Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Wright way to celebrate New Year’s Eve

Photo by Elaine Warner
New York has its dramatic, nationally televised ball drop on New Year’s Eve but it’s not alone. Not one to let New York have all the limelight, the South offers many of its own, although these tend to be more colorful, like the MoonPie drop in Mobile or the drag queen known as Sushi inside a giant red high heel that falls on Duval Street in Key West — and boy does she look good!
            My dear travel writing buddy Elaine Warner of Oklahoma alerted me to a fun celebration in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where a massive olive drops down from the top of the Price Tower into an oversized martini glass at midnight. Now, that’s my idea of ringing in the New Year!
            The Price Tower, by the way, is the only fully realized skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Not a “skyscraper” by today’s standards, the 19-story landmark completed in 1956 houses businesses, a hotel and dining. The restored 19th floor executive office of H.C. Price and the H.C. Price Company Corporate Apartment are available for viewing on a tour as well.
            The New Year’s Eve event — if you wish to join the organized fun — includes hors d'oeuvres, music, dancing and a champagne toast for $45. Hotel packages are also available. Proceeds from the event will be applied towards supporting the building’s World Heritage Nominated landmark status.
Here are a couple more weird New Year’s Eve celebrations in the South:
            A 1,250-pound steel-and-copper acorn is dropped at 7 p.m. (for the kids) and then again at midnight at City Plaza in Raleigh, North Carolina, as part of the First Night festivities. This year marks the 25th anniversary and the day brings lots of fun activities.
            Atlanta goes all out for its New Year’s celebration and drops — what else? — a giant peach for the annual Peach Drop, while in Miami they drop an orange and listen to Pitbull bring in the New Year for 2016. In different places in Maryland they drop a duck and a crab. 
In Key West, always known for a colorful good time, there's also a giant conch shell that falls from the top of Sloppy Joe's Bar and a pirate wench dropped from the mast of a schooner in the historic seaport, in addition to Sushi.
            Panama City drops 10,000 inflated beach balls at 8 p.m. on to the families present at Pier Park and at midnight follows with a large beach ball for the hearty partiers. In between there's lots of fun activities. Watch the video here.
            Over in Pensacola, a lighted pelican with a 20-foot wingspan rings in midnight with fun all day and all night as well.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A beer by any other name

We love beers with a sense of humor. Take Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport, for instance, home to Reasonably Corrupt dark lager, the perfect drink while enjoying Louisiana politics. Great Raft has several beers with weird and fun names: Grace and Grit, Southern Drawl, Creature of Habit, All My Tomorrows, At Arm’s Length (good for when creepy men come hitting) and Awkward Uncle (see photo), what they call their "boozy winter seasonal." We’ve visited this brewery twice, enjoying its enormous and hip tasting room, brewery tours and, of course, the delicious beers.
            If you visit the taproom, you can fill up a jug and bring these tasty beers home. But if you can’t make it to Shreveport, Great Raft beers are located in stores that sell craft beers throughout Louisiana; see their web site for details.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Underground Atlanta — Airport

Atlanta history exhibit
between concourse B and C.
            I’ve moved around so much in my lifetime, there’s not one place I can attribute many years to — except maybe the Atlanta Airport. I’ve been through this transportation hub in the heart of Georgia so many times they hand me my mail when I arrive.
            The Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has been ranked the world’s busiest airport. According to 2012 statistics, it services 260,000 passengers a day and almost one million flights a year. The old joke used to be, when you go to heaven you must first change planes in Atlanta.
            What’s weird about this is I actually enjoy visiting my second home. I know where the good restaurants are, where to find the best reading material, where to sit and enjoy TV in comfort and relative silence — you name it. And if I have a long layover, I take the opportunity to walk the underground hallways from terminal to terminal.
From "A Sense of Place" exhibit.
            This past Sunday I had three hours to kill and I arrived at Terminal A and needed to travel to Terminal D for my final flight. I took the escalator down to the subway stop and walked underground all the way to my destination. It’s great exercise and there’s plenty to see along the way. For instance, between Terminal B and C there’s the history of Atlanta in panels, photographs, videos and more. You can easily spend upwards of an hour reading all about the Southern city from its inception by Native Americans to the Civil War, Civil Rights and beyond. Also around Terminal B and C is a curated photography exhibit on “A Sense of Place” by 11 Georgia-based photographers.
            According to the airport web site, there’s also 20 contemporary stone sculptures from 12 Zimbabwe artists between concourses T and A, but I didn’t venture that far.
            When I finally arrived at Concourse D I was treated to a collection of artwork from some of the city’s school children, including exquisite paintings, drawings and photography from ages as young as 6! And since I still had two hours left on my layover, I picked up a falafel wrap at the food court and kicked back in a comfy chair to watch planes, luggage carts and other vehicles stream by my window.
            So the next time you’re killing time in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport of Atlanta, don’t curse your bad luck. Go for a walk and experience some culture.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is 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.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at