Thursday, February 22, 2018

Street art in Clarksville, from Sgt. Carter to Van Gogh

Clarksville recently unveiled its 21st public art piece, adding “Clarksville’s Starry Night,” the town’s skyline in the style of Vincent van Gogh, to the many murals, sculptures, fountains and flames that dot this corner of northern Tennessee. All are located close to the city’s downtown core and include city streets, urban trails, buildings and the campus of Austin Peay State University.

The current "Clarksville's Starry Night" mural by artist Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun fills a 60- by 40-foot space on the side of a building at 420 Madison Street.
The Day After

But let's check out the other pieces:

"The Day After," a bronze statue by Scott Wise at Commerce and South Second, depicts a seated man reading a January 23, 1999, edition of The Leaf-Chronicle, the day after an F-4 tornado destroyed much of downtown, including the courthouse and the Leaf Chronicle buildings. 
"The Clarksville Protector" by artists Roger and Neil Brodin is a bronze sculpture dedicated to all who serve in the Clarksville Police Department and is located at 135 Commerce St.

The First Federal Outdoor Garden at 200 S. Second St. includes various pieces in the courtyard entry at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center, created by artists Olen Bryant, Tom Rice and Mike Andrews.

"Lenora ‘Nora’ Witzel and Nettie" by Andrea Lugar at the Millennium Plaza at Third Street is a life-sized bronze statue of local pioneer female photographer Lenora Witzel and her dog.

The Millennium Fountain by John Medwedeff, also in Millennium Plaza, is a 16-foot bronze fountain installed with the reconstruction of the area after the 1999 tornado.
Frank Sutton

Eighteen bronze children at 115 Strawberry Alley make up the Children’s Fountain.

Scott Wise created "Frank Sutton," a life-size bronze sculpture of the Clarksville native who portrayed “Sgt. Carter” on the CBS sitcom, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” Unveiled in 2017, it's located at 107 Franklin St.

"Forged in the Fire" is steel warped in a fire of 1978, refined and painted by Montgomery Central High School students at Upland Trail at Spring Street, created with artist Mike Andrews.

Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire
"Bursting with Pride" by artist Ricky Deel is a 10,000 square-foot mural featuring 15 Clarksville buildings at 110 Franklin St.

John Montgomery was Clarksville’s first settler and his bronze recreation by Scott Wise is located at City Hall at Strawberry Alley.

"Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire" by Dr. Gregg Schlander is a 30-foot tall steel pillar dedicated to all military personnel in the Public Square at Main Street.

On the Austin Peay State University Campus (601 College St.), adjacent to downtown is the following:

"The Synthesis" polished marble statue by the Rev. Howard Brown at the Felix G. Woodward Library; 

"The Gateway" by Dr. Jim Diehr at the College Street Entry Gates, made up of concrete and steel;

"A Sentinel" by Olen Bryant at the Morgan University Center, a 10-foot bronze monolithic sculpture; and

"Gov. Austin Peay" by Scott Wise at the Morgan University Center, a life-size bust of the Tennessee Governor and college’s namesake.

The Gateway
Outside the Urban Core:

"Wilma Rudolph" by the Rev. Howard Brown, a life-size bronze statue of three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Wilma Rudolph at the
Wilma Rudolph Event Center at 1190 TN Hwy 48;

"Remembrance" by Scott Wise, a bronze sculpture commemorating Clarksville firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty, at
831 Franklin Street;

"Family" by Tom Rice, limestone pedestaled bird sculptures inside the foyer of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library at
350 Pageant Lane;

"Reverence" by Scott Wise, one-and-a-half life-sized sculpture dedicated to all veterans who served in the U.S. armed forces at 330 Pageant Lane (facing Madison Street); and

"Doughboy" by Ernest Viquesney, marble sculpture dedicated in 1929 to honor World War I veterans at 250 Arrowwood Lane (Brigadier General Wendell H. Gilbert Tennessee State Veterans' Home).

Individual stories about the pieces, most of which were written by students in an Austin Peay Urban Planning class, can be found on the Visit Clarksville website.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who adores public art. She lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, a town of many murals. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

King Cake: A royal cake for a crazy winter's day

Mardi Gras King Cake
Happy Mardi Gras y'all. Today's a day to live it up before you give it up on Ash Wednesday.

We recently were treated to some fun Carnival activities in Shreveport, including visiting one of the city's most popular businesses this time of year — Lilah's. This family-owned business creates delicious king cakes, an essential element of Carnival and one of the Louisiana food groups (well, we think so).

These sugar-topped creations date back to France and the celebrations surrounding Twelfth Night, or Jan. 6, which is the beginning of the Carnival season. The king cake signifies the coming of the three wise men to the baby Jesus 12 days after his birth. Jan. 6 is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany or King's Day.

