Here’s a look at some of the festivals slated for this fall. Get ready to sample Louisiana’s world-famous cuisine while tapping your feet to our signature music.
The northern part of our state, known as Sportsman’s Paradise, is famous for its rolling red-clay hills, pine forests and hardwood bottoms. In Webster Parish, the town of Springhill holds a Lumberjack Festival (318-539-5699, www.springhillla.com) annually to pay homage to its historic timber industry. This year’s fair will be held Oct. 10-11 at the Springhill Civic Center and will include a parade, an antique tractor and engine show, domino and horseshoe competitions and 12 timber sports events featuring lumberjacks from all over the country.
Springhill, which is adjacent to the Arkansas state line, was founded in 1896 as home to the Piney Wood Lumber Co. The festival is a great opportunity for people to see lumberjacks wield chain saws and axes. Red beans and rice, grilled hamburgers and barbecue will be available, as well as handmade wooden toys.
Music and artwork take center stage at Shreveport’s Red River Revel, which runs from Oct. 4-11 (318-424-4000, www.redriverrevel.com). Since 1976, the festival has spotlighted the finest in Louisiana’s music, including rock, country, jazz, funk, zydeco, rhythm ’n’ blues and others. More than 130 visual artists will participate this year. Food on tap includes muffuletta pizza, turkey legs, Italian ices and funnel cakes. There will be a full schedule of children’s events, including a mock geological dig for budding archaeologists.
The center region of the state, known as Cenla or Crossroads, is home to the historic town of Natchitoches. The town spotlights its beautiful houses during its annual Fall Home Tour (800-259-1714), set for Oct. 10-12. You can choose from three separate itineraries or buy combination tickets. A candlelight tour includes the house where the movie Steel Magnolias was filmed. The town tour includes four houses in the historic district, each decorated with antiques and private collections. The Cane River Country tour includes Melrose, Oakland and Cherokee plantations. The home tour is a great opportunity to peek inside some of Natchitoches’ most historically significant residences.
Also in the Crossroads region is the small town of Elizabeth, which was established in 1907 and is known as the Front Porch Community. Elizabeth celebrates Christmas in the Country (318-634-5648) the first Saturday in December. Events include a dance, cooking demonstrations, a trail ride and a Christmas parade. The festival is a chance to see how Christmas is celebrated in one of Louisiana’s charming rural communities.
Eighteen years ago, Oak Alley Plantation, located in between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, began as a spring festival to raise money for upkeep of the historic home and its grounds. Three years ago, the plantation added a fall festival (225-265-2151, www.oakalleyplantation.com). The event has grown to include a juried art show with more than 160 artists and vendors, featuring handmade clothing, pottery, jewelry, wooden items, paintings, sketches and other handwork.
Because fall is football season, there will be plenty of Tigers and Saints items available, as well as Christmas gifts. Thirteen food booths will sell such Louisiana specialties as shrimp Creole and étouffée, jambalaya, gumbo and bread pudding. Pony rides, bungee jumping and a petting zoo are some of the many children’s events on tap. A $5 festival admission fee is applicable toward a tour of the plantation for those who are interested.
For those with a literary bent, Baton Rouge will hold its eighth annual Louisiana Book Festival (225-342-9713, www.louisianabookfestival.org) on Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Louisiana State Capitol, the State Library and the Louisiana State Museum. Authors in the fields of fiction, cultural studies, nature, food, poetry, sports, children’s literature, mystery, science fiction, nonfiction, history and biography will participate in panel discussions, book signings and readings.
All invited writers are either Louisiana residents or have written works connected with Louisiana. A Young Reader’s Pavilion will feature crafts and costumed storybook characters. The festival culminates in a free concert by the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra in front of the State Capitol.
Take a step back in time –– a big step –– at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival (985-429-9992, www.larf.org), held every weekend Nov. 1 through Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on River Road in Hammond. Hammond, home of Southeastern Louisiana University, is just a short drive from New Orleans.
The Ren Fest re-creates an English village and festival marketplace, including jugglers, jousters, birds of prey, swordsmen, blacksmiths, glassblowers and royalty. The festival has been named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 events in the U.S. for the month of November for two years in a row. Every aspect of the fest is authentic, including the food, which includes gigantic turkey legs and steak on a stake. Kids will especially enjoy the falconry shows and magicians; items for sale include armor, weapons and jewelry.
New Orleans, home to so many attractions, plays host to Swamp Fest on Nov. 1 and 2 at the Audubon Zoo (504-581-4629, www.auduboninstitute.org. The zoo’s swamp exhibit gives visitors a chance to see an authentic Cajun swamp, and festival-goers can see scheduled alligator feedings. Along with the zoo’s regular food, such Cajun specialties as fried alligator, boudin and crawfish will be available. The highlight of the festival is its great zydeco lineup; this year’s performers include Terrance Simien and BeauSoleil. Festival attendees can enjoy all of the zoo’s exhibits, including its famous antique carousel, train ride and playground.
Thousands of tourists visit Cajun Country annually to sample its flavorful food, and the Louisiana Yambilee Festival (337-948-8848, www.yambilee.com) pays homage to one of the most delicious: the Louisiana sweet potato. The festival takes place in Opelousas, the third-oldest city in Louisiana. This year’s dates are Oct. 23-26.
Over the years, the festival has grown so much it’s been moved to the Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino. Because Opelousas is known as the Zydeco Capital of the World, zydeco music is one of the festival’s hallmarks. While you’re there, take time to tour the area around Opelousas’ Court House Square, which is designated a National Historic District. Some of the homes in the district were built before the Civil War.
New Iberia, known as Queen City of the Bayou Teche, is another historic Louisiana town. Sites to see in this Cajun Country landmark include Shadows-on-the-Teche, a magnificent plantation home built between 1831 and 1834. The town hosts its World Championship Gumbo Cookoff (888-942-3742) on Oct. 10-12 at Bouligny Plaza. Amateur and professional cooks prepare gumbos of all varieties, including chicken and sausage, duck, alligator and even rabbit.
You can learn more about these activities, and lots of others, at the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s Web site, www.LouisianaTravel.com.