Celebrating Folklife Month
Honoring those maintaining Louisiana’s cultural richness
Folklife Ambassador: Tommy Ike Hailey
Barry Chauvin is a singer/songwriter and storyteller born and raised about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans in Edgard, Louisiana. Growing up in a family of nine children, he recalls listening to friends and family telling stories and playing guitar under the oak tree in their front yard. At fourteen Chauvin bought his first guitar. Over the years he has been a regular host and featured artist at numerous songwriter festivals, including the Mississippi Songwriter Festival, Ozone Songwriter Festival, and Overbrook Songwriter Festival. He coproduces and cohosts “Songwriter Sessions,” a project that features songwriter performances at local venues, a songwriter interview series on YouTube, and a songwriter workshop series.
Folklife Ambassador: Mona Lisa Saloy
In 2023 Big Chief Darryl Montana celebrated his fiftieth year masking as a Black-masking Indian during Mardi Gras. His Seventh Ward Creole family has masked for several generations, beginning in the late 1800s with his great-great uncle “Becate” Baptiste Eugene of the first known tribe, the Creole Wild West. Montana’s intricate designs and superb beading work have earned him widespread recognition. Today he passes along Black-masking Indian traditions and artistry through classes for children and adults.
Jan Collet Webre and Jill Collet Zimmerman
Folklife Ambassador: Conni Castille
Twin sisters Jan Collet Webre and Jill Collet Zimmerman grew up with eight siblings in the small community of Nina, located just outside Henderson. For twenty-three years, Jan and Jill have gathered with family and friends once a year to make crawfish bisque. The tradition started when Jill made crawfish bisque to impress out-of-town guests visiting for the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Although Jill was disappointed when her guests canceled, her family and friends were not. Since then the two-to-three-day bisque-making process has become a family tradition, with everyone pitching in. Some chop onions. Some do the stirring. Some do the stuffing. Others wash dishes; almost everyone drinks. Depending on the size of the crawfish approximately 500–1,200 heads make their way to the pot each year.
Pedal Steel and Dobro Musician
Folklife Ambassador: Susan Roach
Renowned in North Louisiana as a master steel guitar and Dobro musician, Laymon Godwin was born in 1932 in rural Ouachita Parish and grew up in Monroe in a music-loving family. When he was about ten, his parents bought him his first steel guitar. He paired lessons with Monroe musician Luke Morris with listening to other steel players. By the time he was in high school, he was playing in country bands around Monroe. He continued to play pedal steel throughout his career in law enforcement, including 17 years as Ouachita Parish sheriff, performing in country show bands such as Monroe’s KFAZ-televised Ouachita Valley Jamboree, West Monroe’s Twin City Jamboree, Columbia’s Ward 5 Jamboree, and Ruston’s Wildwood Express and Dixie Jamboree. After retiring in 1996, he devoted more time to his music, playing two to three times per week with country and bluegrass bands, most notably Grassfire, and adding the dobro to his repertoire.
Folklife Ambassador: Jonathan Foret
Brunella Luke learned how to make corn shuck dolls from Thelma Duplantis in the 1970s. These collectible dolls were first sold at Lagniappe on the Bayou, an annual three-day festival held by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Chauvin. The volunteer-produced festival ran from 1969 to 1994 and attracted visitors from around the world. Luke is responsible for creating hundreds of different corn shuck doll characters and scenes depicting Cajun culture, including harvesting seafood, seafood boils, holiday gatherings, and even the Rougarou.
Nicol and FJ Delphin
Cane River Creole Traditions
Folklife Ambassador: Shane Rasmussen
Married for twenty-eight years, Nicol and FJ Delphin embrace the idea of preserving their family heritage, legacy, and traditions. They have been living along the banks of Cane River most of their lives and work to pass on the Creole foodways and traditions they learned from their elders, including quilting, sewing, hunting, fishing, tanning, gardening, making cracklins and filé, hog roasting, and drying cayenne peppers. The Delphins are currently restoring John Carroll Jones Plantation Home, their 205-year-old historic home built from a Creole architectural design.