Today is “Alligator Day” with Rivoli Rallies! We enjoyed the entire day with Bruce Mitchell, his wife, Janet, and their friends Wayne & Patty. Bruce is now one of the main reality stars on History Channel’s hit show Swamp People.
“Alligatorman” Bruce & Janet Kliebert met when they were in Jr. High. In 1980, Bruce married Janet Kliebert. You may recognize her name from Kliebert's Alligator & Turtle Farm. Bruce began working at Kliebert's around age 20 and moved on the farm property when he married Janet. Over a period of thirty plus years, he learned from his father-in-law, many aspects of the business and was able to take on more responsibility. With Janet’s help, they ran the business together with Janet's father for over thirty years.
While working at the farm, Bruce was asked by the A & E Network if he would like to participate in a documentary on the History Channel. Being that the History Channel was (and still is) the most watched network in the Mitchell household, how could he say no? From there Bruce and
Swamp People were connected.
In his honor, and because we were in “Gator” country, we had a morning of gatorgames. It got a bit confusing today because we also had a guest by the name of Bruce Mitchell. I know, crazy - right?
And, yes, there were prizes. What else, but GATORHEADS.
Everyone was able to get them signed by Alligatorman. How cool is that?!
Speaking of alligator heads, that’s what was for lunch.
Muffuletta, pasta salad, gourmet cookies, Voo Doo chips and a big old fashion dill pickle; remember the ones you used to get our of a barrel when you were a kid.
Before Bruce, aka alligaorman, got ready to cook us dinner, we had to make sure he got all of his energy from an ice cream social. Not just any kind of ice cream, but a banana split with your choice of flavor.
While settling our stomachs from all that food, we engaged in a Black Jack class to get us ready for that next casino.
Once we were comfortable that we could “beat the house” on our next casino visit, we joined Bruce outside who was cooking pastalaya for us, along with our appetizers of shrimp boulettes, twice baked stuffed petite potatoes, crawfish pie, and gourmet cheese board.
What a treat. Many of us helped with the stirring, while his wife, Janet, was busy on facebook Live. We had people from all over the world watching Bruce entertaining Rivoli Rallies.
We thoroughly enjoyed Bruce, his wife, and friends as well as the delicious food they prepared for us. They are such down to earth “real” people. This is how caring they are; one of our guests ended up in the hospital the day before and Bruce drove with Ron, 1 hour away, to visit him.
Bill was so happy that he was able to meet Alligatorman in person. How many celebrities do you know who would do that?
BRAVE the R.E.D. (Remember Everyone Deployed) Friday! Muffins, croissants, bagels, king cake, and yogurt.
We were honored to have the local St. Mary’s Parish High School JROTC present colors. A big thank you to Lt. Col. Cory Williams for his dedication to these young men and women.
We also enjoyed a program by Steve Alvarez, who is part of the Louisiana Sons of the Confederate Veterans.
He must have brought at least 25 flags portraying the development of the Louisiana State Flag to show us. We could have spent an extra hours listening to him, but we had to hop on the bus and off for our day of touring.
Today, we enjoyed the lighthouses in the area. Stopping first at Southwest Reef Lighthouse, located on the western bank of the Atchafalaya River in Berwick, Louisiana, the centerpiece of the Everett S. Berry Memorial Lighthouse Park.
In 1987, the lighthouse was lifted from the screw piling - where it sat since before the Civil War - in an attempt to preserve the historic structure for future generations.
This historic structure is 1 of only 3 easily accessible lighthouses in the State of Louisiana.
The square, pyramidal tower constructed of iron plates was first lit September 1, 1859 and was decommissioned in 1916. It remained abandoned until 1987 when it found a new home in Berwick Bay.
The original Canal Lighthouse was built in 1838 on a foundation of sheet piling filled in with shells. The tower was octagonal, built of cypress, about 28 feet high. The tower deteriorated badly and was replaced in 1855 with a square wood dwelling on screw piles with an iron lantern and a 5th order Fresnel Lens. In 1890 the structure was again replaced, with the light being raised to 49 feet. The 1890 structure was substantially rebuilt in 1901. It was damaged by hurricanes in 1903, 1915, 1926, and 1927 and moved to its current location in 1910. After the 1927 damage it was raised on new concrete piers and in 1936, the breakwater surrounding it was filled in, putting land under the structure for the first time.
This famous NOLA landmark is the fourth lighthouse on the site. The historic New Canal Lighthouse at West End on Lakeshore Drive was severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The first floor had collapsed and its cupola had fallen off. It was disassembled and the building was put into storage. Reconstruction of the lighthouse began in February 2012 and was completed in 2013.
We were split into 2 groups for a guided tour of the lighthouse and museum.
Lunch was at the Amelia belle casino, a steamboat, where we had plenty of time to eat and try our luck on the slots, as well as photo ops. All I can say is they have the best peanut butter pie!!!!!!!
