Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seen on the cemetery streets of New Orleans

People place the craziest things on cemetery tombs in New Orleans. We'd say it was unique to the city but we've seen this phenomena all over the South. Here's a tomb in St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery of New Orleans that includes an angel, squirrel and rubber shark. We can't help but wonder how that combination plays out. He's hiding, too, under the seat which makes it even more strange.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The South's five smallest churches

Who has the bragging rights to the smallest church in America? You bet the contestants are in the South. 
            First up is the 10-foot by 20-foot church “deeded to Jesus Christ” in South Newport, Georgia, built in 1949 by Agnes Harper. There’s a bell tower, six chairs on each side of the aisle, stained glass windows and places to sit outside if you want make it a picnic. The 1998 bell tower is also a nice touch.
Chapel of the Madonna
            The Chapel of the Madonna outside White Castle, Louisiana, measures 8 feet by 8 feet, thus nabbing it the title as the “Smallest Church in the World” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Anthony Gullo built this chapel in 1903 after he prayed to the Virgin Mary to help heal his eldest son. Mass is held her every Aug. 15, the Day of the Assumption.
            Apparently Ripley’s is a two-timer.             At Thomas More College the small stone Monte Casino Chapel measures 8 feet high and was called the “Smallest Church in the World” by Ripley’s in 1922. It was built in 1878 by Benedictine Father Otto Kopf and Brother Albert Soltis, a German-born mason, as a quiet retreat at the Monte Casino Monastery in the hills of South Covington, Kentucky.
            One mile east of Warrenton, Texas, on Highway 237 lies the oldest Catholic Church in Fayette County. It’s also the smallest chapel in Texas — how’s that for a Texas brag? Circa-1915 St. Martin’s Church is only 12 feet by 16 feet, which inspired someone to proclaim it the “World’s Smallest Active Catholic Church” (we’re not sure who). Masses for the intentions left on the altar are celebrated monthly and there’s a minister and staff!
            Pause, pray and worship at the Traveler’s Chapel in Conway/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and sign the book before you leave. Built in 1972, this tiny church seats 12 and measures 12-feet by 24-feet. You can even get married there! If you want a look-see inside, check out this YouTube video of “Ray writing a prayer.”
            There are other small churches in America. Want to see more. Visit RoadsideAmerica.com for a full list.


Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How to have a weird Mother’s Day

            Don’t give Mom a candle this year or bring her to the old boring brunch spot. Make this year’s Mother’s Day weird! We can show you how.
            For instance, give mom the perfect gift for the upcoming football season. The Stadium Sippin’ Seat allows mom to enjoy her bourbon and coke at the LSU games without having to leave her seat! Talk about the perfect gift! The Sippin’ Seat even holds more alcohol than a traditional flask — "up to three cups of liquid" — and comes in your favorite team colors (we only found a sample of the seat in red but don't you think we endorse the University of Alabama!). You can view the handy video on how to use the Sippin' Seat here.
        The site offers some other wonderful alcohol hiders. We were particularly enamored with the binoculars flask which allows for two different types of alcohol so you can mix drinks at the game.
            We’re biased at Weird South (guess where we live?) but if you must pull for another SEC team, how about the Georgia Bulldogs or the Auburn High Heel Shoe Bottle Holder from www.Fanatics.com? You can get any SEC team, plus a number of NFL brands as well, allowing Mom to show her true team spirit while knocking back a bottle of wine. 
            Or if Mom wants to see the Saints play in style (OK, we're in Louisiana!), then how about a pair of Cuce Crusader High Heel Booties. Just make sure you hold Mom's elbow going up and down those Superdome stairs after she's enjoyed her Sippin' Seat concoctions.
            Speaking of sports, the Stadium bar and restaurant at L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge is hosting a Mother’s Day Special where moms can create their own Bloody Marys at the Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar. Items include boudin balls, chipotle meat straws, crawfish and crab claws, among many other items — even some that don’t reflect Louisiana crazy. Moms can add as many ingredients/toppings that will fit into one 16-ounce Bloody Mary drink. Hot damn!
            Don't worry, we're not all about alcohol and football. For the Southern religious mom, there’s Chocolate Jesus, artisanal dark chocolates (of course!) that’s enshrined in an archival box, sealed with a limited edition wrapper and topped with a satin ribbon, all for $35. But that’s not the best part. Each box contains a handwritten note by Chocolate Jesus himself, so Mom gets blessed as well.


Friday, May 1, 2015

May means Toad Suck Daze

            Piloting steamboats up the Arkansas River in the 1800s could made a man mighty thirsty, and when the river dropped below navigational levels it was just the excuse needed by captains and crew to disembark for alcoholic refreshments.
One such spot was near present-day Conway, Arkansas. While the steamboat personnel waited for the river to rise, local tavern owners made a killing selling them drinks. Residents, however, were not as happy to see the steamboat guys arrive and drink to abandon. They were known to remark, “They suck on the bottle ‘til they swell up like toads.”
That spot on the river became “Toad Suck.”
Naturally, there’s a festival.
This weekend will be the 34th annual Toad Suck Daze (Friday through Sunday, May 1-3, 2015) in downtown Conway. The original festival was held at Toad Suck Park near the Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam but moved to Conway after the river flooded in 1990.   
The annual fete includes live music performances, arts and crafts, “Toad Market,” children’s activities, carnival rides and, yes, toad races. Proceeds benefit a scholarship program to promote higher education in the county.
Downtown Conway
“To date,” according to the festival web site, “$1.5 million has either been given in the form of a direct scholarship to approximately 221 Faulkner County students, or has been endowed with Central Baptist College, Hendrix College, University of Central Arkansas and the Arkansas Faulkner County Community Foundation.”
Don’t be put off by the name; this is one great festival. Last year, Conway’s Toad Suck Daze Festival won numerous medals, including three gold, from the International Festivals and Events Association Convention.
For more information on the Toad Suck Daze, visit http://toadsuck.org/.


Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.