CROWN POINT — For 20 years, neighbors gathered for a weekly Fais Do-Do, a Cajun dance party replete with a smorgasbord of local cuisine, at the Bayou Barn, a dance hall, restaurant, alligator sanctuary and hub for Cajun culture that’s a stone’s throw from Jean Lafitte National Park.
Then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina badly damaged the barn, and for eight years the event ceased.
That changed Sunday when more than 100 people ate, danced, drank and admired the occasional alligator at the barn’s first Fais Do-Do since the storm.
“It feels great, especially because there are so many people here from the community,” said owner Tammy Friloux, who has run the facility for the last 20 years.
Friloux said that prior to 1984 the barn was used for a garden center.
Her parents decided during that year to move the business, barn and all, to Crown Point. After putting it on a trailer, they drove it a half-dozen miles from Lafitte to a site on Bayou des Familles, where it sits today.
There, by happenstance, it took on a new life.
“We had a big party and a big dance one Sunday just like we used to in our own backyard with roasted pigs and boiled shrimp,” Nancy Friloux, Tammy Friloux’s mother, said. “Next thing we knew cars were wrapped around the house.”
Soon, the barn took on a hybrid existence: It was a stomping ground for locals who would converge for the Sunday parties and an attraction for tourists looking to steep themselves in Louisiana bayou culture.
Today, for a few bucks, visitors can rent a pirogue and drift down the bayou, which is chock-full of alligators, some as long as 11-feet. Tammy Friloux said they often walk right up onto the bank where a man she calls “Dundee” occasionally wrestles the smaller ones.
Adventurous couples hold their weddings and receptions there, and Tammy Friloux said she also books private parties in the large open-air barn, which is decorated with antique signs and other lagniappe harvested from estate sales.
Yet the soul of the facility lies in the weekly Fais Do-Do. Friloux said that the word is a French term and roughly translated means “go to sleep.”
“It means parents put your kids to sleep so you can come out and dance and get something good to eat,” she said.
On Sunday, visitors boogied to the washboards and accordions of a local Cajun band and scarfed down gumbo, jambalaya, potato salad and other grub from chef Rose Boudreaux, who has been cooking at the Bayou Barn for 20 years.
Families sat on benches near the bayou, watching as turtles swam and the occasional alligator rose above the surface before diving back into the depths below.
Lafitte Mayor Timothy Kerner chatted with friends.
“I’m from Lafitte, but I feel like I’m on vacation when I’m here,” he said.
While listening to the music, the Rev. John Ryan, a local priest, jokingly lectured a reporter on the origin of the term Barataria: It’s a fictional island awarded to Don Quixote’s wingman, Sancho Panza.
The slogan of the Bayou Barn, according to Friloux, is “Dance your Gumbo Off,” and many attendees did just that.
Others took sanctuary in the light breeze that blew across the bayou as the afternoon wore on.
“I could spend hours here: Pour a drink, sit out in a chair and listen to some Cajun music,” said Christopher Lesley, a friend of Friloux’s who also helps with security and staffing at the barn.
“This is my idea of heaven,” he said.