Lt. Gov. Nungesser’s Annual Crawfish Pardoning Tradition

In Breaux Bridge, the crawfish capital of the world, an extraordinary Louisiana tradition unfolded during the 8th Annual Pardoning of the Crawfish. As per this article from The Daily Advertiser, Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser played a pivotal role in this unique event, where a singular crawfish named Sherbin was spared from the boiling cauldron of a typical seafood boil.

Lt. Gov. Nungesser, the mastermind behind this unconventional ritual, shared insights into the proceedings. “We select a fortunate crawfish from the Atchafalaya Basin, extend our mercy through a pardon, and release it to live out its days in the untamed swamps of Louisiana,” remarked Nungesser, embodying the spirit of compassion toward the crustacean.

In a nod to local leadership, this year’s honored crawfish bore the name Sherbin in tribute to Mayor Sherbin Collette, a respected figure who steered the town of Henderson since his election in 2004. Reflecting on the distinction, Mayor Collette remarked, “This stands as one of the greatest honors in my two-decade-long tenure as mayor.” The official proclamation, an inaugural event that unfolded eight years ago in New Orleans, originated from the Lt. Governor’s inspiration drawn from the age-old American tradition of pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys.

Mayor Collette reminisced about the inception of this unique custom, recounting a conversation with the Lt. Governor. “Eight years ago, the Lt. Governor called me one day and proposed the idea of pardoning a crawfish. I thought it was a brilliant concept, so I journeyed to New Orleans, crafted a crawfish trap, and successfully captured five of these lucky creatures,” shared Collette, underscoring the grassroots origins of the tradition.

Scheduled annually on the first Tuesday post-Mardi Gras, this ceremony marks the commencement of crawfish season in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf South, according to Nungesser. Louisiana’s 1,600 crawfish farmers contribute significantly to the industry, yielding an impressive 150 million pounds of crawfish annually, translating to a staggering $175 million in market value.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by the industry in the current year, Lt. Gov. Nungesser commented, “It’s been a challenging season with imports, drought, freeze, and a crawfish shortage. It’s crucial to spotlight this remarkable industry, and with warmer weather approaching, we hope they emerge from the ground for everyone’s enjoyment.”

As the ceremony concluded, Samantha Carroll, the executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, articulated the protective measures in place for Sherbin. “Sherbin shall remain shielded from any boiling pot or culinary dish, basking in water no hotter than the serene swamps and bayous of Louisiana. Sherbin deserves to relish life in our marshes, savoring freshwater devoid of spices, potatoes, seasonings, or onions and garlic.”

In its entirety, the 8th Annual Pardoning of the Crawfish served not only as a vibrant display of Louisiana’s cultural richness but also underscored the imperative of acknowledging and safeguarding the state’s flourishing crawfish industry. What began as a novel idea eight years ago has blossomed into a symbolic gesture, a profound expression of gratitude for the crustaceans woven intricately into Louisiana’s culinary fabric.

As the event unfurled, the unconventional tradition became a poignant reminder of the intricate balance between cultural practices and the state’s economic backbone. Lt. Gov. Nungesser‘s brainchild stood as a testament toLouisiana’s commitment to preserving its traditions and sustaining the livelihoods of those entwined with the crawfish industry. Sherbin’s journey, from the simmering pot to the serene marshes, encapsulated the essence of a celebration that goes beyond a single crawfish’s reprieve—a celebration of resilience, tradition, and the timeless spirit of Louisiana.

In closing, as Sherbin embarks on his journey to Lake Fausse Point State Park in St. Martinville, the Pardoning of the Crawfish stands as an enduring testament to the state’s unwavering connection to its cultural roots. The annual ceremony serves as a poignant reminder that, amidst the grandeur of festivities, Louisiana’s commitment to preserving its unique traditions remains steadfast.

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Louisiana’s Innovative Step Towards Teacher Well Being

In a significant move to enhance the teaching environment and teacher well-being in Louisiana, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley has declared the formation of a groundbreaking initiative, the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup. As per this news release from LDOE, this workgroup aims to delve deeper into the issues plaguing teachers in their daily responsibilities and impeding their primary focus on student instruction. Dr. Brumley, recognizing the pivotal role teachers play in student success, expressed the critical need to protect teachers’ time for their essential work.

