Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Celebrate the Yellow Leaves of Autumn in St. Francisville

Joe Lackie - the artist
Artist Joe Lackie
By Anne Butler
In one of few spots in South Louisiana where the arrival of autumn actually does bring brilliant fall color---the yellows and oranges and reds of turning leaves in the hardwood forests of the Tunica Hills---the appropriately named Yellow Leaf Festival October 26 and 27 is an outdoor celebration of all things creative---art and crafts and music and writing. And this year’s eleventh annual festival is heralded by a colorful poster that is the wonderful work of Joe Lackie, whose many years of astute observation of his surroundings have given him the rare gift of being able to share that sense of wonder and appreciation through his very fine watercolors.
Fall in the Felicianas brings many activities---the Southern Garden Symposium October 18 and 19 featuring prestigious gardening experts lecturing and demonstrating amidst the glorious garden settings of the St. Francisville area, the Baton Rouge Symphony’s Baroque Concert October 25 on historic Grace Episcopal Church’s splendid 1850s Pilcher organ, the Angola Prison Rodeo (“Wildest Show in the South”) every Sunday, and the chilling thrilling Halloween extravangas at The Myrtles (“Most Haunted House in the South”) every Friday and Saturday in October (plus October 31). November features two music festivals (LA Vets Fest Nov. 8-10 and Modern South Music Fest Nov. 10), and December’s special celebration of the season is called Christmas in the Country Dec. 6-8th in St. Francisville.

Fugutive Poet
Fugutive Poets
But the last weekend in October the Yellow Leaf Arts Festival draws crowds of art-lovers to oak-shaded Parker Park with its bandstand right in the middle of St. Francisville’s downtown National Register-listed Historic District. A festival called “authentic, genuine and full of small-town charm,” Yellow Leaf from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday showcases the works and talents of more than 50 artists and crafters who offer paintings, pottery including a potters reunion and a chance to try throwing pots, metalwork, fabric art, books, woodwork, sculpture, glass art, jewelry, carvings and lots more. There are art activities for children and local farmers with home-grown sweet potatoes both cooked and raw in bulk, plus local honey.
This festival, they say, really is all about the art---no mass productions, no noisy generators, no train rides, although there are usually a few local kiddies hawking refreshments from little red wagons. There’s also great live music from 10 to 3 both Saturday and Sunday, with a Louisiana songwriter showcase plus The Fugitive Poets, Clay Parker, Emily Branton, The Wilder Janes, Karuna Spoon and Hot Club de Lune. Also on the music stage the Bains Elementary Children’s Choir performs at 10 Saturday. Sponsors include the local umbrella arts agency called Arts For All, plus Birdman Coffee, West Feliciana Parish Hospital and the Bank of St. Francisville. For information, access or
Pottery for Sale

The park pavilion will showcase the varied works of Arts For All members. The 2013 Yellow Leaf poster was executed by Joe Lackie, who was supposed to be the featured artist in the park pavilion until health constraints intervened. Mr. Lackie, whose creative talents have inspired and encouraged members of the arts organization, is a gifted artist with that rare ability to reveal volumes from the slightest glimpse, finding beauty in everyday subjects from dogs and street artists to an old farmer washing the mud from his rubber boots. A tiny porch corner of a weathered cypress cabin on LA Highway 1 down the bayou whispers of life there just as compellingly as the grand white-columned gallery at Manresa Retreat Center, and the small section of a cast-iron fence is just enough to impart that quintessential New Orleans spirit. The painter, who works primarily in watercolors but is equally proficient in acrylics, oils, pastels and pen and ink, is adept at letting a narrow but carefully selected view speak for a wider world and broader message.

From St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square to tiny bait shops and shrimp boats along the bayou, from a row of quirky flamingo-decorated rural mail boxes entitled “Expecting” to the priceless expressions on the wrinkled faces of three old Bolivian matrons wrapped in woven shawls, Mr. Lackie celebrates the soul and spirit in the most mundane of subjects; as he says, he tries to capture an instant in time or bit of history that preserves on canvas the essence of that moment for future generations. His website ( sprinkles religious encouragements among his galleries of paintings: “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” Prov. 17:22, a sentiment that permeates his works, which are gentle, generous and cheerful, simple and sincere. And very, very good.

Musician Heather

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination.  A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours daily: the Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, the Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens and Imahara’s Botanical Garden are spectacular. 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 (state budget constraints have unfortunately shuttered Oakley Sunday and Monday).

The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some nice restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic 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 225-6330 or 225-635-4224; online visit, or (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities, including the Farmers Market on Thursday mornings).