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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Cajun Heritage Festival celebrating 40 years

Cajun Heritage Festival celebrating 40 years

The world is faster today than it was yesterday – an age dominated by text messages, social media and flat-screen, high-resolution TVs.

But while society speeds faster each minute, one longstanding group aims to celebrate the good, old days and the Cajun Culture that makes our area unique.

They aim to showcase the fabulous talent that exists in the area and the wonderful art that’s produced every day by south Louisiana’s people.

The Cajun Heritage Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Larose Civic Center – the 40th-straight year the festival celebrates the Louisiana art of duck carving and the people who craft the beautiful fowl onto wood.

Festival Chairman Robbie Matherne said the weekend is one of his favorite times of the year – a chance to cherish the area’s history, while admiring the beautiful artwork that’s on display throughout the Civic Center.

Food and drinks are also available for those in attendance and admission is just $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 or younger.

“We’re known in Louisiana for our food and everything like that, but duck carving is part of our heritage,” Matherne said. “It’s art – Louisiana-based art. This began centuries ago as a hunting tool. People made their own decoys and everything like that. Now, it’s so much more refined and so detailed. Duck carving is a fine art, and it’s so beautiful to see.”

At the Cajun Heritage Festival, some of the best pieces in south Louisiana will be on display from an all-star cast of carvers who are eager to win prizes in the multiple categories which comprise the weekend.

Matherne said the event will feature multiple competitions, which will allow carvers of any skill to test their luck.

Some competitions will be for larger fowl, while others will focus on smaller ducks. Competitions will also be broken down via age and skill level – with the highest levels offering carvers the opportunity to earn cash prizes for victory.

Aside from the competition, several carvings will be displayed throughout the Civic Center’s floor space, offering those in attendance the opportunity to purchase some of the pieces they like most.

“Everyone is welcome. This is welcome to anyone. You don’t have to be a champion carver to attend. We want everyone to feel welcomed,” Matherne said. “It’s a great chance to see the history of our area being continued and celebrated. It’s also a great chance to visit with great people and to maybe walk out of the doors with a piece of art for your own living space.”

One of the carvers who’ll be displaying his work is Regan Danos – a lifelong Cajun who has been making ducks out of wood blocks since the 1970s.

Danos is this year’s honoree, something he said feels so good he can’t explain it in words.

The local carver has won multiple titles in his career, and has produced thousands of beautiful carvings in his storied career.

“It’s competitive. I love that,” Danos said. “It’s an opportunity for each piece you make to get better and more realistic to make it look like that actual, life-like duck. It’s a great hobby. I love it.”

Danos said the key to being a top-notch carver is patience – the willingness to put in hours upon hours of labor to make the little tweaks necessary to see the wood block come to life.

“Even when you say you’re finished, you can always go back and add a little more paint here or there to a carving – there’s always room to get better, and that’s why I like it – you’re always getting a chance to be better,” Danos said. “Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and just say, ‘OK, I’m done. I won’t touch this one anymore.’”

Danos’ work will be displayed during the weekend, including several carvings he’s worked on recently, specifically for the festival.

He said being the honoree is special, and he wants everyone in the community to celebrate the recognition with him, while also celebrating the art form that’s been loved by so many Louisianans over the years.

“This is one of the greatest honors that’s ever happened to be,” Danos said. “It’s a great feather to have in your cap. We have so many good people who help make the festival special. That’s the best part of this – the people.

There is no way you can name everyone you’d want to who’s helped along the way. There are just too many great people who are involved in this event. It’s a one of a kind thing.”