Acknowledging the diverse challenges faced by educators, the workgroup will be comprised of PK-12 teachers from various regions in the state. The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) is collaborating with teacher committees and educational organizations in the state to identify suitable candidates for this workgroup. Interested organizations are encouraged to submit their recommendations via email to Chairing this pivotal workgroup will be Kylie Altier, the current Louisiana Teacher of the Year.

Altier, speaking passionately about her dedication to teaching, remarked, “I wholeheartedly believe teaching is the best job in the world because of the children, and I can think of no greater work than ensuring teachers can keep their full focus on students.” This sentiment reflects the deep commitment of educators like Altier to prioritize student learning above all else.

The impetus behind forming the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup stems from feedback received by the LDOE through various channels. This includes formal avenues like the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council and informal means such as Dr. Brumley’s firsthand experiences during classroom visits and faculty meetings. These interactions shed light on several challenges hindering effective teaching, including excessive training and paperwork, the constraint of following scripted lessons, and difficulties related to student behavior and discipline.

Dr. Brumley envisions the workgroup as a collaborative effort to address these concerns and pave the way for a more conducive teaching environment. The diverse composition of the workgroup, with representation from teachers across grade levels, is poised to provide comprehensive insights into the multifaceted challenges faced by educators.

As the workgroup gears up to commence its activities in the spring, the educational community anticipates positive outcomes and tangible solutions to the issues that have long hindered teachers’ ability to focus on their core mission—teaching. This initiative aligns with a broader movement within education to prioritize teacher well-being and ensure that they can perform their roles without unnecessary impediments.

The Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council serves as a formal platform for teachers to provide input and feedback directly to the educational leadership. This council fosters communication between educators and decision-makers, ensuring that the voices of those on the front lines of education are heard and considered. The Let Teachers Teach Workgroup exemplifies the collaborative approach needed to tackle challenges in education. By bringing together teachers from various backgrounds and grade levels, the workgroup aims to provide a holistic perspective on the obstacles hindering effective teaching.

Enhancing teacher conditions isn’t just a matter of comfort; it’s an investment in the foundation of our educational system. When teachers are provided with an environment conducive to focused instruction, the benefits cascade throughout the entire learning ecosystem. Improved teacher well-being directly translates to increased student engagement, enhanced academic outcomes, and a more positive school culture. Moreover, prioritizing teachers fosters retention and attracts quality educators to the profession. By addressing the challenges highlighted by the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup, Louisiana is poised to fortify its education system, ensuring a brighter future for both educators and students alike.

In conclusion, the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup in Louisiana symbolizes a significant stride towards prioritizing teacher well-being and optimizing classroom conditions. This collaborative effort promises a positive shift in education, benefitting both teachers and students alike.

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Balancing Act: The 10-Year Amite River Elevation Program

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  has revisited a long-debated plan to address water damage in the Baton Rouge-area river basin following the devastating 2016 floods, according to this article from The Advocate. The proposed plan involved elevating or flood proofing nearly 3,300 homes, businesses, and other structures in the Amite River Basin. The Corps estimated that this extensive undertaking would span a decade and potentially cost around $2 billion.

Initially, the plan included a 3.6-mile-long dam, the Darlington Dam, with an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, and a smaller $1 billion home elevation program. However, opposition arose in East Feliciana and St. Helena parishes, expressing concerns about the dam’s safety and its disproportionate impact on impoverished and minority residents. Consequently, the Corps shifted its focus and introduced a larger voluntary elevation program.

Under this revised proposal, high-risk homes would be elevated above the 100-year flood level, while businesses, churches, community centers, fire stations, and grocery stores would be flood-proofed to enhance their resilience to high water. The Corps envisioned a gradual implementation, estimating that approximately 500 homes and businesses per year would undergo elevation or floodproofing after an 18-month startup phase.

