Get outside while the getting’s good and enjoy what’s already here.
April 3, 2002
Step outside into your own backyard and you’re liable to scare up something to do. The pollen might get to you, but it’s a small price to pay in light of the bitter cold winter we just had and the sweltering summer we’re sure to endure.
The Times set out to prove that there are plenty goings-on right here at home. We recently tagged along with some carousers – including locals and globe-trotters – who proved there’s plenty to do on any given Saturday in Acadiana.
And we’ve got the photos to prove it.
Pete Oldacres has his camera to his eye and is zooming in on the red and white checkered paper platter filled with boudin.
He says, “I just want it on record that you people eat this stuff.”
Oldacres (pronounced “old acres”) is from Birmingham, England. He’s standing outside Don’s Specialty Meats in Carencro eating boudin and cracklins. He’s one of seven people on the Saturday morning leg of Blue Moon Tours’ Cajun and zydeco dancehall run. The excursion is the Cajun/zydeco dancing junkie’s dream come true.
From Friday night to Sunday morning, you can travel to any of three dancehalls, depending on which Cajun or zydeco acts are playing in the area. On Saturday morning, there’s a guaranteed breakfast of boudin and cracklins en route to Fred’s Lounge in Mamou.
This Saturday morning is a modified tour, with a stop in Washington for the Catfish Festival and ending with a crawfish boil at the Blue Moon Guest House in Lafayette.
Mark Falgout, co-owner of the Blue Moon Guest House and the proprietor of the tour company of the same name, says he can load 14 people into his van.
The hardest part for him is getting his guests to leave Mamou.
“They get juiced up, and they want to stay,” he says.
Dave Trainer is from Oregon. He visited Acadiana a couple of times and “had such a darn good time down here,” he picked up and moved here. He says the French music sealed the deal.
“I have this bizarre fascination with French music,” he says.
Trainer doesn’t usually spend his Saturday mornings running around Acadiana. He stays busy giving private music lessons to a couple dozen kids. But on this Saturday morning, he’s game for the festivities.
“I come from Puritan stock,” he says. “We don’t question things. If they say ‘drink beer,’ I drink beer.”
After sampling the boudin at Don’s, the group piles back in the van and heads north on Interstate 49 to Opelousas. It’s 10:30 a.m. and a steady stream of people are walking through the doors of Ronnie’s Boudin and Cracklin House. Owner Ronnie Bellard pulls up in his truck just as the group is about to get back in the van. Trainer asks Bellard what makes old-fashioned andouille sausage old-fashioned. Bellard explains that the outer layer of the sausage is beef and the inner layer is pork, and it’s all stuffed with chitlins.
Bellard gives the group a quick tour of his store and explains the finer points of making boudin and cracklins. On an average day, Bellard sells anywhere from 300 to 400 pounds of boudin. Walking through the store is a slippery business. He leads the group to an area on the side of the building and shows them three big, black cast iron pots where the cracklins are cooking and bobbing in grease.
Falgout says of the detour through the store, “Now this is the real deal.”
As the van heads north on La. 104, Zydeco Joe is singing “Jack Rabbit” on the radio. Outside the community of Prairie Ronde, Falgout pulls the van over at Olivier’s Grocery. It’s a quick pit stop for the restrooms. Four signs outside the front door read: “Cold Beer – Auction – Real Estate – Pkg. Liquor.”
Three bags of live crawfish are propped up against the door. Some of the group stand outside the van in front of a rusted road sign that reads “HOT BOUDIN + COLD BEER =’S GOOD COMPANY.”
In Mamou, Fred’s is still in high gear. People are packed in like sardines, and KVPI radio in Ville Platte has already packed up its remote broadcasting gear from its weekly live broadcast. The Cajun band plays on, and despite the handwritten notices on the wall that Fred’s isn’t a dancehall, the patrons shuffle their feet to the music and dance in small circles. There’s another sign on the wall that says substitute musicians aren’t allowed to sit in with the band and that there’s no use in asking. Despite that sign, Courtney Granger sits in with the group on fiddle. Walter Mouton is wearing a red, white and blue baseball cap, and he sits in with the band on a few numbers as well.
The only light in Fred’s comes from the glowing neon signs advertising beer and bourbon. The afternoon sun is warming up outside, but the window units are keeping the bar cool.
Oldacres says the scene is “pretty cool.” He adds, “I haven’t been this drunk this early in the day since I was in college.”
Fred’s owner David Guillory says, “I think that everybody who comes in here has a good time, and I don’t know why. I guess you have to want to come here.”
Getting the group back into the van proves to be, as Falgout predicted, a chore. The van makes its way to Washington for the Catfish Festival. The radio is playing a mix of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams III.
Downtown Washington is blocked off and festival-goers meander through food booths, tents selling arts and crafts and the stage where a Cajun band is playing. The highlight of the afternoon is the Civil War re-enactment, held in an open field between the two roads in and out of town. Women in hoopskirts are on standby to take care of the imaginary wounded. The Confederates have mounted a cannon on the hill and five of them man the weapon. After packing it down with gunpowder, they fire nothing but a boom at the intruders. Four Union soldiers on horseback try to charge the cannon, as three Confederates, standing alongside it, fire their muskets. After they fire a round, they have to reload their weapons. After firing the cannon four times, the field is covered in a dense smoke and the smell of gunpowder is just as thick.
In this battle, the South wins. One of the Confederate soldiers proclaims, “We chase them off, boys!” The spectators clap politely.
The real action, though, is down the street at Smitty’s, outside the festival grounds. It’s a huge shell of a building with a rusted tin roof. A zydeco band with no name, but with a loud PA system, is playing and facing the street. Patrons go in and out of the building to buy beer. Inside it’s as dark as a cave and just as cool. It’s a welcome respite from the afternoon sun.
It’s a long trip back up I-49 to Lafayette, but Horace Trahan is singing the “Lemonade Song” on the radio and the sun is shining. It’s only three in the afternoon and there’s still a lot of daylight left. Back in Lafayette, at the Blue Moon Guest House, there’s 150 pounds of live crawfish waiting to be boiled.