State Museum comes alive at annual fundraiser

Spotlight on Louisiana music at this year’s event

Who needs Ben Stiller when you have Chubby Carrier?

Well, to be honest, Stiller has never attended the party, but his night watchman character in the 2006 film, Night at the Museum, served as inspiration for “Night at the Louisiana State Museum” in 2011.

That was the first year the Friends of the Louisiana State Museum staged what has become its annual fundraiser.

Imagine walking into a museum at night, as goes the film’s story, and watching the exhibits come to life. Now add Chubby Carrier’s music to that scenario.

The Grammy Award-winning zydeco musician is going to be the main attraction this year for the event, which is set for 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, June 8.

“This is the year of Louisiana music,” Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said. “We’re excited to have Chubby Carrier performing. He’s a great musician.”

The Louisiana State Museum system is under the auspices of Dardenne’s office. He’s attended the fundraiser in the last two years.

“And I think it’s finally reached the point where it’s a go-to event for Baton Rouge,” Dardenne said. “It has developed its own identity as a fun evening at a Baton Rouge landmark that has been overlooked in the past. But with the branding of the Capitol Park Museum, it’s developed its own identity.”

So, Dardenne, without doubt, will be attending the event this year, walking through the museum as history comes alive around him. Rose McConnell Long will tell about her time as Louisiana’s first lady, and Homer Plessy will tell visitors about his involvement in the unfortunate landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case that legalized state-mandated segregation.

Now, let your imagination soar. Pretend that you are in the middle of your own movie, where these characters have come to life within the realm of the museum.

Still, it’s just as fun looking at the reality of it all, knowing that local actor Lynda Normand is playing Rose McConnell Long and another local actor, Oneal Isaac, has stepped into the role of Homer Plessy.

Also on the performance roster will be Smiley Anders as a Lucky Dog vendor, Robert Gray Freeland as Bernardo Galvez, Ken Dixon talking about being a descendant of Choctaw Chief Pushmataha and Earl Hebert telling stories about his days as captain of the Coca J.

The Coca J, by the way, is a shrimp boat on display in museum’s permanent exhibit.

Costumed workers from the Louisiana State Park system also will be playing characters, and the Baton Rouge-based Michael Foster Project will open for Chubby Carrier.

“Chubby Carrier will start playing at 7 o’clock,” William Stark said. “He’ll be joined by his Bayou Swamp Band. They’ll play a full concert outside.”

And all the while, artist Alvin Batiste will be working on an original painting inside, which will be auctioned off later in the night.

Back to Stark, he’s the museum division director, which includes heading the Capitol Park Museum.

“Since this is the Year of Louisiana music, we’ve decided to scale back on some of our performers on the inside of the museum so we can put the spotlight on music outside,” Stark said. “But we’ll still have plenty of things happening inside the museum.”

This means visitors, as in previous years, will be given a tally card upon entering the museum. Each time they visit a performer or visit other areas of the museum, their cards will receive a check. However, that process is a little different this year.

“The Louisiana Lottery is one of our sponsors this year, so the cards will be scratch off cards,” Stark said. “Each time you visit a designated location, your card will be stratched off.”

And in the end?

“Your card will be entered for a $100 drawing to Flemings Prime Steakhouse,” Lana Venable said.

Venable is the event’s co-chair, as well as vice president of the Friends group.

“We’re trying to grow the event each year,” Venable said. “We’re trying to get more people into the museum.”

And all they have to do to get into the museum on this night is buy a ticket.

Just think, for $40, you’ll get to relive history, listen to a concert by a Grammy Award-winning musician, bid in a silent auction and partake of refreshments prepared by Heirloom Cuisine.

And you’ll get to stand in Ben Stiller’s shoes for a couple of hours, experiencing history as it comes to life.

But this is better, because it’s Louisiana history.

And it’s yours.