Saturday, September 24, 2011


by Anne Butler
Fall St. FrancisvilleFall in the Feliciana hills brings fabulous autumn color to the woodlands and perfect cool temperatures for the outdoor activities that attract so many visitors to the area throughout October. Active individuals find this month ideal for hiking in the rugged Tunica Hills, once the snakes and poison ivy have retreated and the falling leaves open up scenic vistas not noticeable in the lush overgrowth of summer. Several state wildlife management areas, Clark Creek Natural Area with its rare waterfalls, Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the Mary Ann Brown Nature Preserve offer hiking trails ranging from family-friendly Sunday strolls to challenging hills and steep hollows.

Less active souls find plenty of outdoor activities as well. Parker Park in the middle of St. Francisville’s National Register-listed downtown historic district is the setting for an October 15 Community Market featuring a variety of arts and crafts, and later in the month the park also hosts the very popular Yellow Leaf Arts and Mini-Sweet Potato Festival. This 9th annual festival will be held October 29 and 30, featuring more than 60 artists and craftspersons displaying their creations beneath the spreading live oaks. Among participants will be furniture maker Gordon Graham, potters Michael Miller and Craig Roth, stained glass artist Marjorie Blake, whimsical folk artist Laura Lindsey, and nationally recognized wildlife artist Murrell Butler. Artist in Residence in the park gazebo is the incredible nature    photographer/author C.C. Lockwood, and live music will be provided by Jodi James, the Mosspickers, the Fugitive Poets, local songwriters, and Ann Savoy & Her Sleepless Knights. Besides celebrating the artists who continue to find creative stimulation in an area that has provided inspiration ever since John James Audubon painted a number of his famous bird studies there in the 1820s, the Yellow Leaf Festival also pays tribute to the sweet potato, longtime staple crop in a region whose economics and lifestyle once centered around agriculture. Crates of freshly harvested potatoes, plus prepared dishes, will be available.

music, dance, community market daysThe month of October is filled with a huge variety of other activities and events as well. On Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15, the twenty-third 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 antebellum gardens for which the St. Francisville area is justly famous. Programs feature hands-on demonstrations and talks by such distinguished speakers as Southern Living’s Editor–in-Chief M. Lindsay Bierman, plus lunch, tea at White’s Cottage, and Speaker’s Gala at Wyoming Plantation. For information see or call 225-635-3738.

The active St. Francisville Main Street program gets everyone into the Halloween spirit beginning on Friday, October 14 in Parker Park with a space walk and child-friendly Movie Under the Stars at dark; bring lawnchairs and blankets plus a donation of canned food for the Food Bank, and the Women’s Service League will be offering concessions. This is a fitting prelude to the fun Trick or Treat Down Main Street on October 31.
pumpkin carving by main street program

The last weekend of the month (Oct. 28-31) the Myrtles Plantation hosts its chilling Halloween extravaganza through a spooky historic house called one of America’s most haunted. The Audubon State Historic Site also observes the holiday on October 28 (6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) with an All Hallows Eve interactive program on Halloween superstitions and traditions of the 1800s, while on the 29th Rosedown Plantation State Historic site dons mourning garb to recreate a family funeral of the early 19th century. The 29th is also the date for the Friends of the Library fundraising book sale at the local library on Ferdinand St.

And there’s more! 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 finally completed along US Highway 61 around St. Francisville, visitors should find traffic congestion less of a problem this year. Grounds open at 9 for the arts and crafts, and the fascinating state museum at the entrance gate will also be open. 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.

Fall in St. Francisville
While October generally offers the most pleasant weather, St. Francisville is a year-round tourist destination area featuring 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, offering periodic fascinating living-history demonstrations so visitors can experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.
community market days
The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some fine little restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from  Chinese and Mexican cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.

For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224; online visit (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities) or

Photos by ptWalsh