Kaitlyn Richard, a Corps senior project manager, clarified that the draft feasibility report did not explicitly consider the market’s capacity to handle the elevation program within the proposed 10-year timeline. However, the study incorporated risk factors to account for such concerns. Richard acknowledged that these issues could be raised during subsequent reviews by the public and various layers of the Corps of Engineers.

The economic impact of the Amite River Basin elevation program was noteworthy, with the draft estimating support for about 15,430 local jobs over the project’s duration. In the past year, the plan faced public comment, with virtual meetings held due to anticipated poor winter weather. The public input deadline was set for January 29, and a key decision on endorsing the proposal was expected in late February.

Should the plan have moved forward, it faced a lengthy process of internal reviews, culminating in a final chief’s report by July. Congressional authorization and funding would have been necessary for implementation, with the state or another non-federal sponsor covering 35% of the cost, potentially exceeding $700 million. While some home elevation plans in Louisiana initiated construction steps, concerns emerged about the Amite River proposal. Local officials argued that the plan didn’t prevent flood water rise but rather focused on fortifying structures against high water. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, a key figure in potential authorization and funding, voiced his reservations about the plan.

In response to concerns, the Amite River Basin Commission explored alternative measures, considering the use of sand-and-gravel pits north of Watson to temporarily contain floodwater. Despite the Corps’ reanalysis of flood reduction measures, the elevation-only program recommended by the Corps may have fallen slightly short of a critical benefit-cost ratio. The Corps had recommended a plan with a benefit-cost ratio as low as 0.997, indicating that the cost might have slightly exceeded the benefit. Typically, the Corps sought projects with a ratio of at least 1 to justify federal expenditures meeting national objectives. However, in this case, the Corps prioritized including more homes in socially vulnerable areas, even if it meant a slightly less cost-beneficial plan.

As the draft report underwent further review, stakeholders, including the public and government agencies, played a crucial role in shaping the future of the Amite River Basin elevation program. The decision-making process unfolded over the last few months, with potential impacts on flood risk management in south Louisiana.

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Louisiana’s Rose Parade Extravaganza

In a dazzling display of Louisiana’s cultural richness, the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s “Explore Louisiana” float emerged triumphant once again, securing the coveted Showmanship Award for the second consecutive year at the 135th Rose Parade held in Pasadena, California, as per this article from Houma Today. This remarkable achievement marked the culmination of a three-year streak, with the float having earned the prestigious Wrigley Legacy award in 2022 for its outstanding floral presentation, float design, and entertainment.

Against the backdrop of the 2024 Rose Parade theme, “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,”Louisiana’s float stole the show with its larger-than-life Mardi Gras jester, fleur-de-lis embellishments, and vibrant second-line inspired umbrellas adorned in the classic purple, green, and gold hues synonymous with the state’s cultural identity. The Showmanship Award, a testament to the sheer entertainment value of the float, underscored Louisiana’s commitment to delivering an unforgettable experience on the streets of Pasadena. This year’s theme, revolving around the profound connection between music and Louisiana, resonated deeply with the essence of the state’s cultural fabric.

Reflecting on the significance of Louisiana’s musical heritage, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser remarked, “Louisiana is a perfect fit for the theme of music. Music is a part of our culture, from Mardi Gras to our festivals, to our daily lives.” Nungesser also hinted at the upcoming “Year of Music” marketing campaign scheduled for 2024, expressing confidence in delivering a captivating showcase to the parade audience.

The parade’s lineup showcased performances that encapsulated the spirit of a Louisiana Mardi Gras, featuring Grammy-nominated Zydeco musician Sean Ardoin, Cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw, and legendary guitarist James Burton. Their contributions not only added authenticity to the float but also set the stage for a vibrant celebration of Louisiana’s musical prowess.

Amidst the rhythmic beats and lively performances, Nungesser expressed excitement about kicking off the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s 2024 “Year of Music” campaign on such a high note. The recognition garnered at the Rose Paradeundoubtedly served as a fitting prelude to a year that promised to be filled with musical festivities.

