Monday, April 22, 2013

The devil is in the details.

I preach about being detail oriented every day. Maybe now people will understand why it is so important to quadruple check everything. This is such a good example of a poor excuse for a mistake.

Store ad along side a story about the recipe for a pressure cooker bomb.

Festival International Founding.

From a response to a newspaper story. I am posting it because true beginnings should be remembered so history gets it right, no matter who tells the story.

Thank you for writing a very informative article about Festival International de Louisiane and its impact upon our city, region and state in today's Daily Advertiser.

However, a key component of your story is missing. Where did the idea for staging an annual visual and performing arts festival come from? As Founding President of Festival International de Louisiane, I have observed over the years that a landmark exhibition of paintings from Senegal West Africa presented by the University Art Museum of the University of Southwestern Louisiana in the spring of 1985 is almost always overlooked as a key component in the birth of Festival International. The following statement from your article illustrates how easy it is to forget the actual events that led to the creation of Festival.

[Gustin and community leaders met to discuss ways to attract more people to hear the music of the Francophone countries that had partnered with Lafayette.

“Somebody just said, ‘Let’s put all of our resources together and make it a one-time event, and focus all resources and time and money on that one event,” Gustin said.

And Festival was born.]

The 1985 Senegalese exhibition was complimented by a one week residency of Senegalese musicians Arfan and Kinda Diabate Kouyate who performed griot music in the museum, in Lafayette Parish public schools, at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and on the television program "Folks" which was aired statewide by Louisiana Public Broadcasting. The Senegalese musicians spoke French, not English, since Senegal, like Louisiana, had once been a French colony. I was amazed that I was able to speak with the Senegalese musicians using my native Cajun French, and realized we shared a Francophone heritage.

In the summer of 1985, I traveled to Amman, Jordan where I visited nine ancient village sites throughout the Jordan River Valley, working with USL architecture major Ammar Khammash on an international traveling exhibition and publication documenting these ancient sites. This project was funded by Queen Noor and the Royal Endowment for Culture and Education of Jordan, in response to a grant proposal I had submitted to the Queen. My total immersion in the desert environment and culture of Jordan was transformative. I realized how fortunate I was to have experienced within a six month period, the cultures of Senegal and Jordan, and I began to wonder about the possibility of organizing an arts festival in Lafayette, similar to the world renowned Spoletto Festival in Charleston, South Carliona, that could introduce the citizens of Lafayette to various world cultures.

I decided to take advantage of my return flight to Lafayette from Amman which made stops in Amsterdam and New York City to visit major art museums in those two world capitols. My first visit to Amsterdam included the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and Rijksmuseum as well as a concert of Indian sitar music at the largest concert hall in Amsterdam, part of a summer long India Festival being celebrated in several European capitols. In New York I visited the city's major art museums and attended several concerts.

When I returned to Lafayette in August 1985, I reflected upon the fact that within the first eight months of that year, I had experienced the finest cultural expressions of Senegal, Jordan, Holland, India, and New York City, and my interest in establishing an arts festival in Lafayette was stronger than ever. In the fall of 1985, I
approached representatives of Lafayette city and parish governments, Downtown Development Authority, Lafayette Parish Convention and Visitor Bureau, CODOFIL and the Délégation du Quebec en Louisiane with the arts festival concept. At a time when the local economy was faltering and citizens were feeling pessimistic about the region’s future, cultural tourism was seen as an economic development tool that had the potential to help turn the economy around and lift the spirits of area residents. Simultaneously, Lafayette's Department of Community Development and the Downtown Development Authority were already at work on plans to revitalize our city's center that had deteriorated as businesses and residents relocated to the suburbs surrounding Lafayette.

Jean Goyer, head of the Quebec Delegation's Lafayette office, shared information with our loosely organized ad hoc committee, about the Festival d'été de Quebec, an international francophone festival held every summer in the city of Quebec. In 1986 Mr. Goyer worked with our committee and Quebec officials to organize a fact finding mission to three summer Canadian festivals: the International Folklore Festival in Drummondville, Quebec, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Festival d'été in the city of Quebec which was staging its 19th festival that year. Our committee, composed of representatives of Lafayette city and parish governments, CODOFIL, and the Downtown Development Authority, met with organizers of the three festivals, and was given detailed information about the organization of world class festivals including programming, production, public relations and marketing, fundraising and sponsorships, hospitality, and transportation.

Our committee returned to Lafayette and after holding a number of meetings with community representatives, decided to organize an international visual and performing arts festival in downtown Lafayette that would focus upon the French speaking countries of the world. A 501C3 non-profit organization was formed, led by a 35 member board of directors and a 12 member executive committee. The July 4th weekend of 1987 was selected for staging the first Festival to coincide with a special event - La Semaine Chantante International - a francophone choral convention of 500 singers meeting in the United States for the very first time. Sponsorships of the first festival came from state and local governments, corporate sponsors, the Quebec Delegation, French Cultural Services and the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique headquartered in Paris.

