Tag Archives: Northwestern State University

2018 Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival

2018 Natchitoches – NSU Folk Festival

I’ll be back at the Natchitoches NSU (Northwestern State University) Folk Festival on July 21, 2018. As I’ve told my readers before this is my absolute favorite appearance I make as an author. Not only is it in my hometown of Natchitoches, La., but it is held at my alma mater and Dr. Shane Rasmussen and his crew at the Folk Center do a tremendous job of putting together a great festival (click here for information on what types of crafts will be covered) with phenomenal Louisiana food from Natchitoches Meat Pies to a big bowl of cooked greens served with cornbread or hush puppies, or even the “Indian Fry Bread” which I believe is prepared by the Alabama Coushatta Tribe. I recommend stopping by one of the booths which sell handcrafted Jellies and buying a jar so you can smear some of that on top of the fry bread.

I have been invited and will be doing a presentation from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. on Family & Folk History: The Best Sources for Stories, in one of the meeting rooms. Of course, there will be bands playing on different stages all day long as well as participants in the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship.

Interestingly, I got my start doing historical research at the Cammie G. Henry Collection in what was then called the Louisiana Room at the Eugene P. Watson Library on the NSU campus. That collection will have a booth at the festival hosted by Dr. Mary Linn Wernet and her staff from the library and she always has interesting things to talk about and photos of Natchitoches that even I’ve never seen before.

I’ll have copies of all of my books available for signing and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Folk Festival and the Folk Center to help keep Louisiana culture and history alive. I should have my first children / middle-grade book available and launched at the festival. The title of this one? “The Magic Toilet”. Yes, it’s not like my normal books but it is a title and topic I’ve had on my mind since my now 25-year-old twins were just little kids.

Seriously, this festival is the best value of anywhere you can possibly go to since the price of your ticket covers all of the music and crafters and, in addition, it is being held inside the Prather Coliseum which is air conditioned!!!  What more could you ask for during what I am sure is going to be an extra hot July?

Be sure and bring a few extra dollars for food and crafts and stop by my booth and say hello!

Northwestern State University to Host the 7th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 11-12

LA Studies Conference Poster-2015NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University will host the Sixth Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 11-12 in the Creative and Performing Arts Complex. The conference opens at 2:30 PM on September 11, and presentations start at 3:15 PM Scholars from throughout Louisiana and eight other states and the United Kingdom will make presentations on aspects of  Louisiana art, history, culture, and literature. Admission to the conference is free and open to the public.

This year’s conference theme is Louisiana Cultural Crossroads. Throughout the two days numerous scholars and creative writers will make presentations. Some of the many topics to be discussed include Louisiana literature, film, and TV, Solomon Northrup, discrimination, vernacular medicine, Choctaw-Apache foodways, voodoo and hoodoo, the blues, the African American experience along the Cane River, archival research and practice, the New Orleans Photo Alliance, oral history collection, the Civil Rights movement, the New Orleans Athletic Club, Buddhism in Louisiana, Creole interior design, colonial Louisiana architecture, the restoration of the African House at Melrose Plantation, mounds in Louisiana, post-Katrina regional competitiveness in New Orleans, traditional occupations, Louisiana wetlands, heritage education, cemeteries, cowboy and cowgirl culture, and language teaching, acquisition, and change. Also included will be panels on the Neutral Strip and professional wrestling in Louisiana. Several creative writers will also address the conference theme, including poets Nina Adel, John P. Doucet, and David Middleton. Also featured will be a dance performance by the Tekrema Center of Art and Culture, and an interactive hambone demonstration and performance with Ed Huey.

The Friday evening keynote, “The Crossroads of a Genre: Exploring the Innovation of Hurricane  Katrina Literature and Popular Culture,” will be given by Dr. Lisa Kirby, director of the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies and Professor of English at Collin College in Spring Creek, Texas, at 6 PM in the Magale Recital Hall.

The Saturday morning keynote, “The Louisiana World Tour: A Photographic & Philosophical Road Trip through the State of My World,” will be given by performance artist and photographer Natasha Sanchez, at 10:30 AM Magale Recital Hall. An exhibit of Sanchez’s photographs will be open for conference participants.

