or email him at or visit the website

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mardi Gras to go

Whether you’re in town looking to grab some Carnival-esque foods and spirits to aid in the celebration or you’re out of town and have an envie (desire) for something to ease your homesickness this time of year, here are some fun items to have on hand this Mardi Gras weekend.
King Cakes are sold at just about every bakery in South Louisiana, including Meche's Donuts, shown above, which deep fries their king cakes before decorating. Most bakeries will ship king cakes anywhere, but if you want to ship one to arrive for Mardi Gras Day (March 4), now's the time.

Swamp Pop soda is made in Lafayette with real cane sugar grown in Louisiana. You can find it nationally at World Market in their Mardi Gras section.

Rum is now locally made as well, also created from Louisiana-grown sugar cane.

Parish Brewing and Bayou Teche Brewing are two local breweries in the Lafayette area, both make delicious craft beers.

For something tasty to snack on, try these three fabulous Zydeco dips: Sweet Potato, Creole Trinity and Red Bean.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Just what is this Mardi Gras, anyway?

    If you’re visiting Lafayette and Acadiana during the 2014 Mardi Gras, you probably have lots of questions. Here’s a quick primer to all things Carnival.
    When is Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras is Tuesday, March 4.
    Where do the parades roll in Lafayette? All parades will begin at the corner of Simcoe, Jefferson and Surrey streets and end at Cajun Field, except for the Children's Parade which is abbreviated. You can view a parade route here.
     When do the parades roll in Lafayette? Parades will be rolling through the streets of Lafayette Friday evening (Friday Night Parade, Feb. 28), Saturday (Children's Parade, Youngsville Parade, Krewe of Bonaparte, March 1), Monday evening (Queen Evangeline's Parade, March 3) and all day on Tuesday (March 4, Mardi Gras). There are more parades rolling throughout Acadiana; check the Lafayette Travel web site for the complete list or "like" our Facebook page for updates.
    What’s up with the barricades? The Lafayette Police Department places barricades along the parade route for the public’s safety. Please remain behind the barricades when the parades are rolling. The barricades will go up on Thursday, Feb. 27, and remain until after the parades on Tuesday, March 4.
    Will streets be closed? The Lafayette Police Department will close all streets on and around the parade route one hour before the event begins. The intersection of University Avenue and Johnston Street, along with the intersection of St. Mary Boulevard and Johnston Street, will remain open as crossover intersections until the parade is only several blocks from the location.
    I’m worried about my children. Are they safe? Lafayette offers a family friendly Mardi Gras and you should not encounter any problems. But like any event involving crowds, you might want to place a note in the pocket of each child with the child’s name, address and contact telephone number.
    If there is an emergency during a parade, or a lost child, what do we do? Police will be available along the parade routes but command posts are established at Fire Station No 1 at Vermilion and Lee streets, Fire Station No. 5 at Johnston and St. Julien streets, Lafayette Police Command Bus at Johnston Street and S. College and at Cajun Field. Medical assistance is available at ambulance units stationed on the parade route.
    I have a handicapped person in my party. Where do we go? The 500 block of Jefferson Boulevard (between South Orange and South Sterling streets) and at Vermilion and Lee Street and St. Julien and Johnston Street, in front of the police command post, are viewing areas for the handicapped. 
    Are there Carnival costume contests? The annual King’s Court Costume Contest begins at 9 a.m. Mardi Gras Day (March 4) at Parc San Souci downtown. Pre-registration is not required but contestants are asked to be on-site in costume prior to 9 a.m. The theme for this year’s costume contest is Treasures of the Earth. Contestants will be judged in 5 classifications: Pre-School, 6-10 years old, 11-15 years old, Adults and Groups. For more information call 337-291-5566. The Mardi Gras Show at Clark Field is another event that offers costume contests, in addition to Mardi Gras Indians, food and live music.
    What about festivals in addition to the parades? Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette offers a carnival midway, live music, food and, best of all, the parades end here! It all happens nightly Feb. 28-March 4 at Cajun Field.
    What is the Cajun Mardi Gras? The “Courir de Mardi Gras” is a rural Mardi Gras celebration that dates back to the earliest days of settlement. With its roots in Medieval times, bands of masked and costumed horseback riders roam the countryside “begging” for ingredients for their communal gumbo.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lafayette to host inaugural Zydeco Marathon

