October 2022 marks the eighth annual Louisiana People’s Life Month, a celebration of the living traditions of the state and the individuals who uphold them. Selected by local folklorists and other culture workers, six tradition bearers will be honored at events throughout the month. Recipients share a record of continued and outstanding achievement in perpetuating the state’s traditional cultures.

Folk Life Month features diverse individuals and groups from across the state, and often from overlooked cultural communities. The month-long program also increases appreciation of the vital role folklorists play in maintaining Louisiana’s folk traditions.

Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser highlighted the importance of the initiative saying, “People’s Life Month is a time for us to celebrate our traditions and honor our culture. Each of our traditions goes back to our ancestors, and without that, we wouldn’t have the identity we have today.

The following tradition bearers are the winners of Folk Life Month 2022:

  • Marie-Alice Vanderwaters, singer-songwriter; Rapids Parish
  • Chief Andrew Miller, Foster Banana Bread Pudding; New Orleans
  • Alton Armstrong, Mardi Gras fancy dress; Lafayette
  • Lonnie “Butch” Cooksey, Jr., Musician/Producer/Promoter; Independence
  • Nelson Harris, Drums; Houma
  • Rhonda Gauthier Remedies, Métis eating habits, gardening, sewing, healing and midwifery; Natchitoches

A project of the Louisiana Folklife Commission in conjunction 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. For more information, visit LouisianaFolklife.org.

Folk Life Month Events Honoring Tradition Bearers

Tribute to Rhonda Remedies Gauthier – Mestiza Foodways, Gardening, Sewing, Healing, and Midwifery (Natchitoches)

Saturday, October 8, 2022

2 p.m.

Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Museum of Northwest Louisiana History

800 Front Street

Natchitoches, LA

Folklife Ambassador:

Dr. Shane Rasmussen, Director of the Louisiana Folklife Center and Professor of English, Northwestern State University

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. In 2005, she produced the film Maize to Masa, which documents the Choctaw-Apache process of nixtamalization, a traditional corn preparation process in which dried kernels are cooked and soaked in an alkaline solution, usually water and food grade lime, for making hominy. . The Choctaw-Apache community still uses this process to make tamale dough.

Tribute to Alton Armstrong – Mardi Gras costumes (Lafayette)

Saturday, October 15, 2022

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Acadian and Creole Festivals, Workshop Stage

500 Girard Park Parkway

Lafayette, LA

Folklife Ambassadors:

John Sharp, associate director of research at the Center for Louisiana Studies, Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette

Herman Fuselier, Executive Director, St Landry Parish Tourism Commission

Alton “Lil’ Tiger” Armstrong, a native of the McComb-Veazey neighborhood in Lafayette, has been a part of the Creole Mardi Gras hat and screen mask tradition since 1969. Lafayette’s oldest Creole Mardi Gras masking and performance tradition features brightly colored costumes, usually with a painted wire mask and a square cardboard mortar-style hat, with strands of crepe paper streamers as part of the decoration. These incredible costumes often feature shiny satin fabric, colorful feathers, beading or intricate embroidery, and loud elements such as bells or clappers. Each costume takes hundreds of hours, as well as hundreds of dollars, and is usually only worn for a year before being retired or reused for a new costume. Armstrong is one of the few remaining participants in this tradition, which he tries to pass on to new generations, including his grandsons. “I’d like to see twenty guys in a band, marching around the neighborhood like they used to, all in club hats and screen masks,” Armstrong says.

Tribute to Lonnie “Butch” Cooksey, Jr. – Musician, Producer, Promoter (Independent)

Sunday, October 16, 2022
11 a.m.

Apostolic Church of Faith

26660 James Capel Road North

Holden, LA

Folklife Ambassador:
Jim Hogg, CEO, Jim Hogg Group, LLC

From the age of eight, Lonnie “Butch” Cooksey Jr. played guitar in his family gospel and bluegrass band, The Cooksey Family. Her mother’s vocation as a Pentecostal preacher opened doors for them to sing in churches and travel for many years. Even though Cooksey has performed and recorded with many artists, such as Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Mac Wiseman, he chose to stay with his family band instead of joining a traveling band. Throughout his 63-year career, he has become both a source of 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, in addition to winning numerous awards for his double bass performances, is also a successful sound technician, supporting performances at bluegrass festivals, churches and other venues in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas , Texas and surrounding areas.

Tribute to Mary Alice Vanderwaters – Singer/Composer (Rapides Parish)

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

6:30 p.m.

Troubadour Songwriters Night

Fighting Hand Brewing Company

1600, military road.

Pineville, LA

Folklife Ambassador:

Dr. Tommy Ike Hailey, Professor of Archeology and Anthropology, Northwestern State University

Mary Alice Vanderwaters is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Pineville, Louisiana. At age 7, she begged her brother Max to let her play his guitar; he didn’t take her seriously until she made her own guitar out of a piece of plank and some rubber bands. Seeing the makeshift guitar, he recognized her determination and taught her to play a song. Years later, Mary Alice wrote the song “Board and the Rubberband Song” as a tribute to Max. Mary Alice joined her first bluegrass band as a teenager and started writing songs after becoming a fan of Dolly Parton and learning to play her songs. She continues to hone her songwriting as a longtime member of the Nashville Songwriting Association and performs today at songwriting tours, churches, and festivals.

Tribute to Nelson Harris – Drum (Houma)

Sunday, October 23, 2022

3 p.m.

Rougarou Festival main stage

132 Library Player

Houma, LA

Folklife Ambassador:

Jonathan Foret, South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center

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. He remembers playing on cowhide heads before synthetic heads were readily available. Due to the force required to play on cowhide, his hands often crack and bleed after a playing session. When asked how the drums 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. Now 72, Harris has turned his passion for drumming into a way to give back to his community, volunteering to play at charity events and spending many hours sharing his love of music at through educational workshops for children.

Tribute to Chef Andres Miller – Bananas Foster Bread Pudding (New Orleans)

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

3 p.m.

Dillard University – Georges Auditorium

2601 Boul. Nicely

New Orleans, LA

Folklife Ambassador:

Mona Lisa Saloy, Conrad Hilton Endowed Chair, Professor of English, Dillard University, Poet Laureate

Born in New Orleans and raised in “The Cutoff” section of Algiers, Andrew “Chef Drew” Miller learned to create dishes with great love from the best chef he had ever known: his late mother, Eleanor B. Miller. Acting on his passion for cooking, Chef Drew studied the art of cooking at Sclafani Cooking School and soon began working in the field, working in offshore chef positions preparing meals for members of the kitchen. offshore crew and on-site staff and a sous chef for the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel. 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; Louisiana Poet Laureate Mona Lisa Saloy was so impressed with it (and its effect on diners) that she honored Miller and his dish with a poem.

For photos and detailed biographies of each tradition bearer, please visit the People’s Life Month Web Page.


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