Sunday, October 15, 2006

Heritage in the Hills

'HERITAGE IN THE HILLS' In Historic St. Francisville, Louisiana
by Anne Butler

As temperatures moderate and fall frosts the falling leaves with brilliant color, it's the perfect time for a road trip, and that's just what is offered by the first annual "Louisiana Main to Main, A Cultural Road Show" the whole month of November. Hosted by designated Main Street Communities across the state, the event is an opportunity for each little town to highlight its uniqueness. The program also gives visitors the chance to travel through some of the most picturesque sections of the state and enjoy special coordinated events and activities in each area. There will be food and music festivals, antiques fairs, art and crafts shows, living history demonstrations, performances, exhibits, car shows, bike tours, hayrides, parades, agricultural shows, museum days, historic house tours, game-day tailgating, and miles-long trade days as each community shows off its special creative and natural assets for the enjoyment of the whole family.

Designed to promote the revitalization of small-town historic commercial districts, Louisiana Main Street is a program of the State Office of Historic Preservation in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Important all the time, the program is particularly essential in post-hurricane economic development in the little Louisiana communities adversely impacted by last year's storms. Louisiana's Main Street communities include Springhill, Minden, Ruston, Bastrop, Columbia, Winnsboro, Natchitoches, Opelousas, St. Francisville, New Roads, Clinton, Bogalusa, Hammond, Ponchatoula, Denham Springs, Eunice, Crowley, Abbeville, St. Martinville, Plaquemine, New Iberia, Franklin, Morgan City and Houma. As different as these small towns are one from the other in many ways, they are nevertheless united by their common goals of combining historic and cultural preservation with present-day economic viability, and they love to show off the results of their hard work and successful programs.

The lovely little Mississippi River town of St. Francisville is calling its Main To Main program "Heritage in the Hills" and has planned a weekend full of events and exhibits highlighting the rich diversity of the heritage and culture of this scenic unspoiled region in the Tunica Hills. From archaeological finds and antebellum homesteading skills to contemporary musical performances and art exhibits, the wide variety of offerings mirrors the diverse influences that shaped the history of this part of plantation country. On Friday, November 3, a reception at the Historical Society Museum on Ferdinand St. from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. features an exhibit of archaeological findings unearthed during the construction of a new courthouse annex in historic downtown St. Francisville. There will also be musical entertainment by Root 61 at Magnolia Café.
Saturday, November 4, centrally located oak-shaded Parker Memorial Park showcases the works of a wide variety of regional artists and craftspersons at Art in the Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as live music in the bandstand by the Backyard Blues 11am-1pm and Fugitive Poets from 2 to 4 p.m. Throughout the day the Historical Society Museum will continue its exhibit of historical archaeologic artifacts. The wonderfully eclectic little shops of St. Francisville offer spectacular holiday shopping specials throughout the day on Saturday as well. Each shop is unique, filled with everything from antiques and collectibles to clothing and decorative pieces for home and garden; visitors should not miss a single one along Commerce, Ferdinand and Royal Streets. The Friends of the Library are hosting a Book Sale at the Masonic Hall on Prosperity & Ferdinand Sts.

St. Francisville throughout the 19th century was the commercial center for Louisiana's rich English plantation country, and a number of the outlying antebellum homes join the downtown Main Street section in celebrating the heritage of the region. Saturday from 9 to 4, Rosedown State Historic Site showcases the practical plantation arts of the antebellum era, with demonstrations of leatherworking, calligraphy, spinning, basketry, down-hearth cooking in the outside kitchen and the use of the carpenter's shaving horse. There will also be an antebellum dance class conducted under the magnificent oak alley leading to this splendid 1830's Greek Revival structure surrounded by 28 acres of formal gardens.
On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Audubon State Historic Site joins Rosedown in demonstrating old-fashioned skills by presenting a typical 19th-century day at the plantation, with costumed park rangers making candles and soap, cooking on the open hearth, and explaining the use of black powder weaponry during the Civil War. Center of this historic site is the three-story West Indies-style Oakley House where artist-naturalist John James Audubon tutored the young daughter of the family and painted a number of his famous bird studies in 1821.
"Heritage in the Hills" T-Shirt

Another real highlight of Saturday's activities is called "Music at the Mansions." The St. Francisville area has been blessed with a large number of extant antebellum plantation homes. Four of the most historic restored mansions host live performances of indigenous 19th-century music, as well as tours through rooms beautifully furnished with fine antiques; tickets should be purchased at West Feliciana Historical Society Museum and Visitor Center on Ferdinand St. At Butler Greenwood Plantation, dating from the 1790's and still occupied by descendants of the original family, the exuberant New Magnolia Baptist Church Choir performs under the live oaks from 10 a.m. to noon. The Cottage Plantation, also dating from the 1790's with its unmatched collection of surviving original outbuildings, features the amazing Gospel Wonders from noon to 2 p.m. Greenwood Plantation, magnificent Greek Revival columned home that burned and was lovingly rebuilt, will have Bill Caldwell -Music of the Old South from 2 to 4 p.m. and at Rosedown State Historic Site the popular vintage dancers whirl through waltzes and quadrilles in authentic antebellum costumes to the accompaniment of period music.
Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. , Birdman Books and Coffee House in downtown St. Francisville hosts an opening reception for artist Paul Schnexnayder, followed by a live musical performance by Karuna's Spoon beginning at 7 p.m. From 8pm. Que Pasa Mexican restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River has music by the New Original House Band. Beginning at 8 p.m., the popular band Run Jane Run performs at Cypress Grill. Many of the activities and demonstrations are free of charge; the ticket purchased for "Music at the Mansions" covers the other musical events.
Sunday-November 5 starts with the Friends of the Library Book Sale from 11am-2pm at the Masonic Hall on Prosperity and Ferdinand Sts.
Information on Heritage in the Hills is available by telephoning Laurie Walsh, St. Francisville's dynamic and dedicated Main Street Director, at 225-635-3873 or 225-635-4224; for information on other Main Street community programs this same weekend, contact Louisiana Main to Main Coordinator Leon Steele at 225-342-8160. Information on St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish;,, or; or telephone (225) 635-4224 or 635-3873.
High resolution photos for media use, email Patrick Walsh or