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Our favorite place to swim with the gators just added eco swamp tours. Gator Country Swamp Tours departs from Pine Tree Lodge – a waterside eatery – just 10 miles from Gator Country Adventure Park. Experience the true majesty of Taylor Bayou from a 23-foot aluminum boat and look out for wild life.
Try a tour for spring break.
Guides discuss the ecological importance of the bayou and the species that call it home. Glide under the majestic bald cypress and trees dripping with Spanish moss while learning about wetland flora and fauna, including feral hogs, nutria and gators. Birders can keep sights out for the wood duck, great horned owl, pileated woodpecker and other feathered friends, said Jana Saurage, owner.
Professional, degreed ecological guides lead tours that last about 90 minutes. Passengers are also encouraged to bring binoculars to better see the native wildlife and foliage. Rates begin at 4 guests at $30 each and ticket prices go down for additional passengers. For bookings, call (409) 794-9453.
Back at the park, look for Big Al, a 13.4-foot gator who likes sunning, chicken and tourists. Children can pet live alligators at Gator Country, but not Big Al.
Best leave him to experts like Gary Saurage, who owns the Alligator & Reptile Adventure Park with his wife, Jana, and doesn’t hesitate to jump in for a swim with his gators. People come from all over for a gander at the gators in various swampy pools spread over the park, Exit 838 off Interstate 10 at FM 365. Gary Saurage and his reptiles have been media celebrities, appearing on “Gator 911,” Animal Planet and more.
To get personal with Big Al, go to www.gatorrescue.com
Carnival des Cajuns festival will celebrate the culture on April 11 and 12, 2015, at the Port Arthur Pavilion in downtown Port Arthur. This feature on Jude Moreau, Groves accordion maker, is excerpted from Off Ramp, the Southeast Texas Arts Council magazine. It is meant to get your appetite up for a weekend of music, food and fun.
Ca c’est Cajun, oui? Jude Moreau kept repeating this phrase while I spoke to him. At first I misheard it as “That’s the Cajun way.” Turns out my mistranslation wasn’t so far off after all. The phrase loosely translates, ‘That’s Cajun, yeah?’ and refers to the can-do, independent spirit of the Acadian people.
Moreau grew up hearing that phrase from his older relatives, and adopted it as his own. That’s why, when he got tired of driving to Lake Charles for every bit of minor accordion maintenance, he decided to at least learn how to tune them himself (tuning an accordion is slightly more involved than tuning say, a guitar). He contacted John Lloyd Broussard and asked him for help. Broussard, or “T-Bruce,” not only taught him how to tune accordions, he also passed on the tools he had left for making them. With the proper gear in hand, Moreau opened up one of his accordions to study how it functioned and figured it out from there.
Since then Moreau has made instruments both for himself and for others. Each one is handmade in his shop, though he is quick to point out how much he relies on others for the custom metal parts and bellows. “You can’t go buy these things at Wal-Mart,” he says, describing his amazement when people call him wanting to buy a specific part from him, as though he simply has hundreds of spares laying around. Still, he is unendingly enthusiastic about both building and playing accordions (traditional Cajun style, of course) and holds nothing back when he speaks of them. Like the man that taught him, Moreau thinks nothing of passing his techniques on to anyone with the dedication to use them.
Jude Moreau began playing the accordion when he was around 20. Though he grew up in a Cajun family, it was a family from way back. His father, born in 1907, lived in a time when Acadians were taught, by force if necessary, that their heritage was something to be shunned. Because of this, his father held his culture in his heart but did not attempt to pass it to his children. Young Jude, however, learned it through osmosis: listening to the adults speak to each other in French and eavesdropping on his father’s radio stations. When his best friend’s parents invited him to the Rodaire Club as a young adult (a Port Arthur Cajun hot-spot long since vanished), Moreau realized he had found his true love. His best friend’s sisters taught him how to dance to the French music there. He began bringing a harmonica and playing along with the bands. One night the accordion player invited him onto the stage. That same man, Timmy Broussard, later put an accordion in Moreau’s hands and said, “If you can play that harmonica, you can play this.” Still later, the very same guy told him, “You can do all that wood stuff, so I know you can build an accordion!” Ca c’est Cajun, oui?
