Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Being the “catch” of the town has a whole new meaning from Jan. 6-Feb. 21, as Southwest Louisiana hosts the second largest Mardi Gras in Louisiana. With more than 50 krewes, we make sure the whole family has something to celebrate.

The excitement kicks off on Jan. 6 with the annual Twelfth Night Celebration, as the royal courts from 2011 usher in the new year in style with their extraordinary and intricate costumes. After Twelfth Night, Laissez les bons temps rouler, as the celebration and festivities pack the calendar until Fat Tuesday on Feb. 21.

Don’t miss the Mardi Gras Queen’s Pageant on Saturday, Jan. 14, where the 2012 Miss Mardi Gras will be selected. And put on your dancin’ shoes for the free Mardi Gras Community Dance for special needs citizens on Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

Every day is a reason to celebrate during Mardi Gras, and as Mardi Gras weekend approaches, the celebration kicks in to full gear with parades, cook-offs, balls, galas and more! Start out with the Merchant’s Parade on Friday, Feb. 17, and get ready for some fun on Saturday, Feb. 18 with the World Famous Cajun Extravaganza and Gumbo Cook-Off, the mystical Krewe of Barkus Parade, the Krewe of Omega Parade, the Zydeco Dance and public presentations by the Krewe of Cosmos and the Krewe of Illusions.

On Sunday, Feb. 19, join in and celebrate the children of the community with Children’s Day activities and the Children’s Parade. Also taking place will be Taste de la Louisiane and the return of the Lighted Boat Parade along the lake behind the Civic Center at 7:30 p.m.

Always a favorite, don’t miss the 2012 Royal Gala on Monday, Feb. 20, as the 2012 royal courts of krewes parade for the public in full regalia at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

Set your alarm clocks on Feb. 21, as Fat Tuesday starts off early with the Krewe de Charlie Sioux Block Party. Come early to reserve your spot for the grand finale of Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Krewes Parade at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Lake Charles.

And, if you’re not exhausted from all the celebrating, stop by the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu where the good times roll year-round at the museum featuring more than 250 complete costumes—making it the largest Mardi Gras costume display in the world!

The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras has been chosen as a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society for the first quarter of 2012. This award is a coveted honor among 12 member states.Visit www.swlamardigras.com for more details on Mardi Gras 2012 in Southwest Louisiana.


MARDI GRAS SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
January 6
Twelfth Night, 7 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

January 14
Queens’ Pageant, Lake Charles Civic Center

January 26
Community Dance, 6:30–8 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

February 11
Vinton Mardi Gras Parade & Festivities, 2 p.m., Downtown Vinton

February 13
Krewe of the Golden Years, 9 a.m. –2 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

February17
Merchants’ Parade, 7 p.m., Downtown–Midtown Lake Charles

February 18
Carlyss Mardi Gras Trail Ride, 8:30 a.m., West Cal Arena/Sulphur

World Famous Cajun Extravaganza/Gumbo Cook-Off, 8 a.m.–2 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

Krewe of Omega Parade
, 2 p.m., Downtown Lake Charles

Zydeco Dance
, 3 – 5 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

Krewe of Barkus Parade,
3 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

Krewe of Cosmos Presentation
, 6:30 p.m., Sulphur High School

Krewe of Illusions,
7:30 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

February 19
Taste de la Louisiane, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

Children’s Day,
Noon–3 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

Children’s Parade
, 3 p.m., Downtown Lake Charles

Lighted Boat Parade,
7:30 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

February 20
Royal Gala, 7 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center

February 21
Krewe of Charlie Sioux Parade Block Party, Noon, Corner of Broad & Ryan

Hot Rods, Classics and Motorcycles Parade,
1 p.m., Downtown Lake Charles

Krewe of Krewes’ Parade
, 5:30 p.m., Downtown–Midtown Lake Charles
Monday, October 17, 2011
With the holidays right around the corner it’s time to start thinking about everyone’s Christmas wish list. These holiday shopping markets can help you find something special for everyone—even that holiday Grinch!

