Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association (LOWA) Annual Conference

The 2012 annual LOWA Conference took place last weekend, and I want to share the things I saw and did there.  I’ve never spent any time in Chalmette, LA before, and it was a very interesting trip. 

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

LOWA Annual Conference

That evening, we took a very nice city transit bus to the Los Islenos Culture Center where we were welcomed with . . .

LOWA Annual Conference


LOWA Annual Conference

Spanish salad

LOWA Annual Conference

Seafood Paella

LOWA Annual Conference

and Flan with blueberry sauce!

Afterward, we had a tour of the historical buildings and the museum, and it was all very interesting. 

LOWA Annual ConferenceAbove 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

LOWA Annual Conference

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 . . .

LOWA Annual Conference

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.

LOWA Annual Conference

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

LOWA Annual Conference

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!)

Nap, anyone?

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!!

LOWA Annual Conference
LOWA Annual Conference
LOWA Annual Conference
LOWA Annual Conference

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.

LOWA Annual Conference

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 . . .

LOWA Annual Conference

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

LOWA Annual Conference

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.

LOWA Annual Conference
From L to R, BW, Don Dubuc, Lyle Johnson, Steve McNemar Back row, National Wild Turkey Federation representative and sponsor of the award.

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.

LOWA Annual Conference

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.

LOWA Annual Conference

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!

LOWA Annual Conference

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!


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  1. Congratulations to you on the awards! Great job. And you look fantastic, too! 🙂 Too bad you didn’t get those cute boots.

  2. Congratulations Wendy! You work tirelessly and deserve those awards and I’m so happy for you! Glad you were able to enjoy yourself and learn a little too. That jar of oily mud, I’m unhappy about…wish there was some way to get rid of the stuff in the marsh…all the organisms are being affected by it…thus leading up the food chain. 🙁

    $480 for a pair of boots??? Better be trimmed in gold-leaf, ROFL!!!

    1. Thanks, Darlene. I wasn’t happy about that jar of oily mud either. I didn’t get the chance to ask him exactly where it came from, but I wanted to know.

        1. Hey Sherry! That does help. I knew he said it but I was so preoccupied with my camera flash troubles that I missed what he said exactly! So thanks for that! And thanks again for the great hospitality!

  3. Congratulations on your awards Wendy! It sounds like you had a great time. I used to live near Chalmette and had spent quite a bit of time there back in the 80s. It sure looks different now. Rocky and Carlos was one of my favorite places. I’ve been paddling in the Caernavon Diversion back about 10 years ago. I hope it is still doing it’s job! I recognize the names of the people you fished with from my WWL listening days. Too bad you didn’t win those boots! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kim. What amazed me most was when the tour guide said all but 4 structures were flooded during Katrina. It’s amazing how much they have recovered AND all the new business construction just blows my mind.

    1. I wanted to be in the boat with C.T., who caught limits of specks that morning. That’s the kind of fishing I thought I would be doing. However, I was impressed with the valet service at Sweetwater Landing! Thanks for the great hospitality. By the way, my photos show just how beautiful the food was at the Islenos reception. Please pass the link on to all those who worked so hard to welcome us, will you? Thanks!

  4. I guess I’m just cheap, but for the cost, I’d rather have about 32 prs. of “Cajun Reeboks” than just one pr. of Le Chameau. Glad you had a good time. Did Termite submit anything, or is he too busy being a teen for stuff like that now?

    1. Poor thing, once I joined the group, he was excluded from entering, although I didn’t know that when they recruited me for membership. BUT he could have been submitting an essay every year for the “Hunter of the Year” award, but he was too lazy, I guess! He’s not busy being a teen, he’s busy being sullen, and I just don’t get it.

  5. Congratulations on the awards BW! You worked hard for those. I picked out my choices on the menu while I was at it. I’ll take the Oyster Dinner with a side of eggplant dressing (love that stuff & I have the recipe from Wyatts Cafeterias manager before it closed) and follow it up with the spumone ice cream cake!:)
    I enjoyed the article. Looks like you have really been busy. Hope you take the time to get a bit of rest.

