What’s a Festival without Shrimp and Oil

Gravel pebbles under my soft-soled shoes are a quick indication that I’m ill-equipped for today’s walking tour at the 80th Annual Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. But, I can’t help but be excited to see, taste and hear this year’s selection of music and food. I’ve been visiting this fest for about 10 years. It’s the right amount of stir crazy for this quaint city on the mighty Atchafalaya River. It’s nestled in a historic, residential neighborhood of mixed architectural homes and manicured lawns in Morgan City. One could easily step outdoors right into the heart of one of the biggest and busiest parties St. Mary Parish has ever seen. It’s a major tourist draw but the hometown folk enjoy it just as much.

I started my rounds at the jam-packed arts and crafts Vendors Row; brimming with pedestrian traffic just as that of the vehicle traffic bustling above on the iconic US 90 Bridge. The five-block neighborhood festival is alive with thousands of tourists and residents sprawling like ants from a dirt colony into what is often considered a relatively quiet community.

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Still image credit: KWBJ TV 22

Swamp Pop tunes wafted into the air mixing with the addictive food smells from some of south Louisiana carnival foodie favorites; funnel cakes, gator bites, shrimp and crawfish platters and cotton candy. The combination signified that the state’s oldest chartered festival was in full swing. So many choices that my eyes and stomach were in constant disagreement making it difficult to settle on just one meal. My palate finally met its mate; a sausage link sandwich smothered in grilled onions and red peppers washed down with freshly- squeezed lemonade. The festival boasts itself as a family environment, but after-dark festivities in the park are better suited for adults.

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Photo credit: Schola Photography

Parents would be best to shuttle their kiddos away to the bridge area for amusement rides and games. By the time the sun was set, alcoholic beverage consumption was rampant including my favorite, the Hurricane. The “spirits” booth is sponsored by a philanthropy-driven organization of teachers, principals and other business persons, but their specialty drink is anything but mild-mannered and professional. The Hurricane packed a punch greater than a Category 5 storm. Trust me, it only takes one. Employing a taxi or designated driver to transport you to your next destination would be your best bet to make it home safely.

The Labor Day holiday weekend’s steam bath of blistering temperatures were a better backdrop to the festival’s milestone year compared to 2014’s incessant rainshowers. Although the sun beat my face and sweat dripped to creases and folds I didn’t know existed, I still managed to fully partake in the festivities. I weaved through the cluster of attendees and made my way to the blacktopped, wooden dance floor. During the hottest part of the day, festival goers thought it better to dance in their lawn chairs under the shade of the park’s magnificent oak trees than to venture into the intense heat. But, by night, the floor was hidden under the feet of Cajun two-steppers and dance-how-you-want enthusiasts.

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Still image credit: KWBJ TV 22

A favorite around these parts, Wayne Toups drew crowds that extended into almost all ends of the park. Toups’ salt-and-pepper beard, flat-brimmed hat, alligator-tooth necklace and rapid accordion playing made him a likely character from a TV  series set in the Louisiana swamps. His lighthearted Cajun tunes were well-received, and I more of a blues lover, was treated to a Toups’ remake of James Brown, “It’s a Man’s World.” His rendition, along with his smiling bearded face and the crowd’s reception, gave me a reason to tolerate my bath in South Louisiana’s unforgiving humidity and stay a little bit longer.

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Still image credit: KWBJ TV 22

From one artist to another…

Toups and his band were accompanied on stage by famed artist, Tony Bernard. Bernard arranged his own funky piece…on canvas, that is; presumably sold to the highest bidder. It was a crowned pelican. It seemed almost befitting to see Toups and Toulouse (my name for the pelican) side by side on the the same stage — like two kings on their respective thrones; Toups, a music monarch of Grammy-award winning proportions alongside the state’s majestic bird. And, when the last song was played, my soft-soled shoes had become a second layer of epidermis on my feet. But, it was well worth the five-block walk.

What’s a festival without oil and shrimp? Well, #ibedamned

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Who You Callin' a Bitch?

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VH1’s Love & Hip Hop

When boredom strikes, I turn on the tube. Not much of a reality TV fanatic, but my eye is drawn to a show that’s speaking my language, Sisterhood of Hip Hop. I initially think the show is about strong bitches…oops, I mean women making an impact in the rap industry. For about 20 minutes, I’m correct in my assumption. The cast members are five women from different hip hop meccas across the US; from New York to Atlanta, Georgia.  I’m drawn in even more when I learn that each woman comes with her own unique style; from hardcore street vibes to sultry Jamaican patois. I was about as eager to watch this show as I was when VH1 premiered Miss Rap Supreme in 2008. Unfortunately, it managed to fall flat and was not renewed to return a second season. Foreshadowing, I presume. Legend femcee Queen Latifah made an appearance on Sisterhood and the women were tasked with remaking Queen’s U.N.I.T.Y. The song is about selfempowerment and women uniting to defend one’s self against degradation and violence. In the lyrics, she lashes out, “who you callin’ a bitch?” as if to respond to a harassing male on the street. I remember hearing this song as a young female adolescent hanging out with my girlfriends, chilling on the block and feeling like giants among men because we had a song about us and for us; a ladies anthem, if you will. During the few minutes I chose to bestow my full attention to this episode, I was relieved to see a series where women were working together with a purpose of promoting their careers, honing their passions and where women were not objectified as lustful, sexual beings. I figured I had embarked upon a DVR-worthy treasure.

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Lupe Fiasco “Bitch Bad.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3m3t_PxiUI

The original song, U.N.I.T.Y from 1994 was slightly altered and the original hook was slowed to play host to a more 21st Century sound. Each rapper stepped to the mic and what I heard was contradictory at best. While it was wrong for a man to call a woman a bitch, it was ok for “a bitch” and her “bitches” to “ride together” and have each other’s back. With every bitch-laden verse, I was agitated. I couldn’t see the unity for the bitch trees. This seemed to be almost the opposite of Queen’s U.N.I.T.Y‘s meaning. Why not use words like, sistas, ladies, women, queens or my girls? How can you differentiate between a good bitch from a bad bitch (bad meaning bad)? In which friendly voice should one use in order to call another person a bitch? 9188466002_e01ae69764_mApparently, they’re not the only groups or persons to use the word, but it’s more disheartening to hear a female acknowledge herself as a bitch and think it’s a display of strength. So, I’m inclined to question myself: Am I a bit too traditional? Is Bitch a term of endearment? Can we be reformed? Or, am I merely too bitchy about bitches just being bitches? I would love to hear your response.

#ibedamned

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