Thursday, October 08, 2009

October 2009


by Anne Butler

The first frigid frosts paint the Feliciana foliage in autumnal hues---the brilliant

Fall Trees
Fall Colors - Back Roads
scarlet of sumac and swamp maples, the bright yellow of gingko and beech trees---sights that have inspired creative artists ever since John James Audubon painted more than 80 of his famous bird studies in the area in 1821. Judging from St. Francisville’s calendar of events for October, the inspiration remains undiminished, for there are celebrations of everything from art and music to glorious antebellum garden design. Throw in a few bucking broncos, scarecrows snuggled up to watch a 3-D movie under the stars, costumed re-enactors demonstrating rustic plantation skills, and a famous one-eared ghost wearing a green turban, and October in St. Francisville offers something for just about everyone, and then some!

The Audubon State Historic Site, centered by the remarkable West Indies-style Oakley House which hosted the artist Audubon, kicks off its month-long weekend living history programs on Saturday, October 3, with Nature Day, as interpretive staff present programs on the plantation’s ecosystem (10 a.m.), tree identification walk (11 a.m.) and guided nature hike (1 and 3 p.m.) highlighting the natural beauty and original paths once trod by Audubon, and interaction with the plants and animals of Oakley (2 p.m.). Of course everybody’s favorite resident fowl is the overbearing turkey who serves as Wal-Mart greeter! On Sunday, October 4, the morning program (10:30 a.m.) examines 19th-century garden plants and their uses, while the afternoon focus shifts from the big house to the quarters to explain the life of the plantation slave, from housing in one of the historic cabins to cooking and crafts. Audubon’s sister state site, Rosedown Plantation, offers a program on 19th-century schooling of plantation children on Saturday, October 3 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). For information on Rosedown State Historic Site programs, call 888-376-1867 or 225-635-3110.

Artist at Yellow Leaf
Local Artist at Yellow Leaf Festival

On Saturday, October 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Audubon State Historic Site kicks off its year-long observance of the bicentennial of the West Florida Rebellion of 1810 by commemorating the 1779 capture of the British post at Baton Rouge by Spanish General Bernardo Galvez along with American troops. Marking the end of English control of the Mississippi, this largely unheralded Louisiana battle of the Revolutionary War set the stage for Spanish domination of West Florida until the revolt of Anglo planters in 1810, and it will be observed at Oakley with soldier encampments, musket demonstrations and explanatory talks. For information on Audubon State Historic Site programs, call 888-677-2838 or 225-635-3739.

The active St. Francisville Main Street program gets everyone into the Halloween spirit on Friday, October 16, in oak-shaded Parker Park, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with fun children’s programs, carving pumpkins and decorating scarecrows; pumpkins and carving utensils will be provided along with hay to stuff the scarecrows, but participants should bring old clothes or other embellishments. This will be followed at dark by the Movie Under the Stars, “Coraline,” a 2009 animated stop-action 3-D fantasy film based on British novelist Neil Gaiman’s book. Called by Entertainment Tonight’s movie critic “the best 3-D movie I’ve ever seen,” it stars Dakota Fanning. Admittance is a canned good donation to the West Feliciana Food Bank. The Women’s Service League sells concessions and 3-D glasses are provided, but moviegoers should bring their own folding chairs, blankets, and other accessories. For information, call the Main Street office at 225-635-3873.

Afton Villa Gardens
Afton Villa Gardens

Also on Friday, October 16, as well as Saturday, October 17, the twenty-first annual Southern Garden Symposium presents a series of workshops bringing in gardening enthusiasts from across the South to bask in the beauties of the glorious antellum gardens for which the St. Francisville area is justly famous. Programs feature lectures by visiting horticultural experts and hands-on demonstrations, lunch at Afton Villa Gardens and Hemingbough, tea at the recently restored Brasseaux House and cocktail buffet at Greenwood Plantation. For information see www.SouthernGardenSymposium.or or call 225-635-3738.

Artist Murrell Butler
Artist Murrell Butler With His Paintings

The weekend of October 24 and 25, the popular Yellow Leaf Arts Festival is put on by Arts For All, local non-profit arts promotion organization, with sponsorship by the Bank of St. Francisville and a cast of dozens of artists and craftspeople, musicians and poets, writers and just about every other kind of creative soul you can imagine. To get everyone in the spirit, on Friday, Oct. 23, a y’all-come “paint-out” will fill downtown Parker Park with artists painting en plein air, and during the festival the artist-in-residence, Ronnie Collins of Jennings, will paint a mural in the park gazebo. Saturday, October 24, the music tent features live music beginning at 11 a.m. with the West Feliciana Children’s Chorus, continuing through the afternoon with an old-time string band called The Mosspickers, the bluegrass group with the catchy name of Laughing Lizards String Band, singer-songwriter Kim Smith, Karuna Spoon, and Lee Barber and the Broken Cup warming up for an evening performance at Magnolia CafĂ©. Sunday’s music begins with Nancy Roppolo’s songwriter circle, Dylan Sneed, the Ben Bell 3 and the Fugitive Poets. Free yoga classes are offered at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. This seventh annual Yellow Leaf Arts Festival has attracted more than fifty artists who will present their creations from 10 to 5 Saturday and Sunday—potters, painters, photographers, jewelry makers, metal and stained glass artists, fiber and fabric artists, wood crafters, folk artists, doll makers and candle makers and soap makers, beekeepers and birdhouse builders. For information, email

Nancy and Joe at Yellow Leaf
Nancy & Joe Roppollo
Also on Sunday, October 25, the historic United Methodist Church on Royal Street in St. Francisville hosts an evening of gospel, country and folk music by its talented folk choir following a pancake supper at 5:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. Donations benefit property acquisition.

Friday, October 30, and Saturday, October 31, from 6 to 10 p.m., the Myrtles Plantation hosts its chilling Halloween extravaganza through a spooky historic house called one of America’s most haunted. Food and beverages will be available on site in the Carriage House Restaurant or courtyard concessions. For information, call 800-809-0565 or email

Every Sunday in October the Louisiana State Penitentiary on LA 66 at Angola puts on “The Wildest Show in the South,” with prisoner hobbycraft sales, tons of food, and hair-raising rodeo events guaranteed to be unlike any you’ve ever seen at any other rodeo. Other than the ladies’ barrel racing, all rodeo participants are inmates in this enormous maximum-security prison. The covered arena seats over 10,000 and fills up every Sunday; with road construction along US Highway 61, visitors should pack plenty of patience to cope with traffic congestion. Grounds open at 9 for the arts and crafts, and the fascinating state museum at the entrance gate will also be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The rodeo starts at 2, and advance tickets are a must. Prison website at provides information and spells out regulations which must be observed on prison property.

Rodeo at Angola Prison
Rodeo Clowns at Angola Rodeo
The St. Francisville area features a number of splendidly restored plantation homes open for tours daily: The Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, The Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer fascinating living-history demonstrations most weekends to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs. The nearby Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding Tunica Hills provide unmatched recreational activities in unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography, horseback riding with rental mounts from Cross Creek Stables. Besides the fine little restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area, there are unique specialty shops, many in restored historic structures, as well as some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts for overnight stays, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district.

For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224; online visit or .