The music Moreau plays is from his roots. “We brought it back to the root,” he says. “Not all the way back, because we added some drums and an electric bass guitar, but it’s still traditional French music.” It’s a fast-paced, driving music, prone to repetitious major scale melodies. The up-tempo nature means even the sad songs generally sound upbeat. It’s no surprise then that Cajun music channels a nearly irresistible urge to its listeners to dance. When Moreau speaks of playing in the Rodaire Club or at Larry’s French Market on Wednesdays when the dance floor was a few chairs pushed out of the way, he doesn’t say his band played a “concert;” they played a “dance.”
The leading instrument in all Cajun music is the accordion. For traditional Cajun (as opposed to other more modernized brands of Cajun music) that’s always a single row, 10 button, diatonic accordion. The instrument draws in air when the bellows are expanded, expels air when compressed, and the four rows of reeds inside (several reeds for each button) vibrate in harmony to create the tone. The number of reeds sounding at once is controlled by four knobs on top of the accordion. This is Jude Moreau’s instrument of choice, the only kind he builds, and he’s gotten so good at it that he once received a call for a custom accordion from a musician in Eunice, Louisiana. “Eunice!?” Moreau exclaimed. “But you got Marc Savoy right there!” The buyer didn’t care. He had seen a Moreau instrument on a video and that’s what he wanted. If you’d like to know how big Marc Savoy’s name is in accordion building, Google “Cajun Accordion.” His name is the second hit.
Jude Moreau is not as big a name in accordion building as Marc Savoy; his music unheard of compared to Wayne Toups. Yet his commitment to the music of the Acadians, played by poor exiles on the porches of Louisiana on humid evenings, is the commitment of a true artist. “Variety is good for business,” he says. “But I don’t do variety; I do this.” And pats his accordion. “My heart is in my roots.”
He’s got the best job in Texas, and now he’s headed to the McFaddin-Ward House on March 19. Daniel Vaughn, the Barbecue Editor of Texas Monthly, presents his lecture on the history of Texas barbecue. From the chopped sandwiches from the Piney Woods of east Texas to the German-influenced styles of the Hill Country, there are many varieties of barbecue across the Lone Star State.
As author of The Prophets of Smoked Meat and through his work with Texas Monthly, Daniel Vaughn is an expert on this renowned culinary tradition.
The Texas Barbecue lecture is free. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the lecture at 6:30 p.m. Call (409) 832-1906 for more information. The McFaddin-Ward House is a historic home in Beaumont, which is open for tours in the day time. The lecture will be at the Visitor Center, 1906 Calder Avenue in Beaumont.
If you love barbecue, crawfish, Mexican food and other good eats of Southeast Texas, be sure to visit www.visitportarthurtx.com for dining information. Port Arthur’s historic homes include Pompeiian Villa, the pink house on Lakeshore Drive designed with a Roman courtyard.
Pelicans skim Sabine Lake for their own catch as breezes rustle palms and tall grasses. The Pleasure Island Boardwalk is about a mile of scenic coast at the end of 600 Pleasure Pier Boulevard. It’s near the marina, behind the condos and offers a view of the fishing gazebo.
Take a brisk pace for a beautiful work out or break on a bench to enjoy the ever-changing view.
It’s a freebie perk of visiting the very birdy Pleasure Island.
Gumbo is gold in Port Arthur, and we’ve also got the event where you can try different batches from a lot of great cooks, March 21, 2015. Can’t top that? There’s a craft show, too, says Queen Gumbo, Janie Johnson.
“It’s an annual meeting of our local culinary cultures with the added spice a craft and trade show,” Johnson said. “This is the 28th year that the Taste of Gumbo has offered a family-friendly escape from the normal Saturday venues to a rare treat that only Port Arthur can offer.”
