Some people associated with the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in downtown Lake Charles are happy that the recent renovations at the Cathedral are getting nationwide attention in the Liturgical Arts Journal.
In a Nov. 21 article titled “Before and After,” author Shawn Tribe informed readers that the enhancement of the Cathedral was undertaken by Wisconsin-based Conrad Schmitt Studios. The enhancements included “new mural work, decorative painting as well as conservation work.”
Tribe launched into a long series of before and after photos.
He stated that while the “before” images were “quite nice,” the “overall” look was “rather neutral.” He then asserted that in the “new scheme” — the “after” pictures — “brighter color” was the order of the day.
I think in addition to saying “brighter color,” Tribe could have said “more color.” The alter now reveals a wide array of colors that weren’t there before. As Tribe says, it was a pleasure to look at the altar before. But now looking at it should give the viewer a downright glorious feeling.
Tribe says the bright colors in the renovated scheme make the altar and reredos (large screens or decorative pieces placed behind the altar) “stand out” — an effect that makes “the centrality of the altar clearer.”
You should be able to link to the article and its many color photos on the home page of liturgicalartsjournal.com.
Hall Of Trees
If you want to travel to a Christmassy attraction after Dec. 25, you might consider the Hall of Trees, which will be on display at the W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum in nearby Jennings through Dec. 29. The exhibit features 30 themed Christmas trees, wreaths, antique Christmas ornaments, old Christmas cards, vintage toys and the “original elf on the shelf.”
Most who go to see the Hall of Trees will probably also want to go to the museum’s Old Magnolia gift shop, whose many goods include vintage toys, Louisiana souvenirs, retro candy and work by local artists.
See it all at 311 North Main St. in Jennings. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am through 2 pm; Thursday and Friday, 10 am through 4 pm; and Saturday, 10 am through 3 pm. If you’d like more information, call (337) 821-5532.
Natchitoches Christmas Festival
A little ways up north, Natchitoches has a huge Christmas festival that lasts a long time and has a few features you won’t find in Lake Charles celebrations.
The Natchitoches Christmas Festival was first presented in 1927 with a series of “set pieces” that represented Christmas. A few years later, Charles Solomon, a city utility employee, created a “Star of the East” that was 21 feet wide. Solomon, known locally as Mr. Christmas, created this and 40 more permanent public Christmas pieces over the course of four decades.
In 2002, the makers of the movie Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood were ready to shoot the movie in Natchitoches until they learned that the set pieces, which are arranged along the river bank, could not be moved. The Ya Ya people moved off to scout other locations.
This turn of events started a move to make Christmas pieces that could be removed at the end of each season. (If you would like to see the old set pieces in a movie, they’re featured in Steel Magnolias, which was shot in Natchitoches in 1989.)
The number of set pieces displayed along the East side of Cane River Lake has now grown to more than 100. They are accompanied by thousands of Christmas lights, which are maintained by the Natchitoches Utility Dept.
The annual Christmas Festival Parade features such local “royalty” as the Christmas Belles, Miss City of Lights, the Christmas Angels, Miss Natchitoches Teen and Miss Merry Christmas.
As for fireworks, a display costing more than $100,000 is put on every Saturday from the Saturday before Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve.
Popular food items at the Natchitoches Christmas Festival include funnel cakes, cotton candy, hamburgers, alligator and many of the meat pies for which the city is known.
Children can visit Santa at the Santa Claus House, built on the downtown riverbank in 1965. Members of civic organizations dress as Santa Claus and his wife and helpers.
The biggest story of the year in Louisiana in 2019 was that Attorney General Jeff Landry decided not to run for governor. That decision, it was felt, would enable Gov. John Bel Edwards to stroll to victory without so much as a brief gust of wind to slow his roll. Edwards, people said, was too popular for anyone to beat.
At first the public took little notice of Republican opponent U.S. Rep Ralph Abraham and even less of Republican businessman and candidate Eddie Rispone.
But President Donald Trump made three visits to the state (one to Lake Charles) in support of the Republicans and — overnight, it seemed — Rispone became a contender on the day of the first round of the election.
On election night, Edwards did win, but by less than 20,000 votes (that is, less than 2 percent). The outcome didn’t prove that Edwards had lost his popularity; only that — in Louisiana — Trump was more popular.
Locally, the summer was at least as hot as usual. We were all surprised that the hottest part of summer came in the first half of October. And we were even more surprised that the coldest part of winter came in the second half of October. Oh, well. At least we have winter out of the way for this year.
On the musical scene, cover bands were as popular as always. The same could be said for newly opened chain restaurants. And the lines for Popeyes’ chicken sandwiches were as long here as they were everywhere.
In spite of a shaky first few games, the McNeese football Cowboys put together a 7 and 5 season under first-year coach Sterlin Gilbert. Gilbert did it with a quarterback (Cody Orgeron) who had little experience; some potentially devastating injuries in the defensive secondary; and a running back squad that never became very productive.
On the national scene, Americans were gaga about movies that starred comic book heroes, big machines that blew things up and guys who drove cars fast. But mostly comic book heroes. It reached the point that only the most astute Hollywood historian could name a living movie star who hadn’t appeared in a comic book movie.
Throughout 2019, all eyes were on the Disney corporation as it acquired all the Star Wars properties, began the Disney Plus network and started a Star Wars TV show. People my age remembered the time decades ago when George Lucas had stated that the entire Star Wars story would be told in nine parts and no more than nine parts. Now, Star Wars has become the gift that just won’t stop giving.
Amazon and Google fought mightily to acquire whatever dollars weren’t being spent on Disney. You make whatever New Year’s resolution you want; I am resolved to make it through 2019 without being owned by Disney, Amazon or Google.
As for the coming year, everything in Louisiana will hinge on what the Saints do in post-season play. If the team is once again kept out of the Super Bowl due to a bone-headed call, Louisiana will dominate the national news as it becomes the site of the largest riot in the country’s history. Has there ever been a statewide riot? Stock up on your bottled water before we become the site of the first.