Thursday, February 26, 2015

By Angie Manning

When the CVB team embarked upon the task of showcasing not just "what" there is to experience in Southwest Louisiana, but really what it "feels" like to experience Southwest Louisiana through video, music also bubbled to the surface of the conversation. This corner of the state is showered with gifts from natural beauty to nature's bounty, and while it thrives with tradition, culture and mouthwatering cuisine, there is a sense of home mixed in with exciting nightlife. How can you capture all of that in a video?

My executive director, Shelley Johnson, and I felt that music was a huge part of the "My Southwest Louisiana Home" video project. How could we just pick an existing song to complement something as personal and intimate as capturing the magic of a place we love so much?

We needed something original. Music sets the tone for the visual, and whenever thinking about who could write a song - like that - to evoke the spirit of the area and people, Wendy Colonna came to mind in an instant. Not only is Wendy from Southwest Louisiana, but she is a supremely talented songwriter who also happens to be a storyteller in her compositions.
Wendy Colonna and Angie Manning

For the video aspect, working with Adam Boozer and his team at Stowaway was completely seamless from concept to completion. Stowaway gets to the heart of the story of a destination, the emotion, smells, feelings, spirit of the people - those things that video cannot literally capture - need to somehow resonate for inspiring travel.

Adam Boozer of Stowaway
The CVB in Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana put together a one week shoot based on Adam's trip to scout the area and learn about our unique culture, and we were also able to partner with Parker Brand Creative. Thanks to many volunteers and partners in tourism and local talent, we were able to piece together a fantastic video to showcase the area.

Wendy, who currently resides in Austin, TX, is known for her signature voice of grit-infused-honey, and her songs echo swampy-southern tales of loss, mortality, joy, reclaimed innocence and celebration. Whenever filmmaker Adam Boozer of Stowaway, Wendy and I talked for the first time about the project of "My Southwest Louisiana Home," immediately, I could tell that this adventure was meant to be - all being on the same page artistically.

From start to finish, glimmers of lyrics and themes came to mind like ingredients being put into a giant gumbo pot. At the end of the day, the song came together and was absolutely seasoned to perfection by Wendy's ability to make sense of all the ideas.

Wendy came home to Lake Charles to record with Matt Moss (bass guitar), Brandon Ledet (accordion), Joel Savoy (fiddle), Sam Broussard (slide guitar) and Doug Gay (drums) - all Louisiana musicians. The song was recorded and mixed by Matt Moss at EMF Productions, located in Lake Charles Music Plaza.
The CVB is proud to have its first commissioned song, "My Southwest Louisiana Home."

Find out more from Wendy Colonna, the songwriter, in a two part interview by Austin Chronicle here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

 By Angie Kay Dilmore

Southwest Louisiana has no shortage of waterways – shimmering lakes, meandering rivers, mysterious bayous, cypress swamps, and salt grass marshes – and where there is water, there are boats. Sailboats, motorboats, bass boats, fishing trawlers, and pirogues . . . but me? I love to kayak!
Angie Dilmore poses in front of the Calcasieu River Bridge at the Cayenne Kayak Challenge.

Kayaking enables a paddler to go places other boats cannot navigate. You can squeeze through narrow inlets and float across very shallow water. The slower pace of kayaking allows you to observe more of the beautiful surroundings of southwest Louisiana. The only sound a kayaker makes (unless he/she is conversing with a friend) is the quiet swoosh of the paddle through the water; therefore wildlife is not spooked as you approach. This provides plenty of opportunities to see birds, alligators, turtles, and other animals in their natural habitats.
Angie Dilmore kayaks on Indian Bayou.
In my home state of Pennsylvania, I never would have dreamed of kayaking. In the northeast, kayaking is a completely different sport, fraught with danger and a bit too much excitement for my cautious sensibilities. But after moving to Lake Charles in 2007 and discovering all the (calm) water options, I wanted to learn to paddle, though I didn't know how to get started. 

Pelican Paddlers
Then I discovered a fantastic group in town called the Pelican Paddlers. They welcomed me, taught me about the different kinds of kayaks, showed me kayaking techniques and rescue maneuvers, and brought me along on trips. They allowed me to borrow boats until I determined which kayak was the best boat for me. 

Sunset on Prien Lake after an evening paddle. By Angie Dilmore
The Paddlers meet every Wednesday evening during daylight savings time (March 8-November 1 in 2015) at Prien Lake Park at the kayak boat launch, 6 p.m. They also plan one or two weekend trips a month, including an occasional night paddle.

In the fall, the Club has an event called The Cayenne Kayak Challenge near the Lake Charles North Shore Beach. Activities include a skills relay race, a race around the perimeter of Lake Charles, burgers and hot dogs, awards, and door prizes.
Boats lined up along the shore of Lake Charles. Photo by Angie Dilmore
Kayak Rentals
If you are interested in renting a kayak, call Bayou Kayak Rentals at 337-802-6781 or 337-476-0398 or Lloyd’s Country Store at 337-540-3925.

Purchasing a Kayak 
Several stores in the Lake Area sell kayaks. For personalized knowledgeable advice and service, check out Ship to Shore on Lake St. Other stores include Dick’s, Academy, and West Marine. There are so many options to consider when buying a kayak. Do you want a sit-on-top or a sit-inside? How do you want to use a kayak – will you paddle 10-15 miles for a workout or peacefully fish in the middle of a lake? I advise anyone interested in buying a kayak to do some research, talk to experts, and “test-drive” several models before making a purchase. A kayak has to “fit” you and be comfortable. Cost can be an issue, but remember, regarding kayaks, you truly get what you pay for.

Angie Dilmore paddled the Calcasieu River near Sam Houston Jones State Park.
Best Spots to Paddle
There is no end to the number of different places one can kayak in southwest Louisiana. Some fortunate Louisianians who live near the water can paddle from their own backyards! For others, popular paddling places include the West Fork of the Calcasieu River from either Sam Houston Jones State Park or Holbrook Park; Indian Bayou (also near Sam Houston Jones State Park); the marsh at the southern end of Nelson Road; Prien Lake Park; Bayou d’Inde. For dolphin spotting, launch a kayak at the ship channel in Cameron Parish near the ferry. 

Angie Dilmore kayaked in the ship channel near the shrimp boats in Cameron.
Packing List
Wherever you choose to paddle, bring plenty of water and a snack, a cell phone for emergencies, a camera, and binoculars for watching the wildlife. Take your time and bask in the beauty of southwest Louisiana. And ALWAYS wear a PFD (personal flotation device).

For more information about the Pelican Paddlers, call me at 337-240-8380.

To read more of Angie's adventures, check out her blog,