The Louisiana Folklife Commission, in conjunction with the Louisiana Folklore Society, will honor tradition bearers at events throughout October to celebrate the eighth annual Folklife Month.
Six tradition bearers, individuals who have continuously carried on the state’s traditional cultures, will be recognized at various events in Louisiana for their work. The winners are Mary Alice Vanderwaters, Andrew Miller, Alton Armstrong, Lonnie “Butch” Cooksy Jr., Nelson Harris and Rhonda Remedies Gauthier.
Maida Owens, director of the folklife program, stressed the importance of rewarding individuals.
“It’s a way to shine a light on and reward people who have often spent decades and decades making sure their traditions are passed on within their communities,” Owens said.
Owens explained that the tradition bearers are part of Louisiana’s native communities – descendants of early settlers from European and African communities who have been here for hundreds of years. They are selected by local folklorists and other cultural workers to increase appreciation for the role they play in maintaining Louisiana folk traditions.
Rapides Parish singer and songwriter Mary Alice Vanderwaters made her own guitar from a piece of plank and rubber bands at age 7 after her brother wouldn’t let her play his guitar. She joined her first bluegrass band as a teenager and started writing songs. She is a longtime member of the Nashville Songwriting Association and now performs on songwriting tours, churches and festivals. She will be honored Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Troubadours Songwriters Night at the Fighting Hand Brewing Company, 1600 Military Highway, Pineville.
Andrew “Chef Drew” Miller learned how to create dishes with great love from the best chef he had ever known: his late mother, Eleanor B. Miller. Drew studied the art of cooking at Sclafani Cooking School and soon began working in the field. In 2000, Chef Drew launched Miller Thyme Catering. When he wanted to add something sweet to the menu, he thought of bread pudding. After experimenting with the recipe and adding his own flair, Bananas Foster Bread Pudding was born. It quickly became a signature menu item and one of his most sought after dishes. He will be honored on October 26 at 3 p.m. at Dillard University at the Georges Auditorium, 2601, boul. Kindly. in New Orleans.
Alton “Lil ‘Tiger” Armstrong has been part of the Creole Mardi Gras hat and screen mask tradition since 1969. Lafayette’s oldest Creole Mardi Gras masking and performance tradition includes brightly colored costumes, usually with a mask in painted wire and a mortar-style square hat. cardboard, with crepe paper streamer strands as part of the decoration. Armstrong is one of the few remaining participants in this tradition, which he tries to pass on to new generations, including his grandsons. He will be honored at 11:30 a.m. on October 15 at the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles on the Atelier Stage, 500 Girard Park Drive in Lafayette.
From the age of eight, Lonnie “Butch” Cooksey Jr. played guitar in his family gospel and bluegrass band, The Cooksey Family. Throughout his 63-year career, he has become both an inspiration and a supportive resource for young people learning this traditional musical form and the instruments it uses: banjo, mandolin, guitar, violin and dobro. Cooksey is also a successful sound technician, supporting performances at bluegrass festivals, churches and other venues. He will be honored at 11 a.m., October 16, at Faith Apostolic Church, 26660 James Capel Road in Holden.
When he was in his twenties, Nelson Harris met Melvin Williams playing drums in a park, who invited him to try his hand at drumming on congas. From then on, Williams became his teacher. Since then, Harris has become well known in the parish of Terrebonne for playing bongo and conga in traditional and African styles. When asked how drumming made him feel, Harris said, “When I play drums, I can actually hear it coming off the walls. I can hear it coming from upstairs. I hear the bell inside. I can play in so many different ways, that often I try to capture that in one sound, and it gets to me, so I chase it. He will be honored at 3:00 p.m., October 23, on the main stage of the Rougarou Festival, 132 Library Drive in Houma.
Adeasonos and member of the Choctaw-Apache tribe of Ebarb, Louisiana, and president of Ho Minti Society, Inc., Rhonda Gauthier grew up outside of Zwolle. As a young girl, she began learning traditional arts from the women of her immediate and extended family, including crocheting, embroidery, hand sewing, quilting, cooking, baking and animal care. . Her grandmother taught her about midwifery, the use of natural herbs to treat common ailments, and herb gardening. After earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history from Northwestern State University, she went on to a successful career in historical interpretation and cultural preservation at various sites in northwest Louisiana. After her retirement, she continued to volunteer. She was honored Oct. 8 at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches.