Fall Festival Fun

If we’re not talking football in the south in the fall, we must be discussing my other favorite F word…Festivals! Every weekend in the Houma-Thibodaux area brings another festival or two, filled to the brim with food, music, carnival rides, art and fun! Every festival is unique in its own way. Even when you think you know what the festival is all about, we bet there’s another unique aspect you haven’t thought about. Our tiny festival guide shines a light on a few local festival favorites and features that are sure to make your experience one to remember.

Cyd Toups

Gifted artists from Thibodaux and its surrounding area display and sell their tremendous and unique artwork at the Acadia Music Festival every year. One of these exceptional artists is Cut Off native and current Thibodaux resident Cyd Toups.

“It’s just an honor to be part of an event like Acadia Music Fest. It is the Ben Meyer Foundation, and it gives back to the community. I like to be a part of something that benefits somebody else,” says Cyd, who also did the poster for this year’s festival. “It’s full of food, art, music, local people, families; it’s just a great gathering for Thibodaux, a good energy.”

Cyd has been painting her whole life but has done it professionally for the past five years. Although she just recently turned her hobby into a business, her artwork has quickly garnered appreciation from Thibodaux and other communities in South Louisiana. Her official Facebook page, Cyd Duet Toups Studio, has nearly 1,000 likes. It’s the beautiful presentation of Louisiana coastal life that perhaps has drawn locals to her paintings.

“I think it [her inspiration] comes from a life spent surrounded by the estuaries and the waterways and all the beauty that surrounds South Louisiana. You realize how fragile everything is,” Cyd says. “I tried to incorporate a little of that even in the poster. If you look, there’s an egret flying. So I try to put a little bit of a Louisiana coast in all of my paintings.”

Although her work has been highly praised, Cyd still hopes other local artists receive their well-deserved acknowledgements as well.

“I want people to walk away feeling a little bit happy [when viewing her art], and it makes me happy that I get to share something that makes them appreciate local art,” she says. “There’s so many fabulous local artists around here that I want them to appreciate not just mine, but all the beautiful talent that we have around here.”

Acadia Music Fest

This year’s Acadia Music Fest, taking place on October 6 at the Acadia Plantation Town Center, will have not only the Art Market containing skillful artists like Cyd, but also a stomach-growl-worthy food court with local favorites like Off the Hook, Eye One Cookers BBQ, Alumni Grill, NSU Culinary Institute and more. Of course, there will be a star-studded lineup of musicians that include such artists as The Molly Ringwalds, Marc Broussard and Sublime with Rome and entertainment for children with its Kids Korner. For adults, tickets can be purchased online for $35 by following the link on acdiamusicfest.net or at the gate for $45. Tickets can be purchased at the gate for kids ages 4-12, accompanied by an adult, and children three years old and under get in free.

by Drew Miller | photo by Channing Candies

Ted Falgout

For 45 years, Larose’s French Food Festival has been featuring the best cuisine from its rich history like its famous dish, alligator sauce piquante, cooked by Larose’s very own Ted Falgout.

Ted, who hunts, cleans and cooks the alligators for the alligator sauce piquante, has been supplying his locally-famous dish for about 40 years now at the festival.

“I’m not a huge festival person, but I recognize [the French Food Festival] is the most important fundraiser for the Larose Center. I think the Larose Civic Center is a very important part of this community; many of the functions in recreation and swimming and so forth occur here for our youth. The senior citizens have a place. It’s a gathering area for our region, even for hurricane evacuation,” he says. “This is funded privately. Fundraisers like the French Food Festival and the many other things they put on throughout the year fund the civic center.”

He enjoys helping the Larose community, even though it takes a tremendous amount of work to make 1,000 servings of his recipe. After he hunts the alligator, he starts the process off by skinning and deboning it. Next, he removes the fat from the meat and then dices the meat into one-inch diameter cubes. Because wild alligator season is in September, Ted freezes the 150 pounds of cubed meat until he is ready to make the dish for the festival.

