The Louisiana Family Homecoming Celebration festival attracted several hundred people to the State Capitol grounds Saturday to enjoy traditional Louisiana food, music and art in honor of the state’s 200th birthday weekend.
Louisiana became the 18th state to join the United States on April 30, 1812.
The festivities continue on Sunday with the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame’s “Bayou Bicentennial Birthday Bash,” from 1 p.m. until dusk in the Hollywood Casino’s parking lot at 1717 River Road North, which promises live music and free ice cream. Another celebration, the “Bicentennial Blues Concert,” will be held at the Old State Capitol on Sunday starting at 1 p.m.
Throughout the day Saturday, chefs from around the state demonstrated how to cook a variety of Louisiana fare, including jambalaya, pork rinds, deep-fried king cake and crawfish etoufee.
Susan Daigle, of Jennings, who operates “Gator Chateau,” a shelter for baby alligators who fishermen find to have been abandoned by their mothers, brought baby alligators for festival-goers to hold.
“It’s Louisiana’s 200th birthday and we’ve got to celebrate our own great state,” said Baton Rouge resident Kent Smith, as his seven-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter played with a baby alligator. “Plus, it’s good family fun.”
Dozens of artists were selling handmade crafts that highlighted the state’s heritage.
Artist Kellie Austin, of Baton Rouge, said she had sold much more than she had expected of her jewelry, made from recycled French Quarter coins and bottle caps.
“People always say Louisiana is a sportsman’s paradise but it’s truly an artist’s paradise,” Austin said. “We have so much here to draw from, you don’t have to go anywhere to find beautiful studies. Just look out your front door.”
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said the highlight of his time at the festival was joining Zydeco musician Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp Band on stage to play the frottoir, a zydeco washboard musical instrument.
“This is a wonderful slice of Louisiana and everything that makes Louisiana great: food, music, festivals and family,” Dardenne said.
On Monday, the state’s actual birthday, a tree-planting ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. in A.Z. Young Park at the corner of Third and Lafayette Streets.
In the afternoon, the Bicentennial Commission will unveil the state’s new “Gumbo Forever” postal stamp at the State Capitol.
The stamp, which will go on sale Monday at post offices, features a sunset photograph of Flat Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin showing cypress trees hung with Spanish moss.
Starting Monday, an exhibit depicting Louisiana’s path to statehood will be up all week in the State Capitol.
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