     Lafayette will host the inaugural Zydeco Marathon and Half Marathon, a USA Track and Field sanctioned and certified full and half marathon on Sunday March 30, 2014. The Zydeco Marathon serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon and other major distance running events.
    “We have been anticipating this for more than a year, when the idea to hold Lafayette’s first full marathon came together last February” said co-founder and marketing director Andrew Ward. “As of today, we have over 1600 registered runners from Acadiana and all over the country, including 23 states and Canada and Germany. It’s an honor to be a part of something that will not only bring in new tourism to our area, but continue Lafayette’s reputation as a progressive, forward-thinking community with health and fitness as a priority.”
     Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission (LCVC) added, "We are thrilled to see such a positive response for the inaugural Zydeco Marathon from people all across the world. We look forward to showcasing our food, music, culture and hospitality to all of the runners and their families. This event will only continue to grow and we are grateful to all of the volunteers and sponsors who are helping to make the marathon a reality."
     At the completion of the race, there will be a free outdoor concert, labeled the “Finish Line Festival,” held in the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Intramural Fields next to Blackham Coliseum.  Local zydeco bands will perform, headlined by Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie, and local restaurants will be serving up great Lafayette cuisine, including Lagneaux’s, Poupart’s Bakery and Bistro and Charley G’s.
     Race proceeds will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana. Online registration information, along with course maps, pre- and post-race festivities and other race details, can be found at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mardi Gras outside the box

             Carnival parades, balls and parties take over South Louisiana this time of year. If you’re a visitor to Lafayette wanting to experience Mardi Gras but will miss the actual dates, or perhaps want a smaller more family-friendly version, there are several events happening in the next few weeks to get you in the Mardi Gras spirit.
            Vermilionville hosts a traditional Cajun country Mardi Gras run, or Courir de Mardi Gras, on Sunday. Feb. 16, at the historic village. The Basile Mardi Gras Association will perform the courir at 11 a.m., visiting the village’s homes to beg for ingredients for a gumbo and perform Cajun Carnival traditions along the way.
Vermilionville Courir de Mardi Gras
            Other activities include a children’s capuchon (Carnival hat) workshop, a children’s courir, performances by the Pine Leaf Boys and Mardi Gras King Cake cooking demonstrations with Marie Walthers from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Vermilionville’s Cooking School.
            Admission is $5, children under 5 admitted free. For more information, visit or call (337) 233-4077. 
            Want to have a ball but don’t belong to a Carnival “Krewe” or the organization that hosts the region’s Carnival balls? The Red Hot Mardi Gras Ball is for anyone looking to attend a Carnival ball — and this event features Lafayette Mayor Joey Durel as King Cayenne I! The event will be held on Valentine’s night, Feb. 14, at The District & Event Center on Johnston Street featuring the band 5th Avenue. Tickets are $35 per person and $250 for a table, available at both locations of Schlotsky’s Deli in Lafayette. For more information, visit
Horse Farm
            The Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm will host “Mardi Gras at the Market” on Saturday, March 1, in honor of the Acadian Mardi Gras traditions still celebrated in south Louisiana today. The morning’s activities will include musical performances by the Cajun music group BonSoir Catin, followed by Corey Ledet and his Zydeco Band. A Creole Mardi Gras group from Lafayette will dress in traditional costume and share their group’s Carnival history and a Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras will take place at 11:30 a.m. and continue until 1:15 p.m. when the Children’s Parade approaches the nearby corner of Johnston Street and South College. (Parade parking will be available at the Horse Farm from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., weather permitting.)
            Locals and visitors are invited to dress, sing and parade with the courir revelers as they beg hosts stationed on the Horse Farm for gumbo ingredients. In keeping with the rural tradition, the prize ingredient will be a live chicken for the revelers to chase. Logan Farm’s Honey Glazed Ham will sponsor a communal gumbo sampling for all courir participants and the Children’s Museum of Acadiana will host a Mardi Gras mask decorating booth for children featuring mask templates from several Mardi Gras costume traditions. The UL-Lafayette Public History Program’s “Museum on the Move” will be parked at the Horse Farm displaying its exhibit on Louisiana woman of the 20th century. For more information, visit

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How does one fight the winter blues in Louisiana?

     All you have to do is wait. Within days the temperatures return to a balmy goodness and all is right in the world. 
     Take the past two weeks as an example. We had a treacherous ice storm blow through, closing the city and schools. Two days later it was sunny and warm and folks were out and about enjoying the nice weather. The next week the same thing happened. (You might have seen the “frozen South” on the news lately).
     But guess what? Temperatures are quickly pulling up, the ice is thawing and the weekend looks to reach close to 70 degrees. Now we’re talking!
     So here’s how we deal with winter weather in Louisiana.
  • Enjoy the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 1, and visit the mobile museum fashioned out of a vintage Airstream trailer, created by University of Louisiana’s public history program (read our blog post here), plus listen to local musicians Christine Balfa and Ryan Brunet perform from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Attend the Gourmet Food Truck Round-up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Parc Lafayette, enjoy great eats and listen to La Recolte perform (shown above; their music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is called "Cabin Fever Relief 2014).
  • If you’re still scared about being outside, the Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum has new spring exhibits on display (reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31), the Christian Youth Theatre presents “Tarzan” at Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1-2, at UL’s Angelle Hall and UL Women’s and Men’s Basketball play Sunday night, Feb. 2, in the Cajundome.
     So, now do you get it? Winter doesn’t last long here, if it comes at all. By the end of February our flowers should be peeking out with azaleas showing their brilliant colors in early March — just in time for Mardi Gras, which is late this year and you know what that means? Probably warm and sunny parades!