Now, let’s delve into what makes the Rose Parade a noteworthy event. Hosted by The Tournament of Roses Foundation, the annual Rose Parade is a revered tradition that beckons the participation of Louisiana, a state well-versed in the art of parades. The 2024 theme, “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” aligns seamlessly with Louisiana’s musical legacy, spanning genres from swamp pop to blues.

As the floats, equestrian units, and marching bands take center stage, it’s worth noting that the floats, though professionally designed, come to life through the meticulous efforts of volunteers who decorate them in the days leading up to the parade. The judging criteria on New Year’s Eve encompass design, floral presentation, and entertainment value. On New Year’s Day, the floats traverse more than five miles, captivating an audience of over 700,000 spectators.

Post-parade revelry continues with Floatfest, providing attendees with an up-close look at the intricate floral designs that adorn the floats. It’s an opportunity to appreciate the labor-intensive craftsmanship that goes into creating these stunning mobile masterpieces.

In closing, Louisiana’s resounding success at the Rose Parade not only secured the Showmanship Award for the second consecutive year but also eloquently showcased the state’s profound connection to music, acting as a harmonious prelude to a year brimming with celebrations honoring its musical legacy. The vibrant performances, coupled with the intricate float designs, stood as a testament to Louisiana’s enduring commitment to sharing its cultural richness with the world, affirming its place as a beacon of musical brilliance and artistic splendor in the grand tapestry of American parades.

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Beyond Borders: The Cajun Culture Fusion at Larose’s French Food Festival

In the quaint town of Larose, Louisiana, a tradition that began as a modest idea in the early 1970s has blossomed into a remarkable celebration of Cajun culture and cuisine. Sidney Triche, a key figure in the festival’s evolution, reminisces about its humble origins, emphasizing the significant growth it has undergone since its inception, as per this article from HoumaToday.

As the curtains closed on the third and final day of this year’s French Food Festival, Triche, now 87, took center stage to conduct the auction, a task that had become both a source of pride and a challenging endeavor. His dedication and emotional connection to the event were palpable, reflecting a sentiment akin to a parent sending their child off to college. The festival, he asserted, had become an integral part of the community, and he was determined to ensure its perpetual success.

Over the years, the French Food Festival has become a source of immense pride for the Larose community. Triche, reflecting on the arduous journey, acknowledged the initial struggles the festival faced in gaining momentum. However, its resilience and commitment to preserving Cajun traditions have resulted in a highly successful event, consistently generating around $300,000 in profit annually over the past three years.

On the bustling Saturday of the festival, the pavilion teemed with over 1,200 enthusiastic attendees, according to Lindsey Savoie, a dedicated board member of the Bayou Civic Club. The festival’s profits for this year were yet to be determined, with Savoie estimating that the final figures would only be available come December.

The festival’s roots trace back to 1973 when Weldon Matherne and his sister, Bernice Ordoyne, conceived the idea as part of the Bayou Civic Club. Originally named the Bouillabaisse Festival, the event has since undergone several transformations. Triche, an early board member, vividly recounted the first attempt to sell home-cooked dishes on the field that now houses the Larose Community Center. Mother Nature, however, had different plans, as heavy rain, lightning, and ankle-deep water dampened the inaugural festival.

Undeterred, the civic club persevered through the adverse weather conditions, learning valuable lessons along the way. The following year, armed with a tent, they raised an impressive $30,000. Despite further challenges, including a storm that toppled their tent, the club’s determination attracted attention from elected officials. Louisiana Sen. Leonard J. Chabert played a crucial role by securing grants that facilitated the construction of the Larose Community Center.

For the next two decades, the festival became a staple in the community, with approximately $80,000 to $85,000 in profits each year. The event’s success not only sustained the Larose Community Center but also funded the nearby Larose Regional Park.

The heart of the festival lies in its 22 food booths, cherished by locals for their connection to familial traditions. Lindsey Savoie emphasized that these booths are often passed down through generations, creating a sense of continuity and community. Among the vendors is Joel Barrios of Bayou Boys Po-Boys, who temporarily closed his Texas restaurant to participate in the festival. Barrios, a Larose native, saw this as an opportunity to expose his Texas-based employees to the authentic South Lafourche regional meals that shaped his childhood.

