Around Louisiana: Cajun

Cause to Celebrate

Christmas at the Zoo

The Zoo of Acadiana is a free-range sort of place, filled with a sampler of God’s creations, including kookaburras, tigers, alligators and giraffes. Although the expression “this place is a zoo” has frequently applied to certain surroundings I have been in, to be honest, I have always felt perfectly sane, calm and well-ordered in the spreading boundaries of a zoo. And truthfully, I’ve looked into the eyes of some camels and seen more sense written there than in the eyes of a few humans I have known.

This zoo, located in Broussard, turned 20 this year and features the Zoo Live animal show, a sort of au naturel tableau where the resident animals show off their talents in the new Zootorium. The Antelope Express Train Ride is an old-time locomotive that chugs through the huge savanna, while gibbons, zebras, birds and a host of primates glide past your eyes. Kids may find the time waiting for Santa passes more quickly once they’ve been set loose upon the Jungle Lodge Playground, the largest of its kind in the Bayou State, brimming with slides, hiding places, bridges and crawl-holes.

If you visit the zoo in December, it’s a good idea to stay until after dark. When the zoo denizens are given supper and tucked away for the night, the Safari of Lights has full sway. The zoo is festooned with thousands of Christmas lights from one end to the other, and more than 30 life-size animated displays set aglow in the twinkling lights are there for viewing. With the music blaring, the Christmas-lit red Coca-Cola 18-wheeler acts as a kind of sidekick for Santa and his sleigh. Morning visitors can enjoy breakfast with Santa as they partake of Ricky Meche’s Donuts, fresh milk and juice and have a photo-op with the bearded one.  

Safari of Lights, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 2-30 (except Dec. 24-25), at The Zoo of Acadiana, 5601 U.S. 90 E., Broussard, (337) 837-4325

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Fiddler’s Soul

When a mocking French tour guide recently asked Ville Platte resident Terry Fuselier what the soul of a fiddle was, he was rather astounded when Fuselier replied, “It is the sound post.”

The sound post, it seems, that tiny wooden dowel that’s placed under the bridge where the strings rest, is the source of the violin’s sound.
And according to a report filed online in Eunice Today, Fuselier knows whence he speaks. He has been crafting fiddles and violins for the past 12 years. When asked the difference between a fiddle and violin, Fuselier cites the strings: Violin strings are made of catgut; fiddle strings are made of steel more suitable to country or Cajun music because, as Fuselier tells it: “You can beat on it. You can fight with it.”  

Fuselier has honed his knowledge of fiddle-making as precisely as he hones his actual creations. He learned fiddle-making from one T-Joe Fontenot of Evangeline Parish after years of sharing carpentry projects with his own father, Madias.

One type of wood that’s used in this very precise craft comes from spruce trees grown on a mountain’s south side to avoid exposure to wind that could eventually cause wood-grain irregularities that would harshly affect the pitch of the instrument. The sides can be of maple, and pine can be used for the top.

Fuselier bases his fiddle design on the same one used by Stradivarius. The creation of this beautiful instrument is exacting and not for the impatient. After heating the curved sides of the instrument at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the flexible pieces are then clamped onto molds for a night. Any parts attached with glue have to set for at least 24 hours. That step is followed by seven layers of varnish – each layer has to dry for 24 hours before the next layer is applied. Next comes the precise and careful placement of the sound post, so critical to the soul of the violin; as delicately as in some surgeries, it has to be perfectly placed through one of the two curved openings next to the strings on the face of the violin.

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