Finishing our day at the French Food Festival, located in Larose, where we were met by a welcoming committee upon our arrival.
WOW, they made us feel that we were celebrities. We enjoyed over 20 local special dishes along with dancing and music.
In Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, food is a big deal and has been for generations. Local chefs and cooks served up some of the best Cajun food in Louisiana. To satisfy your craving for Cajun food, you’ve got to wander of the beaten path, which is what we did!
A quick breakfast of bagels, muffins, toast, and all the fixings before running to....
Martin’s accordion factory. For over 30 years, Martin Accordions has built all hand-made, single row, diatonic accordions for musicians around the world. If it runs on air and reeds, they can probably fix it!
We were entertained by the dad, the grandson, the daughter AND Ron.
Our guests just could not stay in their seats.
Especially when the daughter played spoons on the scrubboard.
Wow! What beautiful musical instruments under one roof.
AND we met the brother who helps to make these instruments. He was a wealth of information on how these instruments are made.
He explained about all the different kinds of woods they use to make these accordions.
Lunch was at Don’s seafood, who spent more than 80 years creating a recipe for something much greater than a place for a lunch break or a night out. It’s a place to share and be a part of the family. They believe in serving food that’s time-tested; years of getting the recipe just right, not just close enough.
What was on the menu? Well your choice of broiled catfish, stuffed eggplant casserole, grilled chicken, shrimp & catfish with all the trimmings and bread pudding with rum sauce for dessert.
If bread pudding wasn’t enough, we stopped at Borden’s ice cream. Borden’s, built in 1940, is the last retail Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe in the World. It is located in Lafayette, Louisiana, where you can get a taste of ice cream done "the Old Fashion Way."
Everyone ordered whatever they wanted! From one scoop of ice cream to a banana split. THAT is the Rivoli Rallies Way!
Next stop, Bayou Teche Brewing. It was formed by three brothers, Karlos, Byron and Dorsey Knott, when they started brewing in an abandoned railcar on St. Patrick's Day in 2009.
Tasting, of course, was part of the tour.
As well as relaxing and dancing on the patio.
As you can see, Ron was trying to show off his “dance lessons” by twirling Kay into a frenzy.
Dinner was at Pont Breaux’s Cajun family style restaurant where we had our choice of Cajun ribeye, catfish, hamburger steak, catfish Point Breaux, the house specialty, shrimp or grilled chicken with salad and dessert.
While we ate, music played and professional dance instructors showed us how Cajun dancing is done. So that AFTER dinner, we could participate.
Ending with Rivoli Rallies taking over the dance floor with everyone taking turns showing their dance steps in the circle
and our Rivoli Rallies train dance.
Great way to exercise off all that food.
Big breakfast before our full day of touring. Oatmeal, eggs, bacon, fruit and HOMEMADE biscuits.
Now, off to the Ardoyne Plantation House, a VICTORIAN GOTHIC Sugarcane Plantation Home completed in 1894 by John Dalton Shaffer. What is really unique is that it has been continually lived in by the builder’s original family for 6 generations and is STILL a working sugarcane plantation. Unfortunately, we could not take photos inside….
The resident ghost at Ardoyne Plantation is called Uncle Benny. Uncle Benny didn't get along with Grandmother Margaret, who lived in the plantation home. The story goes that Uncle Benny came to visit one day, and Grandmother Margaret hid his boots upstairs where he couldn't find them. This made him very angry, as there are over 20 rooms in the house, and he looked in all of them!
Susan Shaffer told us that Uncle Benny passed away in 1942, and that's when people started hearing footsteps upstairs, all through the night. Susan and her husband moved into the house in 2008, and she decided to remedy the problem. Upon going in the attic she found two pairs of boots, and she brought them down to the office. Ever since then there have been no reports of footsteps upstairs. They like to think that “Uncle Benny is happy he found his boots and is now residing in the office."
Lunch at Grady V’s Bayou Country Club was eloquent: stuffed chicken Florentine, shrimp & grits, back nine salad, tomato basil soup, sweet potato mash, sautéed vegetables and “Gooey Toffee Ala Mode.”
Their goal was to provide uncomplicated, honest and good food and drinks to their guests. They decided on classic favorites. When their doors opened, the community embraced them then and embraces them now.
The afternoon was spent at Chauvin Sculpture Garden. Little is known about the reclusive Kenny Hill, a bricklayer by trade, born around 1950. In 1988, he settled on some property on the bayou in Chauvin (pronounced show-van), Louisiana—population 3,400. Hill pitched a tent as his home and, over time, built a small rustic home that demonstrated an interesting use of space and attention to detail. Then, in 1990, without explanation, he began transforming his lush bayou environment into a fantastic chronicle of the world as seen through his eyes.