In Louisiana, we start enjoying king cakes on Jan. 6 at the start of Carnival and continue eating these decadent pastries through Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. They come in various flavors and styles, some plain with only sugar toppings, some filled with goodness like fruit fillings or cream cheese. Some really adventurous, such as the boudin king cake and the peanut butter and chocolate. And some people have loads of fun with the tradition, such as Alky Therapy Daiquiris, which makes an 18-ounce King Cake Daiquiri complete with king cake slice, king cake cupcake, fleur de lis candy and king cake vodka. 

King cakes traditionally included a small plastic baby (in earlier times it was a bean or a porcelain king) and whoever gets the baby in their slice of king cake must buy the next cake. Nowadays, because a few people were surprised to bite into a small plastic baby and some broke teeth, bakeries place the baby in the cake box and let you insert it yourself.

Want to see how it's done? We got an inside peek into how Lilah's makes their cakes. This small bakery produces 400-600 king cakes a day during Carnival, producing about 12,000 for the entire Carnival season! The family does so well during Carnival that it's now their only business.

Let us show you what we saw.

The round dough is put through a machine to flatten it out.

Mark places the dough on a table.

Julie adds two scoops of cream cheese filling.

The filling is flattened out and praline crumbles added.

The dough is rolled...

...and made into a circle.

Then brushed and placed into the ovens 
to become pralines 'n' cream king cakes.

Lilah's can bake 100 king cakes in an hour.

Here's what they look like baked.

Buttercream icing goes on top.

Then sugar sprinkles 
in Mardi Gras colors.

Babies are included. Beads too.

The final product. 
Flavors run the gamut, 
like this tiramisu.
Talk about good!!

Gluten-free king cakes are also available.
They taste more like a king cake scone.

Lilah's is run by Lisa and Sopan Tike
 with help from their daughter Lila.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen, an avid lover of all things Carnival and yes, she drank all 18 ounces of that king cake daiquiri. 

She wishes you all a very Happy Mardi Gras!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cheering for beer this month in Roswell, Georgia

Photo courtesy of Visit Roswell GA CVB
We love craft breweries, especially ones sporting creative names. Here are a few we discovered in Roswell, Georgia, with some fun events coming up this month:

Abbey of the Holy Goats
Kathy Davis owns this small craft brewery, a product that resulted after years of pondering whether to own a goat farm or brew beers. Guess which won? Davis and her beers with names such as The Lazy Goat and Ghost of the First Order have nabbed accolades at brewing competitions, including second place in Georgia State University’s Business Plan Competition.

Abbey of the Holy Goats will celebrate its first anniversary from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 14 with a beer and chocolate pairing. Taproom Only releases include a Coffee & Chocolate Chevre Noir, a Cherry Chocolate Red Strong and a Licorice Brown Ale.

Gate City Brewing Company
Another brewery with a birthday is Gate City, which will celebrate its third anniversary with a “Birthday Weekend” Feb 9-11 with nightly bands, food on-site, special release packaged beers and anniversary tees and glassware. Entry is free.

Other upcoming events at Gate City include:
Mardi Gras (Tuesday, Feb. 13), a New Orleans-style 7-piece jazz band performs and Big Easy dishes will be served.

Valentines Dinner on Feb. 14 featuring a four-course dinner with your choice of beer or wine pairings. Call to book reservations at (770) 910-9799.

From the Earth Brewing Company 
This craft establishment is the baby on the block, opening in November, 2017. But they haven’t wasted time. Beer Guys Radio voted From the Earth Brewing 2017’s Best New Brewpub in Georgia. And they offer live music every Thursday in February.

Variant Brewing Company 
This craft brewery was also recognized by Beer Guys Radio with five awards, including third place for Best Overall Brewery. Variant also took the People’s Choice Award for their Midmorning Imperial Stout at the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting. Variant will host a Super Bowl party starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4. Visit the website for additional details.

And if that’s not enough to make you want to haul off to Roswell, the Sixth Annual Roswell Beer Festival will be Saturday, March 24, in the Historic Town Square. All proceeds help the STAR House Foundation, providing after-school tutoring and mentoring programs for at-risk children throughout North Fulton County. 

The Roswell Beer Festival begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. and there will be more than 300 varieties of beer as well as food and music.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by award-winning travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who loves every kind of Southern spirit. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mardi Gras beads grow on trees

Drive through most South Louisiana towns and look up and you’ll see a plethora of Mardi Gras beads hanging from tree boughs. These unusual growths are especially prominent during the Carnival season, which happens from Jan. 6 until Mardi Gras, which is today (Feb. 13, 2018), the Tuesday before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

These plastic creations grow on trees down here, which is where we get the beads to throw off Mardi Gras floats during the long Carnival season.