“Then when it’s time cook, there’s a gob of ingredients goes with that…all kinds of onions and celery and bell pepper, and then a tomato sauce. We cook that down, and then we brown the meat separately from the sauce,” he explains. “And then when the meat is brown, we add it to the sauce and cook it down until it’s tender. Sauce piquante means ‘peppery sauce’ in French, and that’s what we have. We have cayenne. We use Ro-tel tomatoes and so forth to add a peppery taste to the dish. Then, it’s served over rice traditionally, and that’s how it is at the French Food Festival.”

Although it’s a tedious process, Ted has his family and friends help him every year, which makes the experience even more gratifying.

“It’s an enjoyable outing to be able to do things like this with family and friends and benefit a worthy organization. It adds up to being a good thing,” he says.

French Food Festival

The 45th annual French Food Festival, happening October 26-28, presents “the best in Cajun food, music and dancing,” but that’s far from all it will have. The Larose Civic Center will also contain a carnival midway. This year, the festival added the Troll Character Dinner & Movie and Hottest Things to Hit French Food Fest Bonfire. This free three-day event will also have a live auction, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, art show, Cajun market, petting zoo, cake decorating contest and much more. For more information, such as how to make reservations for overnight camping or to order their cookbooks, go to frenchfoodfest.com.

by Drew Miller | photo submitted

Josh Garrett

The moment that soulful, bluesy note leaves the strings of the guitar, you know you are in the presence of a true musician. Josh Garrett has been making beautiful music in the Houma area and beyond since the young age of 11.

“My dad played guitar a lot when we were younger,” shares Josh. “He taught me some basic chords and I ran with it from there.”

Making a home for himself on stage, Josh started out playing bars and clubs around Houma during his high school days. After serving his country with the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade, known as Charlie Company, the veteran returned home to do what he does best – play music. His passion has led him to play in some pretty amazing locations, such as a residency in Nashville, festivals in Canada, and all over the Caribbean as part of the Chubby Carrier Party Cruise. Josh loves to play Blues festivals most of all.

“All music is about feeling and passion and different genres all do it a little differently,” explains Josh on why he loves to play the Blues. “But a lot of the stuff we do as Blues artists is improvised, especially the guitar solos. The music is going to take on whatever I’m feeling at the time…it can be different at every show.”

The passion behind the music is part of what Josh likes about being a part of the Voice of the Wetlands Festival year after year. The festival’s famous Friday Night Guitar Fights has visitors pulling up a chair just to see what happens next.

“We don’t have a song list, there’s no rehearsal,” laughs Josh. “I think it’s just fun for everybody, the musicians on the stage and the audience, because no one knows what’s going to happen. And all those cats know how to listen. They have big ears and we’re kind of trying to make something beautiful out of the chaos of having 10 guitar players on stage … it gets pulled off!”

Josh is also back in the studio, working with Tab Benoit, on his latest record.

Voice of the Wetlands Festival 

Join Josh Garrett and other local and regional musicians at the 15th annual Voice of the Wetlands Festival on October 12-14,  at the Ponderosa in Houma. This unique festival has expanded to include tent and RV camping on-site, allowing festivalgoers to stay right in the thick of things! Musicians slated to perform this year include founder Tab Benoit, Walter Wolfman Washington, Chubby Carrier, Eric McFadden, Waylon Thibodeaux, Mia Borders and many, many more! The weekend also includes special appearances at the Red Door Saloon, the legendary Friday Night Guitar Fights, and Late Night Wetlands Rambles. Learn more about the festival and their mission to help save the wetlands on their website, voiceofthewetlands.org.

by Mary Downer Ditch | Photo by Misty Leigh McElroy

Alexis Braud

With traces of its origin going back to the medieval times in France, there have been many depictions of the Rougarou, both in literature and illustrations. Being that it has no concrete image to go off of, a drawing of the mythical creature is ideal for an imaginative artist such as Cut Off native Alexis Braud, who created this year’s official Rougarou Fest poster.

“The ideas are always the easy part. It’s getting what’s on the page to look like what’s in my brain that is the difficult part,” Alexis explains on her creative process for the poster. “The festival is so much fun, and I really wanted to try and find an image that wasn’t just the Rougarou by itself. I wanted something that showed them having fun…Especially being Cajun, when you get a bunch of Cajuns and music together, they start dancing. For any one piece I might have 10 ideas, pick the best three and then just kind of work it. So through that process I wound up getting to that image.”