Less than a decade later, more than 100 primarily religious concrete sculptures densely pack the narrow, bayouside property. The sculptures are a profound mixture of Biblical reference, Cajun colors, and the evident pain and struggle of the artist’s life. Most figures—black, white, male, female, child, or solider—are guided, supported, or lifted by seemingly weightless angels. The unique angels, some inviting passage, others prohibiting, vary from blue skinned, bare-footed, and sightless to regal celestial figures clad in medieval garb with the black boots of the local shrimp fishermen.
The most prominent piece is a 45-foot-tall lighthouse, composed of 7,000 bricks, with figures clinging to the outside: cowboys, soldiers, angels, God and Hill himself. A walk through this sculpture environment is an emotional experience, evoking a sense of deep spirituality but also personal pain.
The lighthouse, made of 7,000 bricks and decorated with sculptures, is just the beginning of a journey through the world of Kenny Hill, a bricklayer who left behind more than 100 concrete sculptures on his bayou-side property in Chauvin, Louisiana. Ranging in subject from angels, cowboys, God, soldiers, children and Hill himself, the sculptures depict the artist’s spirituality and his struggle with growing personal pain.
Hill placed himself in many of the scenes: he rides a horse; carries Christ’s cross; stands with long hair and a beard, his heart bleeding; and shows his face painted half black and white, suggesting the artist’s struggle between good and evil.
During the ten-plus years he lived on the property and created his art, he was adamant that the work was just for him—he felt no need to share it. Hill repeatedly denied requests for access to photograph or publicize his work but reportedly declared it a “story of salvation” for the local residents.
Neighbors have created a picture of Hill as a man who, by the time he abandoned his art in early January 2000, was deeply troubled and left not only his art and his home, but also abandoned the religion that had come to dominate his life. Evicted by the parish in 2000 for not keeping the grass and weeds under control, Hill disappeared on foot, but not before knocking the head off of the sculpture of Jesus.
WOW, WHAT A FIND! Only with Rivoli Rallies. Who knew that all that art would be in this secluded area.
Dinner was at Cristiano Ristorante, specializing in northern Italian cuisine with a seasonal menu focusing on the freshest local ingredients.
Then back to camp with full tummies.
Before taking off for our first day of touring, we provided breakfast: Smoked salmon sunrise, coffee, tea, etc.
Then, off to Vermillionville in Lafayette. It is a living history museum depicting the Acadia, Native American and Creole people of 1765 to 1890. 7 restored original homes.
Demonstrations of crafts performed by early settlers.
Lunch at La Cuisine De Maman, serving Cajun and Creole cuisine and 1800s home with servers in period costume. I have to say that was the best gumbo soup I’ve ever had! Bread pudding for dessert. Bread pudding is the dessert of choice in this area. So we decided to have a bread pudding contest to see which establishment REALLY has the BEST BREAD PUDDING.
While at Vermillionville we had a dance lessons, cooking demonstration and a boat ride.
R&M Boiling Point for dinner, a family restaurant specializing in Cajun cuisine. Our choice of shrimp, catfish, alligator, chicken strip, crawfish etoufee, or hamburger! What a menu!
And what is their signature cocktail? A BLOODY MARY! Complete topped with a soft shell crab, and EVERYONE got one.
And of course, there is ALWAYS time for a photo op.
How exciting to be preparing for another rally! !
It’s set up time!
We even decorated the restrooms.
Now THAT’S kicking it up a notch.
And so it begins….
We were so excited to greet our guests and get them registered so the shenanigans could begin. What better way to start orientation but with the pledge of allegiance.
We opened up kibitzing time with a toast to Rivoli Rallies and appetizers of Phyllo pastry with warm brie and apple raisin sauce, coconut shrimp, Charcuterie Board and oriental egg rolls.
What a wonderful time meeting new people and getting reacquainted with old friends.
We were honored to have Ron and Juanita Kohn join us. As always, they are the life of the party.
Our Bayou scapegoat was none other than ...
SOOOO, if anything goes wrong at this rally, it’s JOHN HAMMES FAULT!
Since opening day was my birthday, Kay and Ron serenaded me with the “short” version of happy birthday. They are RIDICULOUSLY Ridiculous!
Dinner consisted of brown sugar & honey glazed spiral ham, chicken stuffed medallions, pasta salad, green beans, mac and cheese, and steamed vegetables.
Dessert was cupcakes of ALL flavors and king cake. You certainly can’t be in Louisiana without having a king cake!
Everyone also received their own personalized “Submerged in the Bayou” gift.
These buckets have a variety of colors to light up the night and are remote controlled. We coordinated lighting up the park by choosing a different color each night.
The end of a perfect day was Kay and Ron on stage with their glowing smiles and fantastic voices to entertain us, in a way only they can do.
I think Kay surprised everyone with her outfit, but it sure was perfect for our Halloween season.