You didn’t think we bought them from China, did you? 
Mardi Gras beads are particularly fond of our massive live oak trees that spread out over the parade routes. We find all kinds, too, and not just those little cheapy beads we want to throw back at float riders.

Those grow on shrubbery.

What? You’re saying the beads get caught in the trees after being thrown off Mardi Gras floats and stay there all year long?

I don’t think so.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by award-winning Louisiana food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who absolutely adores Mardi Gras.

This is how we roll in South Louisiana

Carnival in South Louisiana and outlying regions such as the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Mobile is made up of many “krewes” that host Carnival balls and parades, all leading up to the big day of Mardi Gras, which this year (2018) is Tuesday, Feb. 13. For those watching this revelry on TV it might appear as decadent chaos but underneath the fun it’s highly organized and doesn't change too much from year to year.

But occasionally, Carnival fun arises organically, groups that come together to fill an open spot for a parade, for instance, or to create an event in a non-utilized part of town. Take the Krewe de Canailles, for instance, in Lafayette, Louisiana, a town that has a regular parade schedule on streets bounded by barricades for safety reasons. People in Lafayette hate these barricades because they screw up traffic the rest of the time. The Krewe de Canailles formed as a non-profit group made up of “sub-krewes” to parade along streets without barricades and to fill an empty spot on the Friday before Mardi Gras.
Lost Bayou Ramblers
The word in Cajun French means “mischievous, tricky, shrewd,” a perfect description for a group of about 200 people in mocking costumes walking through town, throwing beads and other craziness to onlookers. The krewe parades for the first time this year on Friday, Feb. 9, beginning at 7 p.m. at the downtown Lafayette archway. New Natives Brass Band leads the parade as it travels the length of downtown’s Jefferson Street, through the historic Freetown-Port Rico neighborhood and ends with a party — of course — at an event space called Warehouse 535 where the Lost Bayou Ramblers will perform, a band that just won a Grammy for “Best Regional Roots Album.”

Costumes are expected to be unique with tongue-in-cheek nods to local celebrities and the like with unusual but sustainable and handmade throws and wooden doubloons. Spectators are encouraged to bring flashlights, costumes and noisemakers to the parade route.

Want to learn more? Check out this local newscast featuring the krewe's organizers. 

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen who loves a wild and unusual Mardi Gras parade.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Nacogdoches 'On Cloud Wine' this weekend

Nacogdoches, Texas, that small town with a big funny name, is hosting a weekend of pre-Valentine’s Day fun. Called “On Cloud Wine,” the weekend containing a spirits tour will be Feb. 9-11 and consist of visiting three of the town’s libation locations.

The weekend begins with a “Wine, Whiskey and Brew Tour” hosted by the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau on Friday evening, Feb. 9, and will include Fredonia Brewery, Naca Valley Vineyard and the Front Porch Distillery for tours and tastings at each. Rumor has it that tour bus karaoke is involved.

A little about the town's spirits. Naca Valley Vineyard, about nine miles outside of town, is owned by Wanda and Buzz Mouton, who opened the winery in 2017 on land once owned by Wanda's grandfather. The wine contains 100 percent Texas grapes and the labels reflect the Lone Star origins.

"We try to use Texas themes and history as much as possible," said Wanda Mouton.

There's Southern Belle dry white, Brick Street Red sweet table wine and Berry Blue For You blueberry wine, a homage to the town's annual Blueberry Festival, in addition to many others.

The Bradford Family of Front Porch Distillery
The Front Porch Distillery is owned and operated by the Branford family, producing artisan craft rum, vodka and moonshine and providing tastings of all in their fun tasting room on U.S. Hwy. 59 with the 1932 Ford truck out front and rocking chairs on the porch. Be sure and sample the flavored rums and pepper vodka that's perfect for Bloody Marys.

On Saturday, there’s the sixth annual Wine Swirl from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., a wine and food pairing event that showcases Texas wineries and local and regional food trucks along the historic brick streets of downtown Nacogdoches. Attendees will be able to purchases glasses and bottles and drink them on the street while shopping. 

For those wanting to stay the weekend, an accommodation package has been created. The Fredonia Hotel and Convention Center, a historic 1950’s property that recently reopened after a renovation, is the official Wine Swirl host hotel. Call (936) 564-1234 to book your stay.

Additional information about the weekend and tickets for both the Wine, Whiskey and Brew Tour and the Wine Swirl is available online at

Wanda Mouton of Naca Valley 

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by award-winning travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen, who loves every kind of  Southern spirit.