Ms. Sanchez’s address will be followed by the presentation of the winning essays from the 7th Annual NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest. For this year’s Contest theme, “Louisiana Time Machine!” students addressed the prompt “If you could meet and talk with any Louisianan from the past, present, or future for one hour, who would you choose and why?” The winning essays will be presented at the conference and will also be published in the Louisiana Folklife Journal, the Louisiana Folklife Center’s scholarly journal. This year’s Contest winners are Brant Guerin from Redemptorist High School in Greenwell Springs, for his first place essay, “‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich,” Chelsea Franklin from Crowley High School in Crowley, with her second place essay “The Mysteries of Huey Long,” and Andrea Bradley of Westminster Christian Academy in Ville Platte, for her third place essay “A Talk with the Madam.”

“The essays by this year’s contest winners are magnificent,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Louisiana Folklife Center at NSU and co-chair of both the conference and the essay contest. “These young writers have managed to capture in words just what makes the historical figures they imagine meeting both interesting and significant.”

“Louisiana is one of those places with great diversity,” said conference participant Dr. Hiram “Pete” Gregory, Professor of Anthropology at NSU. “They come down the rivers, they come along the roads, and they all get together here.”

“This year’s conference theme will highlight some of the many ways that folks in Louisiana have influenced each other at a variety of cultural crossroads,” said Rasmussen. “The significance of these influences upon Louisiana culture cannot be overestimated. Louisianans are stronger and better because of our diversity. I am excited to hear and see what this year’s conference participants will tell us. The conference is free and open to the public, and we want to invite anyone who is interested in how Louisiana has become the state that it is to join us and to take part in these conversations.

A complete conference schedule can be found on the Louisiana Folklife Center’s website at https://louisianafolklife.nsula.edu/. For more information call the Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332.

The Conference is co-sponsored by the NSU Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies, the Friends of the Hanchey Gallery, the Louisiana Folklife Center, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the NSU College of Arts and Sciences, the NSU Department of Fine + Graphic Arts, the NSU Writing Project, the NSU Office of the President, and the NSU Office of the Provost.

 

2015 Natchitoches-NSU Louisiana Folklife Festival

2015-Folk Life Festival

Summer is here and everyone is looking for something fun to do. I'd like to suggest that you consider visiting the 2015 Natchitoches-NSU Louisiana Folklife Festival held in beautiful and historic Natchitoches, Louisiana at the Prather Coliseum on the campus of Northwestern State University. Most of the exhibits (including my booth) are inside the air conditioned coliseum so you can escape the heat and see some great craftsmen, hear good music and try Louisiana foods.

The Folklife Festival is set for July 17th-18th, 2015, and the theme this year is Backroads and Bayous: Celebrating Louisiana's Rural Folklife.

The link to the festival website with the schedule and bands is here.

My wife and I used to visit this every year from when we were first married continuing through when we moved away and then we were lucky enough to be invited to start attending as exhibitors when I started publishing books a number of years ago. The festival is put on by the folks at the Northwestern State University Folklife Center and they do a great job every year. The cost is low and it is well worth the expense plus, if you've never been to Natchitoches, it's a great time to visit my hometown.

Natchitoches is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, founded in 1714, just a short distance from the location of the festival.

If you do decide to attend be sure and stop by my booth and visit with me. I'll have books there for sale but I like to visit with everyone whether they purchase or not and my family has lived in the Natchitoches are since its founding. I've actually been learning about its history since I was a very, very small child through the stories my relatives told in addition to the enormous number of hours I've spent doing formal research so I can probably point you to some interesting places that most people don't know about as well as the more touristy ones. My kids can tell you that no matter where you are in Natchitoches Parish I can probably point in a direction and tell you something fun or historic not far away (much to their boredom at times).

Anyway, it really is a great festival and Dr. Shane Rasmussen and his staff are working hard to preserve the Louisiana culture and heritage, focusing on not just the bayous and swamps of the southern part of the state or New Orleans. 

The Louisiana Studies Conference at NSU – Natchitoches

For the third year I was invited to, and did, speak at the Louisiana Studies Conference at my undergraduate alma mater Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La.