Taste of Gumbo, Etc. attendees can get their fill of seafood, chicken and talk all day about what they loved the best. Bring the family and enjoy gumbo and other treats from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center. Area restaurants and service groups bring their best gumbo and other foods for unlimited tastings. Tickets are $10 and craft show entry is included in the price. There will also be a silent auction.
Johnson said the craft show will host an array of vendors and Jerry Mullin will perform. The Schooner, Medical Center of Southeast Texas and Christus St. Mary are some popular repeat gumbo teams.
“We will have handcrafted bird feeders, Mary Kay Cosmetics, woodwork, jewelry and so much more,” she said.
Proceeds from tickets support the Port Arthur Rotary Club with good works. In the past members have provided scholarships to Lamar State College-Port Arthur as well as performed charitable work through Capland Hearing Center, Community Care Prayer Outreach and more.
For more information or to reserve a booth spot call Johnson at 409-729-4040.
Adventure seekers and locals have crossed the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge to fish the waters, go birding or play some disc golf for years, but there’s something new in paradise. Pleasure Island Marina operators have improved 300 slips. The new look includes:
300 floating boat slips
Full Electrical hook-up, with 30 and 50 amp options
Diesel and non-ethanol fuel dock
Restrooms and shower
Boatyard repair site
Accommodations for vessels 20 to 80 feet.
To keep your boat on Pleasure Island, contact Jimmy Dike, Pleasure Island Commission director, at 409-982-4675
Lighted pedestals resembling lighthouses, electricity and water at each slip and the long-wearing floating docks, which offer a classic wood look, will be perks mariners can expect. The bath house offers welcome refreshment for sailors returning to shore.Pleasure Island is also home to RV parks, Fun Island Depot playground and areas for birders, crabbers and anglers to enjoy a family picnic.
The second Pleasure Island Half Marathon, 10K and 2-Miler is set for Nov. 07, 2015. Runners will navigate the expansive bridge, coming and going.
Port Arthur’s Sabine Lake and Beaumont’s natural beauty was featured in a travel booth at the 40th annual Houston Fishing Show at the George R. Brown center in Houston, Feb. 25-March 1, 2015.
We want to lure you into a Texas fishing vacation, beach time, and enjoying our Jefferson County area on the upper Texas coast as much as we do. Ask us about renovations to Pleasure Island Marina and bird watching at Sabine Woods.
Here’s what Chester Moore, editor-in-chief for Texas Fish & Game, and Port Arthur News outdoors writer, has to say about our area:
* Sabine Lake is home to the state’s strongest flounder population and is home to the state record fish, a 13-pounder since 1976 when Herbert Endicott of Groves caught a truly massive fish.
*The Sabine area produced the state record redfish.
*Sabine Lake has a strong speckled trout population and is considered by many to be the top spot for trout on the Gulf Coast for the last two years.
*Pleasure Island provides many miles of bank fishing opportunities where anglers can catch speckled trout, flounder, redfish, black drum, sheepshead and alligator garfish.
*The fishing pressure on Sabine is much lower than that of the Galveston Bay complex.
Bill Watkins of Have Boat Will Travel Guide Service is a Sabine Lake guide was in the booth during the show.
He says “Sabine Lake is a world class fishery on the Gulf Coast. Sabine Lake is a year-round fishery: Trout, redfish, flounder and many other species can be caught 12 months out of the year, he said.
Sea ya in Port Arthur! For more information on Port Arthur, Texas attractions, including
Who’s ready for the sun? How about the sun flower? The Port Arthur Art Association has the walls of the Texas Artists Museum all February. It’s a short month, so get over to 3501 Cultural Center Drive as soon as you can.
While there, walk on over to the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center to say hello and load up on brochures at the Port Arthur Convention & Visitors Bureau. We’ll tell you were you can bird, get a water view and peek inside some historic homes.
Museum of the Gulf Coast is another Port Arthur hot spot for artistic glass, natural shells and sports and music notable personalities of the area.
Texas Artists Museum is open from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays. This show features photography and paintings with topics from scenic landscapes to Shirley Rappaport’s best-of-show entry, “Sun Flower.”Other winners are: Best Floral- Dot Chauvin- “Splash of Color”