Festival celebrates culture, awareness of imperiled wetlands
MORGAN CITY, La. — Lake End Park in Morgan City was home to a festival Saturday that looked like many other Louisiana festivals with lots of local music and food, yet it had a serious undertone.
The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program’s La Fête d’Ecologie celebrated the culture of the area while bringing attention to south Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands.
“We believe the culture and ecology are inseparable,” said Kerry St. Pé, executive director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
The purpose of the event, which is in its 16th year and second in Morgan City, is “to educate the public about the estuary program,” St. Pé said. The Barataria-Terrebonne region is “everything between the Atchafalaya River and the Mississippi River,” he said.
Swamp Pop, Rock and Roll, Cajun and Zydeco were just some genres of music on hand from the King Pa-Ka-Yea’ Band, Don Rich Band, Travis Matte and the Kingpins, and Corey Ledet and his Zydeco Band. Visitors also dined on local cuisine, including food from Spahr’s Seafood. Kids got to see Magician Glen Ghirardi of Morgan City perform, and got their faces painted.
Many exhibitors, including artists, craftspeople and non-profits from cities across the region, were on hand to add to the cultural aspect of the event and bring awareness to their causes.
Bayou Grace, a non-profit organization based in Chauvin, had a table promoting its “Why Do You Think We Should Save the Coast?” photo project. “Our focus is advocating for prevention of and educating people about coastal land loss,” said Rebecca Templeton, executive director.
Its photo project, which began two years ago at the 2010 festival in Thibodaux, encourages people to send in pictures answering the question it poses, Templeton said. The project received more than 700 responses, including a song someone wrote, she said.
Scott Fisher of Morgan City has volunteered with Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. He said saving Louisiana’s wetlands is important. “There’s a lot of industries that are on it (the wetlands),” Fisher said. “The BP oil spill messed a lot of it up.”
He has helped the organization by planting cypress trees in the wetlands to act as barriers to slow erosion of the land.
“If you have nothing to (stop a storm surge), you have what happened in Hurricane Isaac (in parts of south Louisiana),” Fisher said. “We have to build it back up so people (living) inland can stay safe.”
Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries department had representatives on hand for a bear and fish exhibit.
Matti Lynn Dantin, St. Mary Parish education coordinator for Wildlife and Fisheries, informed visitors about Louisiana’s black bears. “We have such a good population of bears (in the Barataria-Terrebonne area and Louisiana),” Dantin said. She wants people to know what they should do if approached by a bear though attacks are rare.
“There has never been one (reported) bear attack in Louisiana. Our bears are very docile,” Dantin said.
At the fish exhibit, biologist Jennifer Knighton of Wildlife and Fisheries gave kids the chance to examine a fish’s ear bone, called an otolith, under a microscope.
Festival goers also got to see a “Stone Age Technology Exhibit” showcasing Native American weapons.
Andrew Barron, non-point source coordinator for estuary program, demonstrated traditional Native American weapons. He showed how to use a blow gun, bow and arrow and an atlatl, which is a spear-like weapon with a dart hooked on to it that is thrown. “You can kill at the same distances (20 to 40 yards) you can with a modern compound bow,” Barron said of the atlatl.
Barron also demonstrated the making of projectile points or arrowheads using traditional Native American weapon-making techniques.