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For the first time, young professionals in non-educational fields can apply for The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL)scholarships online, along with students majoring or minoring in French and K-12 teachers. CODOFIL, which is still struggling with budget issues to support immersion programs that serve about 5,000 students at 29 schools in nine parishes, recently announced their new Cajun Pride license plates to help pay for the language program. The idea came as a fundraiser after Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed $100,000 from the CODOFIL budget. The new license plate reads “I’m Cajun … and Proud” and features an image of a crawfish crawling over an accordion with a fleur-de-lis in the background. A portion of the fee helps support efforts by CODOFIL to train teachers for French language immersion programs. “It’s a way to fund a beautiful thing,” says state Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge. He sponsored the legislation to create the new plates, which cost $15 per year in addition to the standard license plate fees that apply depending on vehicle type, with $11.50 of that dedicated to training teachers for French immersion programs, according to CODOFIL’s executive director, Joseph Dunn.

Breaux Bridge entrepreneur introduces Cajun salsas and Carnival throws

Michelle Vallot, a career lawyer-turned-entrepreneur who resides in Breaux Bridge, has rolled out new salsas representative of southwest Louisiana’s unique culture. Founder and CEO of Zydeco Foods and creator of the Original Sweet Potato Bar, she recently introduced all-natural, gluten-free Zydeco Sweet Potato Salsa (sweet and fiery), Zydeco Creole Trinity Salsa (a hot and spicy blend) and Zydeco Red Bean Salsa. “We took what was uniquely Louisiana and great tasting to re-create the concept of salsa, but without preservatives or chemicals. And no one was doing salsa in Louisiana!” she says. Zydeco Bars and Salsas can be found in all locations of Rouses and many independent retail grocers, in addition to some locations of Bloomingdale’s stores in Florida and New York. “The plan in 2014 is to expand to all their retail locations,” Vallot notes. “Texas HEB stores are slated for distribution in early 2014.” The Krewe of Boo purchased 7,000 Zydeco Fruit and Pecan Bars for Halloween throws in October last year, and Brian Kern (son of Krewe of Boo founder Blaine Kern) says that he is instituting a revolutionary twist that may, in time, change all of Carnival. Instead of imported plastic beads, Kern says he plans to throw nothing but Louisiana-made products each year, such as Vallot’s health bars, and will extend this new tradition to major Carnival krewes in New Orleans. “Our plan is to partner with the numerous NOLA Mardi Gras krewes for the 2014 parades,” Vallot said.

News from Around Acadiana

Carnival and crawfish time in Eunice

Carnival is being celebrated with elaborate balls and festivities from Lake Charles to Lafayette and Houma. For a more low-key and utterly Cajun experience, Eunice’s “Little Mardi Gras” features an old-fashioned boucherie (hog butchering) the Sunday before Fat Tuesday (March 2), complete with backbone stew, gratin and boudin tastings. The town’s traditional Courir de Mardi Gras (1,000 riders parading on horseback searching for gumbo fixings from house to house) is held on Tuesday, March 4. Thousands of visitors will visit Eunice from March 30 for the 30th annual World Championship Crawfish Etouffée Cook-off, featuring over 100 teams competing in addition to Cajun and Zydeco music, dancing, crafts, pony rides and a petting zoo. Confirmed headliners for the festivities include Grammy winner Courtboullion featuring Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy.

Les Mains Guidees en Lafayette

Vermilionville has a new monthly workshop series that teaches traditional crafts taught by master artisans, with topics ranging from woodworking to textiles and food ways. On March 11, the workshop is on natural dyes. You can learn how to dye eggs and fabric with red cabbage, beets, spinach and many other natural elements in time for the Easter holidays. Space is limited, so visit or call (337) 233-4077.

Hollywood partners with Acadiana education

University of Louisiana-Lafayette will receive above-the-title credits as “presenting sponsor” for a feature-length documentary film, In the Mind of the Maker, in a partnership with Hollywood. The movie, delivered in English and French, depicts the journey of an 85-year-old master boat builder in the Atchafalaya Basin and will be released in 2014. C.E. Richard, the film’s director, said, “Some viewers only know Cajun country from watching 'Swamp People.’ Our film delves into the cultural studies and Louisiana folklore, but it also concerns how human beings create images and how current technologies can mimic those brain functions.” The film’s computer-generated imagery elements, created in partnership with Pixel Magic (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Secretariat, The Help) is providing learning opportunities for some ULL students (with paid internships) who are working under Hollywood filmmaking professionals.

New Iberia developments underway

Reservations are now being accepted for land that will be ready for building in May 2014 at the new Teche Ridge, the first master-planned TND (traditional neighborhood development) in New Iberia; contact any realtor at Van Eaton & Romero Realty at (337) 365-9700. In other news, work is now underway for the first phase of $50 million in school improvement projects in Iberia Parish. The Iberia School Board has approved the sale of $6.3 million in bonds, enabling the district to move forward on three major construction priorities: a new auditorium for Jeanerette High School and new stadiums for Westgate High and New Iberia Senior High. Another $9.8 million in bonds are being sold in March 2014 and will fund the continuation of the projects and more construction work, according to Iberia Parish Schools Superintendent Dale Henderson.