Before I discuss it I wanted to give a big thanks to all of the people involved in putting on the conference. Dr. Shane Rasmussen, the Director of the Louisiana Folklife Center, has made great efforts in developing the Folklife Center and is responsible not only for this conference but also the Folklife Festival held each summer. Although he will be the first to admit that he couldn't do it without the assistance of many others including Shelia Thompson from the Folklife Center. Dr. Lisa Abney, the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs as well as a Professor of English at NSU is also a co-chair of the seminar and a frequent speaker and/or moderator at the conference. There are many, many more people involved than I have mentioned but I wanted to be sure and name these three.

I've been to a number of legal continuing education seminars and writers conferences and have never seen one where things go as smoothly as the Louisiana Studies Conference.

The conference seems to be growing in size as well but I would really like to see more of the public turn out for this. The topics are always interesting, you can see this year's program brochure and topics at this link, and since it is free to the general public it is an opportunity that is being missed by many.

If any of my readers are interested in the conference or any other information please feel free to email me and I will be glad to discuss it with them and I'll even send them a reminder next year when the info for the conference is released.  In addition to the conference being great it is held on the Northwestern State University campus so those people attending can also take the opportunity to visit Natchitoches, the oldest city in the Louisiana Purchase (300 years old this year) and a city founded by an ancestor of mine, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis.

Dr. Rasmussen announced that the theme for next year's conference is "Louisiana: A Cultural Crossroads", paying homage to the El Camino Real as well as the Mississippi and Red Rivers which provided water passages from the northern areas to the Gulf of Mexico.

As soon as he announced the theme an idea for my talk next year, as well as a paper for the Louisiana Folklife Journal, popped into my head.  So next year the tentative title for my presentation will be  "Voodoo, Hoodoo and the Blues", which should be very interesting to research and write and, since I'll have a lot of blues music as a part of the presentation, should be fun for the people who attend. 

More Research Material!

LA papers

In addition to the twelve books I have scattered around the house and uncountable number of webpages saved on my computer I just received in another 175 pages from Mary Linn Wernet, Associate Professor, Head Archivist and University Records Officer at the Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Watson Library, at my alma mater Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

I've always found it fascinating how with just a quick email or phone calls dedicated intellectuals from around the world will offer you the benefit of their knowledge and their work on a specific topic if you just ask. Of course, I'll remember all of them in the acknowledgements to the book but when writing about a subject as monumental as Louisiana's history it's hard to express exactly how much help they've been. 

At the moment I'm trying to sort out a battle that the founder of Natchitoches, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis,was in. Legend has it the battle occurred on the banks of a now dry lake bed near Sang Pour Sang hill outside of Cloutierville. However, in speaking with numerous scholars on the topic they've opened my eyes to a new theory that the battle actually occurred much closer to Natchitoches.

Now to figure out which version to use!

Johnny Robinson and The Bottle Tree

Many of those who are reading this post have read The Bottle Tree and may already know the story of Johnny Robinson but I'm going to repeat it here anyway and then discuss what the post is really about.

Johnny was a young man I went to school with at Provencal School in Louisiana. I went there from Kindergarten through Second Grade and then went back to visit anytime I was in Louisiana and school was in session. 

Johnny was my first African American friend and I'm pretty sure that the friendship with him when I was young made race much less of an issue with me than it was with many of my peers.

I hadn't seen him in years but when I started writing The Bottle Tree I named one of the main characters after Johnny. Last year when the book was published I started looking for him so I could let him know what I'd done and just to reconnect.

Unfortunately, another childhood friend of mine let me know that Johnny had passed away from cancer the year before.

This trip in for the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival, I came in early so I'd have a chance to go by and take a copy of the book to his mother. Doris Robinson.

Ms. Doris still lives in the same house where Johnny was raised and I made the trip today to visit with her for a little while. She told me all about Johnny's life since he'd graduated and about his last days. I also learned it was her birthday today. I was happy to present her a copy of The Bottle Tree and will make it a point to go back and see her when I come back "home" to Natchitoches.

Below is a picture of Ms. Doris Robinson and me, sitting on her front porch and she has her copy of The Bottle Tree in her hand. The other picture is the memorial handout from Johnny's funeral.

This comes the week after the verdict in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case and I can't help but think maybe things would have been different if Mr. Zimmerman and/or Mr. Martin would have had the chance to get to know each other in a situation like Johnny and I did.

 

Doris Robinson and Robert D. Bennett johnny robinson