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Bayou vermilion festival photo by lucius fontenot; reachable ceiling vents courtsy product launchers; chef drake leonards photo courtesy lÜke restaurant

Boats Afloat

Vermilionville

The 5th annual Bayou Vermilion Festival and Boat Parade has been moved up to May 15, 2016 from its traditional October slot according to Vermilionville’s Director of Communications, Erin Segura. “We’re expanding considerably,” she explains of their myriad events. The free festival kicks off at 10 am at Vermilionville, featuring such activities as face painting, film viewings, cooking demos and a homemade recycled materials paddle craft race in the pond prior to the 2 pm boat parade. A diversity of 300 colorful boats departs from Vermilionville, traveling down the river to the Camellia Bridge Launch for an after party held at 4 pm featuring live zydeco music, local ale and food. People are encouraged to decorate their vessels; costumes are equally welcome (bayouvermiliondistrict.org/boat parade).


Icon Resurrected

Abbeville

Jenny LeBlanc and Bryan Rush have finally reopened River Front a Louisiana Grill at a new location, 530 Park Avenue overlooking the Vermilion River, three-and-a-half years after a fire completely destroyed Abbeville’s most elegant dining venue downtown. Locals are thrilled with the new location, expanded menu and handsome lodge-like setting, which now includes a charming screen porch affording a splendid river view, a romantic bar with dining tables and a fireplace, and a wood-burning oven. “It’s a dream come true,” said LeBlanc.



Inventor

Youngsville


If you’ve ever had trouble changing those tricky ceiling AC filters, Wade Bergeron of Youngsville is your new hero. He has invented the Reachable Ceiling Vents, which attach to a decorative frame with magnets. There’s a hole in the center, so that a mop or a paint stick can easily screw into it. His product is now available nationwide at Ace Hardware, Stein’s, Acme and online at Sears, Walmart and Amazon. Ladders begone!


Pouvez-vous lire le Français?

Arnaudville

Sure, you can understand it. But do you need help reading French? NuNu Arts and Culture Collective in Arnaudville debuts its first series of French reading classes through April 14; $15 per class. To register via email: education@nunucollective.org.


Fore!

Lafayette

Rainy day? Treat yourself to Lafayette’s new indoor virtual golf facility. X Golf is the first of its kind in the South, and the third to open nationwide. It has 90 different virtual PGA golf courses, located at 104 E. Kaliste Saloom Road (previously Antoinette’s Bridal).


Pirates, a Beer Garden and Blue Dog

Lake Charles

If you’re headed to Lake Charles for the annual Contraband Days Louisiana Pirate Festival (April 26-May 8) that attracts pirates of all ages for costume contests, carnival rides, regional food, live music and spectacular fireworks (louisianapiratefestival.com), check out a few happening local spots. The new Crying Eagle Brewing Company, located at 1165 E. McNeese, features indoor and outdoor stages, a tasting room and a lively beer garden. Like to fish? Enjoy smooth margaritas and Tex-Mex eats at the new Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp located at 723 Ryan Street (formerly Fat Cat Café, next door to Luna). Insider tip: Bring in your freshly caught fish from the lake (charters abound), and the chefs will cook it for you! Lafayette’s famous Blue Dog Café, which recently opened a second location in Lake Charles on the heels of 7-year-old Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro closing (owned by Stephen Santillo and sons of the late George Rodrigue), is just down the street from Tia Juanita’s at 609 Ryan St. Their delicious crawfish enchiladas with a smooth cumin Mornay sauce and a luscious crawfish bisque accented with spicy crawfish boulettes are enticing nibbles for peak crawdad season. In nearby Lacassine, visit the 36,000 square-foot Bayou Rum Distillery, which was recently honored with a 2016 Louey Award as the Attraction of the Year from the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association. Belly up to the handsome tasting bar with cathedral-height ceilings in the 109-year-old farmhouse that’s situated beyond a gallery showcasing the state’s history as a sugar cane producer.  Worth the 20-minute drive. The mixologists are tops; great gift shop, too.


Native Sons


Chef Drake Leonards

Two Acadiana boys are our rising stars in 2016. While Bravo Top Chef Isaac Toups, “born and braised” in Rayne and the owner of Toup’s Meatery in New Orleans, was basking in the limelight after becoming a James Beard semifinalist for 2016 Best Chef: South (winners are announced at the May gala in Chicago), Eunice native Drake Leonards, Chef-de-cusine of John Besh’s Lüke in New Orleans, was busy teaming up with acclaimed James Beard award-winning Miami Chef Michelle Bernstein to orchestrate their dazzling $1,000 per person dinner to benefit the non-profit John Besh Foundation for Fetes des Chefs, the snazzy annual spring event that brings celebrity chefs from around the country to cook elaborate dinners together. Remember the Caribbean Room (and Mile High Pie)? Chef Besh said he is busy resurrecting the historic restaurant in the Pontchartrain Hotel this summer, on the heels of opening Pigeon and Prince, an events venue, in the former four-story Le Foret, just a short walk from his flagship Restaurant August. Tip: Rumors of cooking classes are in the works, so stay tuned.


Amen, Acadiana

Lafayette

The Diocese of Lafayette, which serves nearly 300,000 Catholics in 121 parishes, has announced its new, and seventh, bishop. Appointed by Pope Francis, the 64-year-old Most Reverend J. Douglas Deshotel is being consecrated with the Mass of Reception and Installation on April 27. A native of Basile, he was formerly the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, his home since 1972.


 

 

 

 

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