One of Barrios’s employees, Kristyn Douglas, a Texas native, expressed her delight in experiencing the festival for the first time. She praised the unique flavors of Cajun cuisine, highlighting the pastalaya—a twist on traditional jambalaya that incorporates pasta. Douglas marveled at the authenticity of the food, noting that Texas doesn’t quite capture the essence of Cajun Culture and its flavors.

As the festival concluded, its success echoed through the vibrant streets of Larose. The community’s dedication to preserving its cultural heritage, overcoming challenges, and fostering a sense of togetherness was evident in every aspect of the French Food Festival.

In summary, the French Food Festival in Larose has transformed from a weather-dampened inaugural event to a thriving celebration of Cajun culture and culinary excellence. Through resilience, community spirit, and a commitment to tradition, the festival has not only endured but flourished, benefiting both the Larose Community Center and the Larose Regional Park.

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Rougarou Fest Unleashed Howls of Fun, Hot Air Balloons, and Trick-or-Treating

Houma, Louisiana recently witnessed a howling good time as the 12th annual Rougarou Fest took center stage, offering a captivating blend of tricks, treats, and high-flying adventure. The festival spanned an entire weekend, captivating attendees from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. This enchanting event unfolded in the vicinity of the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, The Courtyard Marriot, and the Terrebonne Parish Library Main Branch. According to this article from Houma Today, Rougarou Fest is a unique celebration that has become a hallmark of the Houma community and a key fundraiser for the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center.

The notion of a howl-off, a contest where participants unleash their most spine-tingling howls, was sparked by the festival’s poster art, according to Jonathan Foret, the festival’s founder. He revealed, “The Rougarou howling is sort of the inspiration of, ‘Let’s do a howling contest.’ I can’t believe it took me 12 years to come to that one.” The howl-off took place on Friday evening at 8 p.m., with participants vying for the coveted first, second, and third-place titles in both the adult and children’s categories, each receiving a prestigious medal.

Adding to the festive ambiance, trick-or-treating was scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, offering kids a chance to don their spookiest costumes and collect delectable goodies. But that’s not all. The event also promised an exhilarating adventure with hot air balloon rides available on both Friday and Saturday, running from 5 to 9 p.m. on both days. The festival’s diverse array of events and their respective timings can be found in detail on the official Rougarou Fest website, offering visitors a comprehensive schedule to plan their visit accordingly.

Rougarou Fest began its journey in 2012, serving as the primary annual fundraiser for the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center in Houma. Named after the legendary bayou werewolf, the festival is an ode to the rich folklore that thrives along the bayous of Southeast Louisiana. Over the years, it has evolved into a grand celebration, featuring a mesmerizing parade, a highly competitive costume contest, Cajun culinary delights, and enlightening discussions on local folklore, all accompanied by fascinating exhibits.

The South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, the beneficiary of the festival’s proceeds, is a non-profit organization dedicated to revolutionizing how we perceive, educate, and learn about the disappearing coastal regions of Louisiana. It stands as a testament to the collective efforts of the community to conserve and protect these precious wetlands.

Rougarou Fest’s outstanding contributions to the local culture and its commitment to environmental awareness have earned it recognition on various platforms. In 2014, USA Today ranked it as one of the Top 10 Costume Parties in the United States. In 2015 and 2019, the Southeast Tourism Society acknowledged it as one of the Top 20 Events among 11 states for the month of October. Further, the festival received the title of Best New Event in the state of Louisiana in 2015, as awarded by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals. And most recently, in 2020 and 2023, the Louisiana Travel Association bestowed upon it the esteemed honor of being the Festival of the Year.

In summary, Rougarou Fest is an enchanting celebration that brings the vibrant folklore of Louisiana’s bayous to life. With thrilling howl-offs, hot air balloon rides, and delightful trick-or-treating, this event is a true testament to the region’s cultural richness and its dedication to preserving the invaluable wetlands. It’s no wonder that Rougarou Fest has garnered accolades and has become a beloved tradition in the hearts of the Houma community.

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