Units
February
20, 2009

By Roger Emile Stouff

Well, I’m pleased to report that there is one constant in an ever-changing universe.

Yep. We had that second tourism public input sessions Tuesday and, once again, you didn’t show up. In fact, fewer of us showed up than for the first one. Don’t say you didn’t know! I told you when it was going to be a month ago. That’s why they make calendars, Blackberries and pieces of string to tie on your finger.

No matter. I expected as much.

I am amused by the fact that most of you are probably sitting there reading this, nodding smugly and saying, "You tell ‘em, Stouff! Get on their case for not showing up and speaking their minds!" Ah, me.

Regardless, Rep. Sam Jones, Mayor Raymond Harris and Cajun Coast Director Carrie Stansbury were there, along with parish development director Frank Fink and city development director Billie Delasbour. And the rest of us.

So when the consultant comes next month – that would be March 17, 2 p.m., at City Hall, not that it matters – we’ll have some data for him on what this end of the parish has to offer.

And when you hear or read what it is we’re presenting, don’t utter a word. You had your chance to provide your own input.

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A few thoughts, though, that came to mind after the meeting and from some conversations:

What’s wrong with flowers?

No, really, flowers. A few flowers go a long way, ya folla? A lotta flowers go a long, long, long way.

Northwest Boulevard could have flowers, and lots of ‘em. So could the Peace Memorial, and yes, I know we’re not allowed to put ‘em on the lamppost boulevard, so you don’t have to remind me.

Some trees on Northwest Boulevard, maybe some cypress like Baldwin did on their boulevard on La. 83, along with some flowers. The sides of the overpass embankment could be planted with flowers, a.k.a., Ladybird Johnson’s Texas Bluebonnets initiative.

Parc sur la Teche needs flowers. And the courthouse square desperately needs flowers. Jeesh, that building needs flowers worse than any I ever saw.

And I’m not talking about your basic pansies and such. Make ‘em nice, make ‘em unusual. Maybe make them Louisiana-native?

You laugh. A community that takes pride in itself draws interest. He who laughs last, laughs loudest.

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Do you know, the newsroom had to virtually hire private investigators to find out any information on this year’s Mardi Gras parade in Franklin?

There was a complete lack of enthusiasm on the part of organizers in providing parade float registration info, schedules and such for the annual event. Were it not for efforts on the part of the Banner, you might well have not even known a parade was happening, or how to participate.

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In Pigeon Forge, when Suzie and I were there in November, there was one channel on the cable network that played local tourism programming all day long.

You could learn how to fly fish for rainbow trout; you could learn about Cade’s Cove in Smokey Mountain National Park; you could see scenes from Dollywood; you could see just about anything that would interest anybody in and around Pigeon Forge, and you saw some advertisements in between.

You could even see some flowers.

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You know, coming back from Pigeon Forge when we crossed the border into Louisiana from I-59 we stopped at a huge state visitor’s center. Inside, there was a humongous collection of pamphlets and brochures from communities all over the state. There was but one brochure from St. Mary Parish: Fairfax House Historic Inn.

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Fairfax House, by the way, is one of the featured inns on the Louisiana Bed and Breakfast Association’s website this month. Kudos.

See? Someone’s taking notice!

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Here’s someone else’s idea I thought was great.

What if you had a DVD made of local scenes? Just photographs, supplied by our local photographers who carry considerable talent. It could be set to play repeatedly on a television at the local motels, tourism office, restaurants, you name it. A showcase of the best of our best. And next to the TV would be a little map showing how to find some or all of the places on the tube.

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Is anybody selling stuffed animals? Black bears, with little red kerchiefs that read "Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, Franklin, Louisiana, Home of the Louisiana Black Bear."

Well, why not? Cute little stuffed animals are always a hit.

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Someone pointed out at our little tourism meeting that it’s a shame we don’t have just one good, publicly accessible ghost. Ghosts really draw tourists. Look at Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville. We gotta have a ghost somewhere at least as good as theirs!

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When we were in the Smokeys, we saw lots of authentic Appalachian homes, and got a kick out of strolling through them.

How about somebody put aside a little land, rescue a few old Cajun houses in danger of demolition or such, and put ‘em on there? A little fix-up, throw in some props and a couple mannequins with a volunteer tour guide or two. Add a few "slice of life" scenes outside: A pirogue full of crawfish; a boucherie; making cracklins, doing a two-step, whatever.

Places like Acadian Village and Vermilionville have done pretty dang good on just that simple idea. We can throw in some African-American and Native American scenes to show what a rounded, diverse culture we have in western St. Mary Parish.

Oh, by the way: It don’t have to all happen today. Overnight. These things take time. They take eternity, if you never start.

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Around all this: Gift shops. Boat tours. Thematic weddings and honeymoons. Music events. Art displays, historic and contemporary. The possibilities abound.

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We interrupt this program to say a few words about "units."

No single thing is going to take off like a rocket. Granted, were we the community possessing the ruins of the Alamo, or the Gettysburg battle field, or at the footsteps of the Rocky Mountains or anything like that, we’d be living a life of leisure by now.

Units. A combination of things that will interest visitors.

A family of four, five, six. Mom, dad, kids of varying ages, grandparents. A couple traveling to their friends’ place. Whatever.

She likes cooking. He likes fishing.

He likes history. She likes art.

She likes bears. He likes a good wine.

Units. Something for everybody.

A good, thriving tourist industry is no more than the sum of its parts.

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Oh. By the way:

Allemon's Grocery

Odom Construction

Shine Bakery

Borne Washeteria

Pusateri Grocery

Lee Firmin Appliances

Phillips 66 Station

The Italian Society

Graffeo’s Grocery

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We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…