The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana on May 21, 2000 · 45
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The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana · 45

Alexandria, Louisiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 21, 2000
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CALL ON US SECT.CN Editor: Jim Dagar - 487-6474 ClipboardWeddings: Mary Jane Andrews - Fax: 487-6488 or 487-2961 E-mail: THE TOWN TALK Rheta Grimsley Johnson Columnist ' i , r . . , . , , 1 1 ; ; I Good food, times go hand-in-hand in Breaux Bridge BREAUX BRIDGE, La. --The rocking chair was just beyond the tent where a man and woman were being joined in holy matrimony. The bride wore white satin -and a giant red crawfish. The red necklace splashed across that virginal white like catsup on a paper plate. I pushed on by the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival wedding because stunt weddings are common. Couples today swap vows under water, in the air, up trees, on TV and at crawfish festivals. All you need is a ring and a gimmick, till death -or daylight -do you part. Someone should research the success rate of stunt wedding marriages. But I was in a hurry, anyhow. I saw ahead of me a beautiful rocking chair, a chair to die for. That exquisite chair was pulling me in like a fisherman hooks a big bass. 1 was as good as mounted and hung on the wall. The chair was made of cypress, old cypress, the kind that has to be raised from the swamp where it's been buried in muck for decades. It was held together by dowels, not nails or screws, and the workmanship was fine. I wanted that chair, but I couldn't imagine hauling it around the Pare Hardy festival grounds all day, which are knee-deep in crawfish hulls. By high noon it's low tide. ""Where is your shop?" I asked the craftsman, a pale, solemn lad with eyes the green of Granny Smith apples. Made no excuses "I'm incarcerated," he said, but the matter-of-fact way he said it had a certain dignity. He was making no excuses. He might just as well have said, ""I'm from Opelousas." Then Chad Faucheaux handed me his card, which read "Faucheaux Custom Craftsman, Artisan in Metal and Wood: BBQ Pits, Cook Grills, Rockers and Benches." Beyond Chad, other talented trusties from the St. Martin Parish Sheriffs Office Trusty Program were selling "Penitentiary Slim's Hot Time Chow-Chow." I tried a sample and bought a jar. It was easier to tote than a rocking chair. And, it made me think of a favorite political story, the one about a disappointed Ross Barnett when he was Mississippi governor. Somebody told Ross two trusties had escaped from Parchman. "If you can't trust a trusty, who can you trust?" Barnett said. There are always nice surprises at the Crawfish Festival. One year Santa Claus rode in the parade on a float sponsored by a septic tank company. Until you've seen Santa popping out of a septic tank, you haven't seen life. Another year there was a Miss Smoked Meat beauty queen with a float all her own. Always on hand are a Little Miss Pincher, a Junior Miss Pincher, a Miss Pincher and former Miss Pinchers. They stroll about the festival in their crowns and gowns, looking downright regal. This festival, as you can no doubt tell, is a favorite of mine, and stands out in a world fraught with festivals. 1 have been to the Poke Sallet Festival in Water Valley, Miss., and the Egg Festival in Somerville, Tcnn. But this one is hold in an exotic region where the food, music and language are advantageously distinct. You don't . come here to have a good time. You come here to pass a good time. And to eat. While I listened to Bois Sec Ardoin and Jackie Callier, I ate a crawfish -stuffed pistolette, a bowl of jambalaya and a taste of crawfish etouff'ee. Life hands you moments you know you don't deserve; no mortal could. It was one of those moments. I couldn't get near enough to see the crawfish races, and the grounds were getting ridiculously crowded as the good times rolled through spent crawfish shells. So I grabbed my Penitentiary Slim Chow-Chow and waddled into a spectacular sunset. Rheta Grimsley Johnson is o columnist for King Features Syndicate. She writes S. th.i column weekly. 487 - 6344 V : .. u Jazzland Theme Park's front gates open 71TT Ji'!