2012 LOWA Annual Conference in Chalmette, LA
There’s a lot more to south Louisiana heritage and culture than Cajuns and Creoles, as I learned this weekend over in Chalmette, in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. That is where I learned about the Islenos peoples who settled that area many years ago from the Canary Islands when Louisiana was under Spanish rule.
The conference kicked off with an early morning fishing trip Friday. 3:15 a.m. came very early for this little girl, but we were on the water out of Delacroix at safe light, once we were sure the lightning had stopped. There I was, equipped to fish for reds and specks, only to find out that our target fish would be bass. Huh? Say what?
Delacroix has a great influx of freshwater from Caernarvon Diversion providing the same brackish marine environment like the estuary system back home. Only thing is, there was lots of aquatic grasses, and I didn’t bring my very favorite lure–a weedless gold spoon. So, I was at the mercy of my fishing hosts, father and son team Joe and Chris Macalouso to loan me a lure or two.
They took really good care of me, rigging me first with a nice topwater bait, which I don’t even really allow on my boat because of the deadly double set of treble hooks. Regardless, we chunked those puppies out there, and Chris proceeded to whip my butt catching lunker bass right and left. Since this fishing story didn’t end well for me, suffice it to say, I haven’t been skunked in a very long time, and I don’t count a “lady fish” as a real fish, anyway.
Chris and Joe pretty much took me to school out there in those grassy waters of Lake Leary and eventually Oak River, catching beautiful largemouth and red drum like nobody’s business. My fishing mojo was definitely off, and as I downloaded my photos of the weekend, I wondered why in the heck there weren’t any fishing photos. It’s not like I couldn’t set my rod down to snap a few of their beauties. I’m still not sure why I didn’t get at least one photo of those two catching fish and taking video for an upcoming episode of their new show, SoLA TV.
Los Islenos Culture Center, Chalmette, LA
That evening, we took a very nice city transit bus to the Los Islenos Culture Center where we were welcomed with . . .
and Flan with blueberry sauce!
Afterward, we had a tour of the historical buildings and the museum, and it was all very interesting.
Above is the Coconut Island Bar from Chalmette, La. It had been closed and sitting empty for nearly fifty years when it was purchased and moved from its location in town out to the village where it now sits. The bar and cabinetry are just like they were the day the doors closed.
Great Wall of Chalmette, LA
On Saturday, a US Army Corps of Engineers representative took us on a tour of the “Great Wall of Chalmette”, which connects two levee systems, and then . . .
to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) flood gate, which essentially will swing shut during times of storm surge to prevent the flooding of the city of New Orleans. It is about 97% complete, the biggest concrete project in the history of Louisiana, and the second largest concrete project in the nation, with Hoover Dam being the largest.
Several of our TV Broadcast members took the opportunity to interview USACE engineer Chris Gilmore, who will have this great engineering feet to his credit at the ripe age of 40. Award-winning cameraman and LOWA member, Gary Krause, filmed as Joe Macalouso asked the questions.
Lunch at Rocky and Carlo’s
We ate lunch at the famous Rocky and Carlo’s, an Italian restaurant where they are famous for their baked macaroni that is covered with either brown (beef) or red (tomato) gravy–your choice. I had never heard of such a thing and clearly needed a lesson in baked macaroni etiquette! I tried a little of the red and wished I had tried the brown, too. Also on the plate is eggplant casserole, (French) bread, and baked chicken Parmesan, with “Wop salad” on the side. (Not trying to offend, but that is what they called it. Since they are Italian, I figured they knew best!)
The LOWA Conference
No time for that yet, because the afternoon was filled with back-to-back craft improvement presentations by La. Wildlife & Fisheries, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Vanishing Paradise, and finally (and my favorite) “Fishing Line University” by the Berkley representative, Clay Norris. I am now an expert on their fishing lines and which one to use for what!!
After a general membership meeting, we were scrambling to get cleaned up and ready for the Awards Banquet, held at the Sigura Civic Center. There were over a hundred people in attendance, some of those being winners of our Youth Journalism Writing and Photo contests and their proud family members.
Our keynote speaker was Robert Barham, LDWF Secretary. He spoke very strongly about the continuing negative impacts of the BP oil spill and the 200 million gallons of dispersant, which were broadcast to sink the oil. He passed around a little “show and tell” object . . .
a jar of marsh mud collected after he accepted the invitation to speak at our conference. He claims that he told one of his agents to go out to the marsh near Bay Jimmy and scoop up some marsh mud and bring it back. This is what was gathered. It looked more like oil than mud to me. He further emphasized the importance that our state not settle too fast with the culprits.
The LOWA Conference Annual Journalistic Awards
The awards are always the highlight of the evening. Not only do we recognize the children and youth who won awards for their writing and photography, but a young boy and girl also receive “Hunter of the Year” awards.
This is also the night that LOWA members find out which of our works received peer-reviewed Excellence In Craft awards for the previous year. And the most exciting news of the night for me was that our new radio show, “Hunt, Fish, Talk!” received a 3rd place award in the broadcast category, which includes radio, TV, and film.
Don’t know if you remember reading this article, “Two Years and Eleven Crosses Later”, but it won a 3rd place award in the “Electronic” category covering Internet articles.
And lastly we have our raffle of $4,000 worth of donated outdoors items. It’s always a lot of fun, and this night was no exception. Usually, the two guns that are raffled off are the coveted prizes of the evening, however, this night was a little different.
This year, all the fuss was over a pair of boots valued at $480 made by French bootmaker Le Chameau. I have to admit, if I had won, I definitely would not have traded them for a turkey call!
It was a great weekend. St. Bernard Parish Tourism did a fantastic job of hosting us and found lots of fun things for us and our guests to do all weekend. I’m glad I went and fished new waters, learned some history I didn’t know, and got to hang out with some of the best in the outdoor journalism industry!
NOW, it’s time for that nap!