     Why aren’t you here?

Monday, January 27, 2014

History in an Airstream coming to a venue near you!

     One can say history is a living, breathing study, always changing as time marches on. At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, history travels as well. In a vintage Airstream trailer to be exact.
     It’s all part of the school’s Department of History, Geography and Philosophy’s Public History program. Called “Museum on the Move,” the Airstream contains an exhibit that travels, bringing history to the public. This year’s exhibit is “Crossing the Line: Louisiana Women in a Century of Change.” 
     The mobile museum will visit the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, the perfect opportunity for the public to check out this innovative history lesson. 
     “The project creates a unique opportunity for our students to take history out of the classroom and share it with the public,” said Dr. Robert Carriker, department head.
Also at the Market this week, Master Gardener MaryAnn Armbruster will lead a workshop at 10 a.m. about how to turn kitchen and yard waste into nutrient-rich compost for lawns and gardens. Local musicians Christine Balfa and Ryan Brunet will lead this Saturday’s Cajun jam, which takes place at the Market each week from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.  
     And lest you whine that it’s too cold to brave the elements at a farmers market, the forecast calls for a high around 70 degrees this Saturday!
     The Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at The Horse Farm is a venue for seasonal, farm-based products and artisanal creations, offered by local producers, artists and vendors. The Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday, rain or shine. For more information, visit

Friday, January 17, 2014

Louisiana's 'Reel Festival' returns this month

     The ninth annual Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival — Louisiana’s “Reel Festival” — begins Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, with the Louisiana premiere of Phil Comeau’s documentary “Secretariat’s Jockey, Ron Turcotte” at 6:30 p.m. at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette. 
"Secretariat's Jockey, Ron Turcotte"
     The Festival concludes Sunday, Jan. 26, at the AcA with the Louisiana premiere of “This Ain’t No Mouse Music!,” an award-winning film by Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling on the story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records. The film features musicians Mance Lipscomb, Treme Brass Band, Michael Doucet, Pine Leaf Boys, Taj Mahal, Clifton Chenier, Lightnin' Hopkins and the Savoy Family Band. Following the screening, Ann Savoy and Friends with Michael Doucet will perform.
     In between those two events there will be dozens of films screened at the festival, including world, U.S. and Louisiana premieres, plus music performances by Bas Clas, The Blues Conundrum Blues Band and the Drew Landry Band. The Festival will include screenings of Comeau’s “The Nature of Frédéric Back,” who was an Academy Award-winning animated short filmmaker, and “The Numberlys,” the latest film from Academy Award-winning Moonbot Studios in Shreveport. 
"The Numberlys"
     Festival venues will be throughout Lafayette, including the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Vermilionville, the Lafayette Parish South Regional Branch Library, Pack and Paddle and Cité des Arts. Some offer themes, such as Vermilionville sponsoring a two-night Francophone film series and Cité des Arts screening the world premiere of “The Restoration” along with a performance by Drew Landry, the filmmaker, and his band. 
     All screenings at the Lafayette Parish South Regional Branch Library and Pack and Paddle are free. Tickets for screenings at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Vermilionville and Cité des Arts can be purchased through those venues and at the door. Tickets for the opening night gala, including film and reception, are $10 per person and will be available for purchase in January at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. 

     For more information, visit

Friday, January 10, 2014

King Cakes vital part of Carnival season

     You’ll see them everywhere when you visit Lafayette for Mardi Gras. They’re sugary sweet, full of wonderful surprises — including a plastic baby — and are synonymous with the Carnival season.
     King Cakes are linked to French traditions surrounding the Twelfth Night of Christmas, or Jan. 6, when the Magi visited the Christ Child with gifts. The king cake isn’t relegated to just France and Louisiana, but our tri-colored cake dates back to Louisiana’s mother country of France. Naturally, being the adventurous Louisiana, we have enhanced the dessert quite a bit.
     The French gateau de roi is much simpler, but with a surprise inside as well (you can find an example at Poupart’s French bakery in Lafayette). The person who receives the special bean, token or baby inside becomes the queen or king for the day. 
     In Louisiana, we begin king cake enjoyment on Jan. 6 and continue through the Carnival Season all the way to Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when this sort of decadence is supposed to stop, at least if you’re Catholic. Also, our cakes run the gamut, most commonly an oval shaped dough stuffed with fillings that’s topped with icing and sugar sprinkles in the Carnival colors of purple, green and gold. 
     Louisiana tradition has it that whoever receives the baby in their king cake must buy the next one — and so it goes for weeks on end. You can imagine that all those good intentions of losing weight after the holidays get thrown out the window during Carnival.
     Like most culinary treats, king cakes have evolved. We now have fried king cakes, king cake cupcakes, king cake bread pudding, king cake fries and king cake cocktails, to name a few. There’s even a humorous Facebook page titled King Cake Baby. 
     To see what Lafayette has to offer, visit The King Caker web site, which reviews king cake establishments. To read last year’s blog on king cakes with references to local king cake makers, visit the King Cake blog 2013.