Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Elvis has NOT left the building and other Shreveport haunts

            Elvis Presley performed on the “Louisiana Hayride” radio show, broadcast from Shreveport’s historic Municipal Auditorium. It was a transitional time for Elvis; he started garnering a following while in Shreveport and left for bigger pastures. But when screaming teens arrived at the Municipal to hear him sing, “Hayride” producer Horace Logan had to tell then “Elvis has left the building” to make them stop.
Cora Lee Wilson's grave
             The screaming teens may have left the building but some think Elvis still hangs around. Actually, most people have other views about who’s haunting the Municipal Auditorium but it’s definitely someone who is not of this plane.
Logan Mansion
            The Auditorium is only one site in Shreveport that claims to be haunted, and these downtown haunts were spotlighted in last weekend’s inaugural Paranormal Festival. Participants were treated to tours of Oakland Cemetery, where the gravesite of Cora Lee Wilson routinely has bricks pushed out — from the inside! The cemetery is also home to more than 750 bodies buried in one massive grave due to the 1873 yellow fever epidemic. Vicki LeBrun gave tours of the Victorian Logan Mansion where it’s believed a young girl threw herself out of the third-story window and hangs around performing ghostly pranks (and sits across the street from the old gay nightclub that's now seen in the opening of "True Blood" episodes). Ghost hunting sessions were held at the Spring Street Museum and the Multi-Cultural Center, where people (including yours truly) heard unexplained noises, watched flashlights go on and off and heard answers to their spoken questions. 
Fan of "True Blood?" This house is in the opening credits.
              “We think that downtown Shreveport has many things that go bump in the night,” said festival director Liz Swaine.
            As for Elvis sightings, the Municipal Auditorium was closed for renovations. Since the festival drew good crowds for its first time out the gate, festival organizers are hopeful they will offer the event next summer, but using the Auditorium as home base.
            Maybe then we can be sure if Elvis truly left the building.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A fire hydrant Clifford the Big Red Dog would love

            They say everything is bigger in Texas and a trip to Beaumont would assure anyone that this Dalmatian-styled fire hydrant fits the bill. Actually, it’s the third largest hydrant in the world — largest, of course, in Texas — but the largest working fire hydrant ever! We’d really love to see this baby in action!
             The fire hydrant sits in front of the Fire Museum of Texas, located in the city’s 1927 working Central Fire Station at 400 Walnut Street in downtown Beaumont. The museum is filled with vintage fire engines and equipment and memorabilia dating back to the late 1600s. Items include the 1909 Aerial ladder truck, the 1856 Howe Hand Drawn Pumper, the 1931 Light Truck used for search and rescue in the 1937 New London School Explosion and the Gamewell Call Box Alarm System used to call in fires before there were telephones.
            There is a fire engine for play as well, so kids can dress up in firemen clothes and sound the alarms, and an international collection of fire patches with a handy index so you can look up your town or state
            The Fire Museum of Texas is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is free! And don’t forget the gift shop.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hemingway would be proud

            Every July in Pamplona, Spain, a small herd of bulls chases anyone who’s brave enough to run in front. (And they say we’re crazy in the South!) This running of the bulls is in honor of San Fermin and was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novels.
            Now, New Orleans has joined in the fun. 
             This July will be the seventh annual Encierro: the Running of the Bulls through the streets of downtown New Orleans. But participants won’t be followed by live bulls. Instead, in true New Orleans fashion, the “bulls” will be members of the Big Easy Rollergirls with horn helmets on their heads. Instead of horns piercing your side by an angry animal, women on skates will slap you with a foam wiffle bat.
            And to make the event even better, there’s food and alcohol as part of the larger San Fermin in Nueva Orleans festival!
            Yeah, Hemingway would love this.
            The San Fermin in Nueva Orleans (SFNO) festival will be July 11-14, 2013, and includes a Marques de Caceres wine dinner at the Bourbon Orleans, a 1-mile Dash and Fun Run, parties, live music, the Fiesta de Pantalones (Pants Feast) on Saturday night and El Pobre de Mi (Poor Me) on Sunday with readings from the works of Hemingway. There will also be a Hemingway look-alike contest, an original skit contest and Spanish specialty drinks.
            In case you’re wondering why French New Orleans is the site of this event (if the angry girls on skates and alcohol doesn’t do the trick), here’s some history for you. New Orleans may have been founded by the French, but it was under Spanish rule for decades, switching back to the French briefly before the French then sold it to Thomas Jefferson. If you look hard at the “French” Quarter, especially before you begin drinking, you’ll see the architecture is decidedly Spanish. That’s because much of the French Quarter burned during the Spanish reign and what replaced the original buildings had Roman arches, courtyards and balconies, just like Spain.
            So there, you learned something.
            For more information on the festival and the New Orleans Running of the Bulls, visit http://nolabulls.com/.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Goats on the Roof?

             In the South there have been some creative ways of enticing people off the road and into establishments. Think “See Rock City” emblazoned on bright red barns.
            But Goats on the Roof?
             In Tiger, Georgia, you can’t help but pull over for this attraction. Several goats are indeed on the roof — or roofs, all of which are attached by swinging bridges. Why? Heck, why not?
            Here’s how it works. You purchase goat food from the gift shop or Big Billy’s Café and Sweet Treats. Place the goat food into one of the many cups attached to a pully that leads up to a roof. Some of the pulleys are simple and some require some work, such as the bicycle, that moves the can of food up to the goat as you pedal.
            As you can imagine, the goats on the roof look down with glee once they hear those pulleys moving. They practically eat the cup when it finally arrives. 
             As crazy as it seems, the attraction’s a lot of fun. Kids love to ride the bicycle that moves the cup of food and witness the goats going crazy once the food arrives. And in addition to the goats, kids can mine for “gems” in a faux mining station or enjoy really awesome fudge inside the café (OMG, the red velvet cake!). There’s a picnic area, and food is available in the café and store.
             Before you pick up the phone to call PETA, the owners assured us the goats are well cared for and aren’t starving, despite their eager show on the roof — hey, that’s what goats do, eat everything! The goats rotate out so their stay on the roof is temporary and they have lovely goat quarters up there.
            Looking for a unique wedding site? Goats on the Roof is available for all kinds of special events.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blog now honoring South's weird and unusual places

Dear Readers,
            I travel the South as a travel writer and am constantly amazed at the unusual and weird things we do.  I’ve decided to change my blog from a general travelogue to one that spotlights the weird and crazy places within the Southern United States.
            First up is the cemetery outside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Rayne, Louisiana. B.L. Rayne brought the Louisiana Western Railroad to the prairie west of Lafayette, but frogs brought it fame. The Weill brothers of France — remember the French love frog legs — saw a future in the region’s bullfrogs and began exporting them to restaurants throughout the country.
            When you visit the quaint town of Rayne, there are frog murals everywhere, many created by the award-winning Acadiana mural artist Robert Dafford. In the fall is the annual Frog Festival. It’s no wonder Rayne calls itself the “Frog Capital of the World.”
            But back to that cemetery. The graves at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church are buried in a north-south direction instead of east to west, a traditional formation made for the departed to greet the rising sun, a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. No one knows for sure whether the grave organizers were having a joke on the town or if the mistake was unintentional, but St. Joseph’s Cemetery is a rarity. In addition to frogs, Rayne is famous for its unusual cemetery mentioned in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”