Kiwanis Christmas Arts & Crafts Show
November 4-6
Don’t wait for the day after Thanksgiving to start your Christmas shopping, get a head-start at the 40th Annual Kiwanis Christmas Arts & Crafts Show. Featuring arts and crafts from expert artisans, this is one of the largest arts and handicraft fairs in Southwest Louisiana. Check out the sneak preview, gumbo and silent auction on Friday from 6–9 p.m. Weekend hours are Saturday from 9 a.m.– 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The event takes place at the Lake Charles Civic Center, 900 Lakeshore Drive. For more information, call (337) 532-3839. For the latest updates, visit www.visitlakecharles.org/jacksonsquare.

Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market
November 16–19
Just in time for the holiday season, mark your calendars for the 19th Annual Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market. A holiday tradition in the Lake Area, this year’s market will feature over 80 merchants from around the country, showcasing apparel, gifts, and accessories for women, men, and children; specialty foods; and seasonal, as well as year-round, decorative items and home furnishings.

But it’s not just the unique shopping that brings people back year after year. The Market also features great food from local eateries and festive holiday entertainment from local schools and groups that will be sure to get you into the holiday spirit!

Get a jump start on holiday shopping at the Preview Party Gala featuring cuisine from the finest area restaurants plus cocktails, auction items and live entertainment on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 7–10 p.m. Or hit the aisle before the crowds on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Preferred Shoppers Breakfast from 9-11 a.m. A delicious breakfast buffet will be served by L'Auberge du Lac Casino Resort.

Don’t miss the perfect girls’ night out at Mistletoe & Moss' Ladies Night 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 18 featuring a wine tasting and delicious appetizers by local caterers.

Set your alarm clocks and bring the kids for Donuts with Santa on Saturday, Nov. 19, with three seatings at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and Cookies with Santa at 2 p.m. Your kids will be the first in town to get to tell Santa what’s on their wish list and even get their picture taken with Santa in his sleigh!

Raffle tickets will be sold for $5 this year at the market entry. Enter for three chances to win fabulous prizes! First prize is a three-night trip for two at Lake Austin Spa Resort. Second prize is an Apple iPad donated by Capital One Bank and third prize is a ladies' fragrance basket donated by Dillards.

Make sure to catch the holiday spirit with the sights and sounds of the holidays at this year’s Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market! General Marketplace hours are Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.¬–9 p.m.; and Saturday 9a.m.–5 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, and children eight and younger get in free. On Thursday, Nov. 18, there will be no stroller fee. For more information on event availability or admission contact the Junior League of Lake Charles, Inc. office at (337) 436-4025 or visit www.jllc.net.


Sulphur’s Holiday House & Christmas Under the Oaks
December 2–4
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then head on over to Sulphur’s Christmas Under the Oaks Festival where it snows every year! Located at the Brimstone Museum complex, 923 Ruth Street, Heritage Square is transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, holly wreaths and yes, even snow!

Get an early start on Christmas Shopping at The Holiday House open Dec. 2–4 from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. featuring more than 25 different shops with Christmas decorations, ornaments and more that will make it easy to deck your halls! The Brimstone Historical Society will also be unveiling its eighth ornament in the Sulphur Ornament Series. It will be available for purchase at the Henning Cultural Center desk for $15. Ornaments from previous years are available as well, though on a limited basis.

With great food, music, parades, shopping and Santa Claus, it’s easy to see why the Christmas Under the Oaks is a holiday favorite! For more information on Sulphur’s Christmas events, contact the Henning Cultural Center at 337-527-0357. For details on Christmas events in Southwest Louisiana, log onto www.visitlakecharles.org/cajunchristmas or contact the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-456-7952.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Boudin Wars, Bayou Roots, Terrance Simien-Great Acadian Awakening!

Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

Get your taste buds ready to savor boudin and your dancing shoes ready for headliner, Grammy winner Terrance Simien because it’s time to celebrate! Cajun food, Boudin Wars, Terrance Simien, Bayou Roots and all things Cajun and Zydeco will be at your fingertips at the Lake Charles Civic Center as part of the Great Acadian Awakening on Tuesday, Oct. 11, a free public event.