- . Each figure of the Mardi Menagerie, Jazzland's carousel, was The Mega Zeph is Jazzland's signature ride, standing 1 handpainted by an artist. The carousel also features a dragon, as one of the world's largest wooden roller coasters, which is proving to be a popular figure. New N.O. Text and photos by Robin Miller NEW ORLEANS - First of all, for everyone who isn't in the know - and for those who proudly dismiss all things past - there was once a Zephyr. It stood along the banks of Pontchartrain Beach, its wooden peaks scary enough for its day. They stood three in a row, these peaks, all rising at what seemed 90-degree angles and dropping into low valleys before anyone could take a breath. That's what it seemed like, anyway, when riding in the backseat of the last car. It was the fastest. That's the way it always is on a roller coaster. And the Zephyr was certainly a roller coaster. It wasn't the caliber of today's wooden monsters, but it was scary enough through a child's eyes. And those who remembers the Zephyr at New Orleans' late Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park can probably relay fond stories of the roller coaster. Chances are they topped those peaks in childish thrills. It's likely, too, they grieved for those memories when the old amusement park closed its doors and the Zephyr was dismantled. Which is why the heart takes a small leap when learning that there's a new amusement park not far from the Pontchartrain's shores. And hands clasp in glee upon learning that this park has a roller coaster. This isn't just any roller coaster. It's an echo of something lost, a tribute that nfCPpr11 Vietnam LLOti-ii flight in T1 S I 11 Mil i SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2000 r" onto a parking lot that can accommodate r . jfL inrx J it II : V71 I (jTj YD M iicoJJl 11(11 amusement park a real thriller 'V. The Gator Bait Airboats gives riders the sensation of traveling through the Louisiana swamp on an open gondola boat. The park features some 30 rides. bypasses the modern-day's mindless conventionality of stamping out tradition. Because someone along the way appreciated the power of nostalgia and named this coaster the Mega Zeph. Which is the reason for this little history lesson. Those who don't know, and vets remember flying on Ann Landers' 1967. HI V - ... -1 r I' -ft ! .J I II. almost 4,500 vehicles. The park covers S i. I 1 ! ' I. those who take pride in professing not to know, can now stop scrunching their noses, rolling their eyes. Can hear them now. "Mega Zeph?" they ask. "What kind of a loser name is that? Why not name a roller coaster something cool like the Hurricane? Or, hey, something even cooler like the 'N Sync Express?" Right. Well, it may not be to their liking, but Mega Zeph is definitely a cool name - the coolest. Just the mention of it has attracted a lot of people's attention. Think of the reality of it all. The ride that seemed so big in childhood now becomes bigger-than-life in adulthood. And there it stands along U.S. Interstate 510, the monster awaiting its screaming prey. WTiat a thrill just to see it. What a rush it would be to ride it. But there won't be any riding on this day, for this visit comes the Tuesday before Jazzland's grand opening, which, technically, was yesterday. "Everything will be ready," says Rhonda Clark, publicist. Apparently everything was ready. Cars stuffed Jazzland's parking lot to its 4,496 capacity, and people of all ages formed a snake of a line for their chance to scream on the Mega Zeph. "It was up and running, and it was the most popular ride on Saturday," Clark says. She's referring to the Saturday before the grand opening, when the park sponsored a special party for United Way. Of course, Jazzland wasn't filled to the brim on that day, but people were plenty. 1 Family-owned diary se!!s old-fashioned milk with tasty cream. .i JO 4 I some 1 40 acres. 10 - feet high and 4,000-feet long. It is billed "And you could hear them screaming on the Mega Zeph," Clark says. The Mega Zeph. Amazing to see it from afar. Even more intimidating standing next to it. Jazzland bills it as one of the world's largest wooden roller coasters. It measures 4,000 feet long and 110 feet high and reaches speeds up to 60 miles per hour. Now this may not sound very fast to some people, considering that interstate speed limits are now set at 70 miles per hour. But it is fast. Especially when sitting in a small, open-air compartment, when the only thing holding you in the seat is a huge bar. Especially when you're sitting in the last seat in the last of these open-air compartments. It's all a matter of gravity by that time, because by the time the last car rounds the top of the hill the first car is pulling you down fast. And you're flying. And screaming. And, oh, what a thrill. Yes, the Mega Zeph is quite a tribute to its predecessor, making real those childhood screams. Still, it isn't the only ride in this New Orleans menagerie. That's an accurate description, for the park is certainly a gumbo mixture of Crescent City themes. The Mega Zeph, for instance, is located in the Mardi Gras section. Now this is appropriate, because, after all, Mardi Gras is the world's biggest party. The Mega Zeph, in turn, is the biggest ride in the park. Joining it in doling out Mardi Gras spirit are the Inverter, which Fleawe see JAZZLAND, E-6 - M

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