When the citizens of Lafayette heard the magnificent syncopated drumming beats of the Master Drummers of Rwanda on opening night, it was clear our city had crossed the threshold of global awareness, and the idea of staging an annual international festival in Lafayette was both feasible and highly desirable.

The dedication of Festival's founders can never be overlooked, for it was their dedication, determination, perseverance and belief in the vision of Festival that witnessed an unprecedented commitment of time, energy, expertise and financial resources. Without that commitment, there would be no Festival today.

Through the years, Lafayette has embraced Festival’s mission to enrich our community by organizing a celebration of native cultures, stimulate interest in Francophone cultures around the world, and develop cultural tourism and enhance economic development by expanding Lafayette’s reputation as an arts center and destination for cultural events.

I thank you once again for writing about Festival today, and hope you will find an opportunity to share a more complete story of the birth of Festival International de Louisiane with the readers of the Daily Advertiser and the citizens of Lafayette.

Herman Mhire
Founding President
Festival International de Louisiane
President of the Board 1986 - 1989

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cafe Vermilionville: Incredible food, worth the drive

Cafe Vermilionville in Lafayette exudes a rich ambiance from the inviting big front porch of the historic two-story building to the newer dining room added to the back of the original structure. Once you are seated, the wall of differently shaped, architecturally interesting windows draws the eye to the beautifully landscaped patio area and the wonderful muted music hits just the right note. As the sun sets, lights appear in the garden and candles are lit on the white-clothed tables.
The service at the restaurant was top notch. Our waiter was charming, answered all of our questions knowledgeably and the wait staff anticipated every need without being intrusive.
And then there was the food. From the appetizers to the desserts the food was incredible. The menu is divided into two pages. The first page has the starters, soups, salads and entrees our waiter said their customers won’t let them change, and the second page has newer creations from the kitchen, along with seasonal fare. We ordered from both pages but leaned more on the side of the favorites. We could see why customers won’t let them go.
We really liked the cafe sampler for two ($14), a bite-sized combination of crawfish beignets sitting on a wonderful mustard aioli, bacon wrapped garlic shrimp, fried alligator tenderloin, battered and fried pickles, and sliced grilled Cajun sausage. Everything was delicious and presented in a pleasing minimalist fashion. Our other appetizer was the black-eyed pea cake ($12). While delicious, this dish is dense and the two burger sized cakes should be shared or eaten as an entree. The well cooked peas were perfectly seasoned with wonderful bits of smoky tasso, shaped into cakes, fried and topped with a sweet and spicy green tomato jam.
The two soups we tried were a big hit, in fact, the sweet, rich and creamy roasted corn and crab bisque ($7) was one person’s favorite dish. The deep dark brown smoked turkey and andouille gumbo ($7) was smoky and good and a great combination of complex flavors and spices.
The steak Louis XIII ($38) featured a six-ounce perfectly cooked filet mignon finished with a wild mushroom demi-glace and crawfish mornay sauce. The demi-glace, which our waiter said is reduced over two days, was so delicious almost anything would taste good topped with it, not to mention a delicious piece of tender steak. The crawfish tails and mornay were also quite good. This plate came with mashed potatoes and asparagus.
The 16-ounce grilled ribeye royale ($36) was also perfectly cooked. This large, tender, juicy steak came with roasted red potatoes and asparagus.
We also loved the gulf fish Acadien ($30), again from the traditional side of the menu. A wonderful plate of pan-seared black drum, fresh lump crab meat, roasted corn and peppers, parmesan risotto and a lemon dill beurre blanc. Mixing these layers of tastes together in one bite was a wonderful combination of just-right flavors and textures. This also came with steamed asparagus.
We agree with the customers who would not let Cafe Vermilionville take these items off the menu, but the roasted quail ($27) from page two probably isn’t going anywhere either. The two tender quail were stuffed with mashed sweet potatoes and lavender and served with honey braised mustard greens seasoned with pancetta and finished with a rosemary citrus vinaigrette and seated on a cornbread round. You could really taste the lavender in the meat but it wasn’t overpowering — just enough to give it a wonderful fresh flavor. The greens and cornbread were the perfect partner.
When our waiter brought the dessert cart he said the restaurant’s desserts were all made in-house by the same person for more than 20 years, which reinforces the adage that practice makes perfect. The white chocolate bread pudding ($6.95) was warm and wonderful. The bananas Foster cheesecake ($6.25) was a delicious version of the traditional dessert, and we loved the fresh bananas mixed in with the rich cake.
Our desserts were a great ending to a delightful meal and well worth the drive across the Atchafalaya Basin.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Horse Racing Legends Chris McCarron and Dave Johnson Help Kickoff the 2013 Thoroughbred Racing Program at Evangeline Downs

For Immediate Release

Evangeline Downs Contact:
Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino
Anthony Breaux
(337) 594-3138

Public Relations Contact:
Calzone & Associates
Julie Calzone
(337) 235 2924 ext. 3

(Opelousas, La.) - The 2013 Evangeline Downs Thoroughbred-racing season begins Wednesday, April 17. The 84-day meet runs through September 7, 2013.