    I’m with Steffi on those boots. I have the cheapies too. Who knows, it may rain again and I might need them.:)

    1. Thanks, Cammy! And I do like the way you think! I linked to the menu so folks could see New Orleans is more than Creole/Cajun!!! And you did just that!

  6. Always a pleasure to see your excellent work acknowledged! Looks like ye had a grand time in Chalmation land…though those boots don’t hold a candle to Ms. Ashley’s Pyrate Bling Shrimp Boots!

    1. She was to be my guest of honor at the banquet, but she had to cancel last minute. I need to get someone to come up with a BW design for my white shrimp boots!

  7. Oh, I’m thrilled you received your just recognitions on your accomplishments! You look so petty and happy in the pics. I wish you’d caught fish but glad you had a great experience.

    I thought my in-laws were nuts the first time I saw them put gravy on their mac and cheese….until I tasted it! Their version is more of a daube gravy (like Grillades and Grits). I’ll make you some next time you’re here. It’s one of my favorite recipes to cook.

    The jar or mud (?) is truly worrisome. It is obvious much, much more needs to be done.

    1. I think they picked one of the most saturated spots to dig that sample from to prove a point. But that’s okay. Sec. Barham also said that he sure hopes we don’t get a storm to stir up the bottom, because the oil is down there, sitting, waiting . . . . God forbid.

      1. In our hearts we always knew what was waiting in the depths…..just waiting. God forbid, indeed.

  8. Congratulations, Wendy, you are so beautiful. Love that dress!
    The jar of mud that looks like oil needs more exposure.

    Last night I attended a meeting in lafayette and heard the BP event referred as a minor oil spill blown out of proportion by news media.

  9. Congratulations on your much deserved recognition. The jug of oil is disturbing. Is this from one isolated area?
    Finally found the TV episode online. You’re a natural.

    1. Thank you, my friend. Supposedly it’s representative of digging in the marsh just about any place the oil made landfall. Well, I’m glad you finally got to watch it! So, am I ready for my own show? : )

  10. Congratulations on your awards! You surely do deserve them! You look wonderful, and all of the events sound great. I can’t figure those boots, but they must have something really special going for them.

    The baked macaroni sounds a lot like the Greek dish called “pastitso”. It’s just wonderful, although the doesn’t come with a gravy. I would have just skulked off with a big bowl of paella and a spoon.

    What I envy is that trip out to the flood gate. Engineers are cool, and big piles of concrete are pretty amazing. I can hardly figure out how to stack my dishwasher – the fact that they can figure out how to control a river is amazing.

    1. Appreciate it, Linda! The boots were fur lined and about as comfortable as a hunting boot could be. I didn’t try them on, so I can’t vouch first hand. You’d be right to skulk off with a Jethro-sized bowl of paella, as it was delicious! I only had a modest portion, as there were only two pans and tons of folks, and sure enough, they scraped the pans clean. I’m not much on Sangria, but with the fresh fruit floating in it, it was actually quite refreshing. And the blueberry flan was melt-in-your-mouth overly-sweet delicious!

      1. You need to send Termite out with his gun, shoot a few Nutria, skin them, cook some of the meat, turn in the tails for the bounty and use that fur to line your boots! Then your boots would truley be Cajun Reeboks. LOL!

        1. That’s a great idea, except he doesn’t have a license for that. GOT TO HAVE A LICENSE!!!! But I have an idea that’s been brewing, but I need a friend with “painting” abilities. Acrylics, I think. It’s an idea I’ve had for a few years, but I think it’s time to act upon it. It has to do with sprucing up a pair of shrimp boots, and making them customized/personalized! Know anyone? Oh, and can’t wait to see the new BW bookmarks you’ve designed!! I LOVE you talented women!!!

  11. Just saw flan in magazine. Seems to be sorta ice cream ingredients baked in oven, no? Got to be bad for the blood sugar.

        1. Who made it, Cammy? You’re right, it is very, very rich! I felt very guilty eating it that night, but it was so delicous and I didn’t want to insult my hosts (that’s my reason and I’m sticking to it, lol!).