The Great Acadian Awakening is the perfect opportunity to invigorate the spirit of our heritage and connection with French speaking countries, specifically the Acadian people in Canada. The celebration starts in New Orleans, Oct. 7-8; moves to Houma, Oct. 9-10; then Lake Charles, Oct. 11-12, ending in Lafayette, Oct. 13-17.Tuesday, Oct. 11, is the day with the most activities in Lake Charles, and the public is invited to come to the Lake Charles Civic Center.

The festivities start Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 10 a.m. with genealogy workshops and resources available by the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Library. Stephen White, a genealogist and speaker from Moncton University in New Brunswick, will be the guest speaker at 2:15 p.m. on the historical perspective of the Acadians.

The opening ceremonies kick off at 11 a.m. with dignitaries, a singing group from Barbe High School and the Acadiana Cowboys Band. Following the opening ceremonies, there will be a French language Cultural Coffee Corner where local French speakers can have conversations with tour groups from Canada and other French speakers from around the state, starting at 1:15 p.m. Free French lessons will also be given at that time for those who are beginners.

There will be free performances by Terrance Simien with his Creole for Kidz Program as well as a musical storyteller from New Orleans on Cajun traditions, Papillion, during the day at the Rosa Hart Theatre from noon-1:30 p.m.

From 4-10 p.m., art vendors and local restaurants such as 121 Artisan Bistro, Pujo St. Café, Southern Spice and Aucoin’s will have booth space in the Exhibition Hall, and there will be the famed Boudin Wars! Over the past two years, the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail has grown in popularity, and now is the chance for the stops along the trail to compete with event-goers casting their votes – to name the “Boudin Master of the Universe!”

Battling it out at the Boudin Wars from 5-7 p.m. will be Famous Foods, Hollier’s, Sausage Link, Comeaux’s, Market Basket, Gillis Grocery & Café, Billedeaux’s, Sonnier’s Sausage & Boudin and Kat’s Kracklins/Cruz Café.

Other bands to perform through the day and into the evening include Lesa Cormier & the Sundown Playboys at 4 p.m., Chris Miller & Bayou Roots at 6 p.m. and Grammy Winner Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience from 8-10 p.m.

A special addition to the event will be the Thomas Jefferson French Wine Tasting, with a presentation in French by Dr. Phillipe Girard with a translation performed by Adley Cormier, dressed as none other than Thomas Jefferson.

One event that carries over into the next day is the 25 year anniversary premier of Belizaire the Cajun. The film will be shown on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum. Filmmaker Glen Pitre will introduce the film, and Michelle Benoit will be on hand to answer questions afterward. Seating is limited, and you must reserve your seat by calling the museum at 337-439-3797.

For more information or a full schedule, log onto www.visitlakecharles.org/GRA. To explore the French Wine Experience, visit www.rougetetblanc.us. To participate or volunteer, contact Angie Manning-Istre, aistre@visitlakecharles.org.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail

It’s been over a year now that the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail has been in existence. Not to say the mom & pop shops along the boudin trail didn’t exist until a year ago, in fact, several of the stops along the boudin trail have been family owned for generations. What’s great about the trail is that it winds through Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes, so you can see all of Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana along the way, even down to our Gulf beaches!

First off, you might wonder what boudin is! It’s a tasty finger food that on the service looks like sausage. But boudin is Louisiana's spiced-up hybrid of pork or beef sausage. It's a tender, savory mix of pork, rice, liver, parsley and onions, variously seasoned with salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder. Everything's stirred together, stuffed into casings and sold hot by the pound. It's the first thing we break out whenever there is a group of culinary writers in town or a tour group who needs a little flavor of the area!

There's mild boudin and hot boudin. There's smoked boudin, with a crispy casing. There's shrimp, crawfish and even alligator boudin. Bite it, slice it or squeeze it, and you'll discover Louisiana's love of food crammed inside.

No two boudin recipes are alike. Whether it's sold at a restaurant, a grocery store or a gas station, boudin has fillings and flavors reflecting the individual tastes and traditions of each boudin maker.

For a list of stops along the Boudin Trail, visit http://www.visitlakecharles.org/boudintrail or contact the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-456-7952 for a boudin trail brochure.
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