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State recognizes annual ‘Altar’ event

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is proud to announce October as Folklife Month in Louisiana. This year marks the sixth annual celebration of the state’s living traditions and the individuals who sustain them. Organized by the Louisiana Folklife Commission, in partnership with the Louisiana Folklore Society, six tradition bearers will be honored. Selected by local folklorists and other cultural workers, the recipients share a record of continuing and exceptional accomplishment in perpetuating the state’s traditional cultures.

Folklife Month showcases diverse persons and groups from across the state, and often from overlooked cultural communities. The month-long program also increases appreciation for the vital role folklorists play in sustaining Louisiana’s folkways.

Nungesser emphasized the importance of the initiative saying, “Folklife Month is a time for us to celebrate our traditions and honor our culture. Each of our traditions trace back to our ancestors, and without that, we would not have the identity we have today.”

The following tradition bearers are the 2020 Folklife Month honorees:

  • Bogalusa Italian-American Club, St. Joseph’s Day Altar tradition.
  • Rick Adams, singer/songwriter in Alexandria.
  • Goldman Thibodeaux, Creole musician in Mallet, St. Landry Parish.
  • Grayhawk Perkins, Choctaw/Houma Nation storyteller, educator, and musician in Mandeville.
  • Katrice LaCour, zydeco musician in Natchitoches.
  • Lawrence “Black” Ardoin, Traditional Creole accordion musician in Lake Charles.

Describing the St. Joseph’s Altar tradition, the state released the following:

“Each spring for the past 46 years, the Bogalusa Italian-American Club has prepared an altar to St. Joseph and educated the public about the centuries-old Sicilian tradition of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The group is composed of 26 active members, descendants of the Italian immigrants who, drawn to jobs in the town’s timber industry, began arriving in Washington Parish in the early 1900s.

“Work begins for the club in January, as members gather to make cuccidati (fig cakes), pignolatti (fried pastries), and other confections traditionally shared on the March 17 feast day. Italian vegetables, redfish, flowers, and decorations showing years of use by generations of Bogalusa’s Italian-American also adorn the towering altar. The society performs a pageant as part of the annual celebration with members representing saints while the community joins in a feast of pasta, vegetables, bread, wine, and Italian cookies.

“Taking part in the St. Joseph’s Day altar tradition instills in members not only pride in their Italian heritage but also reverence for their ancestors who helped define the distinctive culture of Bogalusa.”

For more information on the other 2020 Folklife Month honorees, visit online at www.louisianafolklife.org.

A project of the Louisiana Folklife Commission in collaboration with the Louisiana Folklore Society and numerous community partners, Louisiana Folklife Month is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

Due to the pandemic, plans for Louisiana Folklife Month events remain uncertain. For more information about Louisiana Folklife Month and the effects the COVID-19 pandemic may have on events, please visit LouisianaFolklife.org.