Saturday, April 27, 2013

Still rockin’ it in Cajun Country


April 22-23, 2013
Abbeville, Louisiana
Betty’s RV Park



My last post covered less than 24 hours in Abbeville—from our first happy hour with live music at Betty’s followed by a crawfish boil for dinner and Zydeco breakfast the next morning. After the breakfast, we toured around the charming town of Breaux Bridge before attending a local farmer’s market in Calambre, and a Cajun jam session at a local bar, Le Café Musee, in Erath, followed by Betty’s happy hour. Day one was pretty exhausting, but we enjoyed every minute.



Our trip to the farmer’s market was mainly focused on getting some local shrimp from Betty’s favorite shrimp guy and checking out the local scene.  Unfortunately, we found the market lacking in what we usually hope to see: fresh produce. They did have local seafood and grass-fed meats along with a few other booths like Kettle Korn and Louisiana fare such as boudin (a spicy sausage stuffed with ground pork and rice) and alligator tidbits. We did enjoy stopping to listen to more Cajun music which added a to the local flavor of the market.



The shrimp man, Rene, recently named the Shrimp Festival King, was on his boat across the street from the market where there was a small river harbor. He was quite the character, and even though he had sold out of his $2.50 per pound shrimp (keep in mind that includes the head on), he entertained us by showing us what most of Betty’s customers want to see: his Raccoon tattoo. Notice the strategic placement of the raccoon’s back end.



After returning to the motorhome for a little R & R we decided to check out some Cajun music at a local bar. Once a month the Acadian Museum in Erath honors a local person for promoting Cajun culture. This Living Legend program includes a jam session featuring traditional French Cajun music in the attached bar.



I love the look of these small town bars and buildings.  Pretty unassuming, but you just know a good time can be had in a place like this even on a Saturday afternoon. The only drawback, and it is a big one for us, is they allow smoking!  Fortunately, the ventilation was pretty good and many of the patrons were shall we say senior citizens, actually in their 80s and up, as the main inductee was 90, so not too many of the patrons were smoking. We met another couple from the campground here and it seemed like this was their hometown bar.  An important part of the Cajun tradition has to do with hospitality and community—well, it sure showed in how this couple related to the local folk. They have been here once or twice a year for the past six years, but they were so friendly with some of the patrons that they told me they even send Christmas cards to one another every year.  Pretty cute.



Since it was a jam session, all kinds of folks joined in with what two of the main guitarists. This woman could really squeeze out some foot-stompin’ tunes. Our campground friend, Nancy, took the opportunity to dance a Cajun waltz with one of the local Acadians she seemed to know pretty well.



We did not know much about the history of the Acadian people in this area, so the museum was a good place to start. First of all, the word Cajun is the Anglicized word for Acadian, so the terms are basically synonymous. Acadia was originally a colony in eastern Canada that also included parts of Maine (hence the name Acadia National Park). The Acadians were exiled by the British in the 17th century (during the French and Indian War) in what is known as The Great Upheaval and many moved to southern Louisiana where they are widely known for their distinct Cajun cuisine, music, and cultural traditions. Judging by our first few days here, the biggest tradition, besides maintaining their French dialect, seems to be holding festivals for everything under the sun. Just since we arrived, festivals in the area for the next three weeks included the Catfish Festival in Washington, the Festival International in Lafayette, and the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge. It seems we have heard of countless others such as The Giant Omelette Celebration here in Abbeville, the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival in New Iberia, the Shrimp Festival in Delcambre, the Cajun Music Festival in Mamou, and the local granddaddy of them all the Zydeco Festival in Opelousas. See Louisiana Festivals for a more complete listing!



I have always thought that I would like to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans someday, but my new aspiration, is to attend a Courir de Mardi Gras, a Cajun Country style celebration, which begins with masked men on horseback going from house to house singing and dancing for different ingredients used to make a communal gumbo at a celebration later that night. The parade of men is accompanied by a Cajun band and people in costumes follow all along on foot and wagons. The highlight of the entire celebration is supposedly the chicken run where the horsemen beg for this main ingredient for the gumbo.  Several of the small towns around here have some version of the Courir de Mardi Gras, but the one that seems to get the most attention is in Mamou. I think they also have regular Mardi Gras type parades, but the whole event is more of a family affair than the drunken fest that takes place in New Orleans.



After kicking up our heels twice in one day, we went back to Betty’s for the last of happy hour. The campground was pretty full by now and everyone seemed to be having a grand time getting to know each other.  We ended up learning about the Catfish Festival held on Sunday (the next day) and made arrangements to go to it with another couple to see Geno Delafose, a popular local zydeco musician. Geno was scheduled to play at noon and the festival was a little less than an hour away. Another day of fun was in the making.







