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Posts Tagged ‘downtown New Iberia’

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Last week our gifted students in grades 4-6 went on a field trip that incorporated three activities. Each teacher’s group rotated through practicing for the Shadows Christmas play, visiting the Bayou Teche Museum, and going on a Poetry Walk.

Pelicans, a sculpture at Paul Allain’s Architecture office

The Poetry Walk took students through a sculpture garden, bayou side boardwalk, and a pocket park called Church Alley. I wanted the students to experience each space in a unique way. For the sculpture garden, we wrote a simple free verse poem of 15 words or less, along the boardwalk, a haiku form that reflected the theme of nature, and in the alley, a mask poem written in the voice of someone from the past.

At the museum, we learned interesting facts about the Bayou Teche and the founding of New Iberia. Frederick Duperier, a founding father, wanted a pathway from his home to the church, and later, the alley was used by nuns who lived in Mount Carmel, the Duperier’s former home.

Here’s a sampling of poems from my students.

Bayou Teche, a snake
slithering its way past us.
The Teche silent still.

Breighlynn, Bayou Teche haiku

Walking through an alley
a very dark, dark alley
to be lit up by
a beautiful church.
The dark dirt
of the alley
much darker than I thought
but a bit brighter
from my very own steps.

Breighlynn, Church Alley
Church Alley pocket park in downtown New Iberia.

The nuns, somber and solemn,
pass silently by my form.
They are hope, in a dark world.

Madison, Church Alley septercet

eyes big 
nose as big as an elephant
peeper sees everything
no matter mouse or bug

Landon, Sculpture poem

On the Bayou Teche
pelican in the distance
lily pads floating

Maddox, Bayou haiku

We celebrated these small poems with sharing time after each writing time. The students cheered for each other and enjoyed being poets paying attention to common places. Each poem was unique. The whole walk took about an hour with 20 minutes in each site. I recommend creating a poetry walk for your next field trip.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

On Saturday, the Shadows Plein Air Competition hosted a Quick Draw.  Charlie (my dog) and I walked downtown to stalk  talk with some of the artists.

Sherri Thomas (@sherrithomas.artist) from Larsen, Wisconsin was painting the historical Mount Carmel which had been the original home of a founding family, the Duperiers.  Her first layer of paint was drying in the cool air while she added detail elements.

My walk continued and wherever there was an artist, I stopped and chatted with them.  I thanked them for coming and doing something so positive for our city.  I texted our visiting artist, Debbie, to find out where she was painting.  Her sister had come in Friday night, so they could paint together.  (This Saturday competition was open to anyone who wanted to participate; whereas, the weeklong competition was juried.)

Debbie and Sandy were on a corner with two other artists all painting the same building.  I had to stop and look and let the scene sink in.  I pass this building daily and have only thought of it as an old, dilapidated building where the Minuteman restores furniture. I had not noticed the amazing colors of the bricks or the blue doors.  I captured three of the four artists’ paintings and marvel at the complete differences in interpretation.

Debbi Myers from Oxford, MS works in watercolor.

Sandy, Debbie’s sister from Covington, LA works with acrylic and a pallet knife.

Tim Oliver won first place for his Minuteman in watercolor.

A closer view of the winning painting.

Like art, writing can take on different perspectives and interpretations.  The artist creates a mood with the setting.  The writer sets a tone.  The reader comes to the art or writing with their own perspective.  There’s big magic in all of this creating and observing.

My life is richer for having observed these artists in action, and now, I have a few pieces added to my own art collection to remember fondly this experience and the artists I met.


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This past weekend was the 28th annual World Championship Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia.  Every year during the second weekend of October, Main Street is shut down and groups gather to cook their best gumbo for hundreds or thousands of hungry tasters.

Seventeen years ago when our three girls were young, the family decided to have a booth.  Jeff’s siblings and their families came to town, and together we cooked and served the first ever Simon Family Gumbo.  My daughters have been nostalgic about that event and have talked about having another Simon Family Gumbo booth.  So this was the year.

Jeff and our oldest daughter Maggie were in charge.  For months, Jeff has worked weekends on building a facade of our house, the Big White Castle.  Son-in-law Grant designed a logo using our family Christmas frog as a model and adding a chef’s hat and a superman cape. (The theme for this year’s event was super heroes.)

Katherine and Jeff show the back of our family t-shirts after they ran the 5K Roux Run on Saturday.  Each won second place in their division.  The “medal” was a mini wooden gumbo spoon.

The Simon family castle!

When the weekend arrived, Jeff headed to Cosco for roasted chickens, a dozen of them.  Maggie and Grant arrived with sausage to cook in the cast iron pot to fully season it.  The day Saturday was spent chopping loads of onions, celery, and bell pepper.  What joy to have all hands chopping while everyone visited together!  Jeff and Grant worked on the stock outside on the burner.  I wish I could have captured the smell along with the photos.

 

Saturday night was early to bed because the alarms went off at 4:45 AM on Sunday.  The cooking crew had to get downtown to set up and start the roux.  At 6 AM, the gumbo police announced, “Start your burners,” and the town began to smell of flour and oil slowly cooking into 75+ gravies. If you ask anyone who knows anything about cooking a gumbo, they will tell you the secret is in the roux.  For our team it was touch and go and tag-teaming for about an hour and a half before the roux was the just-right color of chocolate to satisfy head chef, Maggie.

Once the roux was done, it was added to the stock along with vegetables, sausage, and chicken. The stew cooked for a few more hours before a sample was sent to the judges.  Then people arrived with tickets in hand to try out as many samples as their stomachs would hold.  Unfortunately, the crowd was lighter than in previous years due to the extreme heat.  No one really craves gumbo when the temperature climbs over 90 degrees.  The heat really wore us all down, but we powered through.

I celebrate my amazing family.  My girls and their significant others get along so well with each other.  At the end of the weekend, Jeff said, “I think they could do anything.”  This was a huge undertaking, and I was proud of our tasty gumbo even though we didn’t place in the competition.  In our hearts, we knew Simon Family Gumbo was the best!

 

 

 

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Last week I wrote a post about a mural being painted downtown by Mary Lacy from Vermont. She has made great progress on the alligator; nevertheless, an invitation was sent out for a painting party. I was excited about this event. I wanted to leave my own mark on this city icon.

The newspaper showed up and lined up some volunteers along the wall with Mary in the middle. She’s the tall one laughing.

My friend Charleen was already painting when I arrived. I asked her, “How do I get to paint?” Not five minutes later she had the artist at my side handing me a paintbrush.

I painted with a father/daughter team. The daughter was eight years old. I have no problem talking to eight year olds. We had a nice conversation while we painted.

There was a group of students from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania helping out. They are spending their spring break volunteering for local nonprofit organizations around town. They were a fun group of energetic kids.

What is a party without food from a nearby cafe and boxes of cheap wine? The mayor stopped by to put his handprint on the project.

Mary predicts that she will be finished by Friday.  I predict that our stop may be her favorite on the 10 location tour.  She loved the food, the fellowship, and friendliness of New Iberia.  I will drive by the gator daily and think fondly of my afternoon.

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