Traveler: Celebrations and Steamboats

A Steamboat named New Orleans and an American Queen

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Finest Finale: On Aug. 4 in New Orleans, Statehood Bicentennial events will conclude with a parade mirroring, at least in spirit, the Centennial Parade of 1912, a military procession that headed up St. Charles Avenue from Gallier Hall to Lee Circle and then doubled back via Howard Avenue and Camp Street to end at the Cabildo. This year’s route will be from the French Market to Gallier Hall, thence via Lee Circle and Howard to Camp, but it will disband at the World War II Museum, where a reception and presentation of Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s Bicentennial documentary will follow at 7 p.m.

Naval officers from ships in port were invited to the reviewing stand in 1912, and units like the proud old Washington Artillery, columns of cavalry, soldiers from Jackson Barracks and the cadet band from LSU took part in the parade. Similarly, this year’s parade will involve bands and marching units from every branch of service, invited from installations throughout Louisiana and the region. Appropriately themed floats on loan from Carnival krewes will also take part, many of them from this year’s Bacchus parade, whose entire procession was a salute to the Bicentennial.  Wear linen, because Aug. 4 also happens to be White Linen Night in the nearby Arts District, and the galleries of Julia Street and the vicinity will be pleased to see you after the parade.

Sticky Issues: Has any other state ever been honored by two postage stamps in the span of a week? First Day ceremonies for a commemorative marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War battle for New Orleans were held at the World War II Museum on April 24, followed by our State Bicentennial stamp at the special joint session of the Legislature on April 30. We could have had an 1812 New Orleans steamboat stamp, too, but that noble craft had been so honored in 1989.

     

War of 1812: The nation’s three-year celebration commemorating the War of 1812 started and will end in Louisiana. It began in New Orleans with the first stop of the official 1812 Bicentennial flotilla in April – antique vessels and modern warships (joined in mid-week by the American Queen) – and on Jan. 8, 2015, will end as the war did, on the Fields of Chalmette.

Meanwhile, the usual Jan. 8 reenactments of the Battle of New Orleans will occur in 2013 and ’14 where our towering national monument marks the battleground, and you’re probably overdue to see the park’s vastly enlarged interpretive center and new cutting-edge exhibitry.

The State Museum is also marking the commemoration with its displays of battle-related art and artifacts at the Cabildo. Rather than “dug” relics from the battlefield, this exhibit consists of pristine items carried or worn home from the fray, then preserved in museums or private homes for two centuries.

Tarzan Turns 100: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first-ever Tarzan book appeared in print 100 years ago, of local significance since filmmakers arrived in St. Mary Parish five years later to create the first-ever Tarzan movie, Tarzan of the Apes, in the jungle-esque swamplands around Lake Palourde and the Atchafalaya. The 1918 silent film starred Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan, Enid Markey as Jane, young black men of the parish as African natives and young white men suited up as apes. (Don’t scoff; it was a title role!)

When Morgan City’s erstwhile Swamp Gardens opened in 1975, the oldest living Tarzan actor, Buster Crabbe, was on hand to dedicate the little urban swamp’s Tarzan scene (a loin-clothed mannequin beside a palmetto hut), and the author’s grandson delivered a perfect rendition of the famous Tarzan yell.

After that first Tarzan title there followed 25 other books and untold scores of movies and remakes, and, at its Tarzan Fest in April, Morgan City celebrated itself as birthplace of that film legacy. There were Tarzan and Jane look-alike contests plus premiers of a newly edited version of that first movie and a full-length documentary about its creation, called Tarzan: Lord of the Louisiana Jungle, by producer/director Al Bohl of Shreveport and daughter/filmmaker Allison Bohl of Lafayette. Tarzanlordlajungle.com offers both DVDs, and you’ll find a fun exhibit of Tarzan books, toys, comics and products at the State Museum’s Patterson branch through March 2013.

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