Alexis is no stranger to the myth of the Rougarou as she has studied folklore, does a Cajun culture podcast called “The Bayou Home Podcast” and even wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled “One, Two, Rougarou.”

“I’ve been reading stories about this place since I was little. The folklore of this place, is part of all of my work, not just the poster work, not just the festival, but my painting and illustration style as well,” she says.

She will be selling her artwork and books along with prints of the poster at the festival. She truly enjoys being a part of and supporting the Rougarou Fest, which she has come to have great admiration for.

“…Just the enthusiasm.  When people leave New Orleans and Baton Rouge to come to your festival, you know you’re having fun,” Alexis shares on why she enjoys the festival. “It’s an excuse for people to really let their freak flag fly, and I love it. People you wouldn’t think wearing these completely outlandish costumes. It’s just the color and the energy and the cost of the costumes… People coming out and just being themselves and having a blast. It’s great.”

Rougarou Fest

This marks the seventh year for Rougarou Fest, which continues to grow in popularity. This year’s event, happening October 20-21 in downtown Houma, will bring back the costume contest, art and food vendors, live music, scavenger hunt and, of course, the extravagant Krewe Ga Rou Parade comprised of floats, witches, ghouls, giant puppets, zombies and the Rougarou Queen. The festival is free to enter, and all proceeds go to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching and learning about Louisiana’s disappearing coast. More information on Rougarou Fest such as the stage lineup, food menu and more can be found at rougaroufest.org.

by Drew Miller | photo submitted

Hali Westerman

The Louisiana Gumbo Festival has all the makings of a great festival: amazing food, outstanding music, carnival rides, and of course, royalty.

Hali Westerman has served for the last year as Miss Louisiana Gumbo Festival Queen XLVI. Crowned last October, Hali has been making her way across the state representing the festival and the Chackbay Volunteer Fire Department.

“The Gumbo Festival is close to my heart because it’s a festival I always attended being from Thibodaux,” shares Hali. “I guess you could say it was on my bucket list to compete for the crown.”

Hali began in pageants when she was six months old. Her mother encouraged her to do pageants to help her to not be shy and to learn how to get out in front of crowds and be able to speak. Miss Louisiana Gumbo Festival Queen is actually her fourth Gumbo Festival title, having competed in toddler and little miss pageants with the festival growing up.

Along with holding the Miss Louisiana Gumbo Festival Queen title comes the opportunity to compete in the Queen of Queens pageant at the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals’ annual convention in Baton Rouge. More than 70 festival queens from Louisiana join in the competition.

Hali was awarded third runner up for the title and took home three of the four side awards for Best Costume, Best Evening Gown and Miss Congeniality. This result was the highest any Gumbo Queen has ever placed.

“It was just so heartwarming, so heartfelt,” smiles Hali, “I was just so happy with everything and regardless of the outcome, I knew I had represented my festival to best of my ability. The dream just kept getting better and better. I’m absolutely honored and humbled to have done everything I did.”

Hali will crown the 2018 Miss Louisiana Gumbo Festival Queen on Friday, October 12. After that, the sophomore at Nicholls State University will take a little break from pageants to continue pursuing her degree in nursing. She encourages everyone to attend the Gumbo Festival and enjoy all it has to offer.

“We might be a smaller community but we have a huge heart,” Hali shares. “We welcome you with open arms to come and enjoy our family-friendly festival!”

Louisiana Gumbo Festival

The 47th annual Louisiana Gumbo Festival will take place on October 12-14, at the Chackbay Fairgrounds. Founded as a fundraiser for the Chackbay Volunteer Fire Department, the festival attracts over 15,000 visitors each year. Volunteers cook an estimated 500 gallons of gumbo to serve to festivalgoers. Festival admission is free and the grounds are fenced in to add to the safety of its patrons. This year’s festival includes musical acts such as Kerry Thibodaux, Don Rich, and Junior Lacrosse and headliner Jason Michael Carroll. The festival parade will be held on Sunday, starting at 10:30 a.m. For more information, visit lagumbofest.com.

by Mary Downer Ditch | photo submitted