This will be the first racing season for Evangeline under the ownership of Boyd Gaming, which purchased the track and casino late last year. Boyd Gaming also owns Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel in Vinton, La.

As a part of the season opening activities, Hall of Fame jockey, Chris McCarron, and Dave Johnson, nationally known track announcer, will be on hand to meet horse racing fans on Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20. They will also broadcast two live radio shows from Evangeline Downs on Saturday, April 20.

Chris McCarron, elected into horse racing's Hall of Fame in 1989, had one of racing's most successful careers, highlighted by two Kentucky Derby wins and five Breeders' Cup Classic wins. He has won every major horse race the sport has to offer. He was the first jockey to win more than 1,000 races in a two-year period.

For more than 40 years, Dave Johnson has been a famous personality in the Thoroughbred and Standardbred horseracing industry. Dave was the Voice of the Triple Crown for ABC Sports. He has called all of the sport's biggest races. Dave is best known for his signature race call "And Down The Stretch They Come!"

On Saturday, April 20, Dave Johnson and his co-host, award-winning writer Bill Finley, will host two Sirius XM shows live from Evangeline Downs Racetrack. They will first broadcast their weekly, "Down The Stretch" show from 8am - 11am CST.

From 4pm-5pm CST, they will broadcast a special "Kentucky Derby Preview Show" with special guest, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron.

Both shows will air on Sirius channel 93 and XM channel 209.

In addition to the excitement around these racing legends, this year Evangeline Downs is hosting events and promotions all season long in their Clubhouse, paddock area and trackside, said Steve Darbonne, Director of Racing Operations. All the action kicks off April 17 and continues through September 7 with racing Wednesdays through Saturdays; first post time of the night is at 5:40pm.

A total of 23 events worth 1.7 million dollars make up this year's stakes schedule.

As usual, Louisiana Legends Night, slated for July 6, will be one of the highlights of the meet. The Legends card will feature a total of eight races restricted to Louisiana-breds worth a total of $775,000.

Also in July are two divisions of the rich D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity. Trials for the futurity will be run on July 3 and July 4, with the finals, estimated to be worth $120,000 each, set for July 27.

The meet's richest event will once again be the Evangeline Mile. The Mile is for 3-year-olds and up and will be contested on August 10.

The Opelousas, Louisiana-based facility has evolved to the entertainment destination that was the vision when the facility was built in 2003 as a casino, live horse racing facility, and simulcast off-track betting facility. Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino features a state-of-the-art facility with a one-mile oval, 7/8-mile turf course, a 1 1/8-mile chute and nearly 1,000 stalls on the backside. The entire property consists of nearly 750 acres.

The live action of racing has deep roots in the Cajun culture along with a party atmosphere for people of all ages. Louisiana has the most successful racing and breeding incentive program in North America, said Darbonne. We believe our racing program is one of the best entertainment values and something the whole family can enjoy.

Click here to download a copy of the 2013 Thoroughbred Racing Calendar.

• Clubhouse admission is free with a minimum purchase of food and beverage.*
• Free valet and general parking
• Looking for directions, click here.

*Proper attire in clubhouse, reservations recommended. Group Rates are available.
*No age too young or old to attend the races. (Must be 18 or older to bet.)

For more information call (337) 594-3000 or go to


Friday, April 5, 2013

Behind The Scenes Done Right

Jurassic Park is re-released today in 3D - most of us can't wait to catch it in theaters! We found this video this week - how the Tyrannosaurus Rex was constructed from beginning to end - and even though it is 10 minutes long, which is pretty long for recreational internet viewing, we couldn't miss one second.

The content here is so informative and transparent that we couldn't stop watching - we wanted to know more!

This is a great behind the scenes video. The content is so rich that they didn't need to do anything fancy at all and we really don't mind.

We're big fans of beautiful marketing products - who isn't? But when it comes down to the heart of the matter, it's about the content.

If you have something to say, don't worry about how professional it looks or if it has pretty graphics and music. All that comes later, and anyone can do that. What makes our clients special is what they have to say, what they can contribute and share. What is it that you do that sets you apart?

That's where we bring the most value to your company. We help determine your message and give you the confidence to yell it from the rooftops (in your target market, of course). We prompt you about what's important to you, what your product or service is about. We help you figure out the big picture and then zoom in on what's important to your customers so we can help you sell it. That's what we do. That's what's important to us.

Monday, April 1, 2013