We didn’t really know what to expect at the Catfish Festival, but one thing was evident from the moment we arrived. Dancing is a main priority at these Louisiana Festivals.  Check out the size of this dance floor!



We arrived early enough to find close (and free) parking and set up our chairs right on this corner next to the dance floor. Of course, Louisiana style, beer, wine and mixed drinks were for sale at several of the nearby booths, plus they were serving all kinds of Cajun home cookin’ including catfish prepared several different ways.



Aside from dancing, it was quite entertaining to watch the wide variety of folks who come to these things.  I especially enjoyed looking at the different styles of dress.  I just had to take some photos to capture what seemed to be the predominant style of dress—lots of cowboy boots, shiny belts. leather, and bling.















One of the best “shows” was watching this elderly woman get on the dance floor and groove to the beat. She was inspiring in every way—including her leopard skirt and hat!




And then there were these two Northwesterners on the dance floor from Oregon. I even have my cowboy boots with me, but alas, came unprepared for a wooden dance floor outside. We made the best of it anyway.
 


The couple featured below, Jim and Donnalyn, are the ones who took us to the festival. They have been full-timing twelve years and come to Betty’s at least once a year to take in a handful of festivals. We have much to learn from them as they seem to have figured out how to make the most of this lifestyle as they say twelve years feels like yesterday!



We stayed for the second show, Connie G and Creole Soul, totally different than Zydeco but the music was great. The surprising part was hardly anyone danced. I guess it takes a rubboard and an accordion to get these folks out on the dance floor. The photo below is Connie G and boy could she sing; she performed “Proud Mary” and you would think you were watching and listening to Tina Turner. 



Connie G’s band did bring out a lot of line dancers who did something like the boot scootin’ boogie to some of her R and B tunes.




Even though Connie G attracted fewer dancers, this dancer, who I featured in my last post, showed up around the time of her first set and never stopped dancing—even if he was alone.  Finally, he jumped up stage—don’t know if it was planned or not but the band members seemed to enjoy it. Funny.



After leaving the Catfish Festival, we had barely enough time to put something together for a potluck at Betty’s where she made Cajun style roast pork, rice and gravy.  That night I talked to Vic about extending our stay for a few days as we were scheduled to leave for Houston on Thursday.  He agreed and we extended our stay until Sunday—which still may not be long enough as we are feeling the pressure from our new friends to attend the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge the first weekend in May. 

I know I am got a little carried away with the videos and numerous photos on this post. I am rather enthusiastic about all the music. These photos only catch me up to last Sunday (and I am writing this on Saturday).  We are surely getting into the Cajun spirit in letting the good times roll. Thanks for coming along.

14 comments:

  1. Looks like you've caught the fever. I love reading about this and can't wait until I can go. Hope you'll share all the things you learn from Jim and Donnalyn. There us nothing like experience and 12 years is amazing. They must have been kids when they started. :-)). Love Tina Turner and anyone who sounds Luke her. What fun!!

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  2. It's like a different planet for this old Oregon gal LOL!! Looks like a lot of fun and I bet the music is just wonderful. Of all the states, it seem Louisiana has the most unique culture. I'd love to visit.

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    1. We would definitely agree that this part of Louisiana is the most distinct cultural experience we have had outside Oregon in the states--aside from the Tiffin Plant in Red Bay, Alabama!

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  3. I wondered if you would stay longer. We sure would have had we not had the Freightliner class. I loved all the pics and videos...keep em comin! I want to stay a month next time!

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  4. Me too Donna! We did stop in Baton Rouge last spring, but did not experience anything like you are. Thanks for sharing all your pictures and information....I love your enthusiasm!

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  5. Looks like a great time! Not sure I would be flashing that tattoo:)

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  6. Note to self, Never get a "tat".

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  7. They know how to enjoy the good life in Abbeville!

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  8. I forgot to mention this to you - make sure you go over to the nearest Pigley Wigley as they make their own blend of a crayfish sausage that I am sure you two would enjoy!

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    1. Thanks for this tip--we hadn't heard about it and it does sound like something we would enjoy.

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  9. Looks like a whole lot of fun and good eating going on down there!! Glad you are enjoying your stay.

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  10. Looks like a whole lot of fun and good eating going on down there!! Glad you are enjoying your stay.

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  11. And here I thought we were busy while in NOLA ... you put us to shame ;-) We'll have to check out Betty's and stay at least a few days next time to experience some of Cajun Country in a more natural setting.

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  12. Looks like one big party! That was one wild "Tat"...

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