64 Parishes

Current Issue

October Is Folklife Month

Recognizing culture bearers and tradition keepers

October Is Folklife Month

Photo by Ellis Lucia, New Orleans Times-Picayune

Vance Vaucresson, left, with his father Robert “Sonny,” center, and brother Robert outside their family sausage-making business on St. Bernard Avenue in 1989.

Louisiana Folklife Month recognizes the rich diversity of Louisiana’s living traditions in order to bring attention to the individuals who sustain them. The initiative showcases an array of tradition bearers in a series of public programs taking place at venues across the state. Folklife Ambassadors from the Louisiana Folklife Commission and Louisiana Folklore Society have selected the following tradition bearers to be celebrated at an individual event in Louisiana throughout the fall; for a full list and updated details, please visit louisianafolklife.org.

 

Steve Judice

Singer/Songwriter

Lafayette

Steve Judice was born and raised in Louisiana but spent much of his thirty-year legal career in Texas, immersed in red dirt and outlaw music. His tunes reflect significant influences from the country, folk, Cajun, and Americana genres. Ten years ago, he cofounded a songwriter’s retreat, which brings artists together annually at one of the state’s many campgrounds to relax, write, and showcase their work. Over the years the event has grown to over fifty participants. Judice has opened shows for artists including Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, David Olney, Rodney Crowell, James McMurtry, Dave Alvin, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Jim Lauderdale. In 2016, three of Steve’s songs were selected for inclusion on the soundtrack for a full-length feature film, Race to Win, starring Luke Perry and Danielle Campbell. He has been blessed with the chance to take his music on tour and has played shows in many places both within and outside Louisiana. In July 2020, amidst the chaos of the pandemic, Steve released his fifth full-length album of original music. He continues to work on new material and believes that there may be yet another album of new songs in his future.

 

Vance Vaucresson

Sausage Maker

New Orleans

Creole culture preservationist Vance Vaucresson is a third-generation meat processor and president of Vaucresson Sausage Company. The 120-year-old family business makes chaurice, andouille, and other traditional sausages for grocery stores and restaurants across the region. Vaucresson sausage is also a culinary mainstay at major local events such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival—where Vance runs the 50-year-old fair’s only original food booth—the French Quarter Festival, and the Creole Tomato Festival. In the tradition of his father “Sonny” Vaucresson, whose eponymous Bourbon Street café operated for nearly a decade, Vance and his family will soon open a deli and restaurant, steps from where his grandfather Robert Levinsky Vaucresson ran his butcher shop in the city’s historic Seventh Ward neighborhood.

 

Elvin Shields

Twisted-Wire Sculptor

Natchitoches

Elvin L. Shields is a twisted-wire toy maker from the Cane River plantation area. The child of sharecroppers, he started making toys at the age of 5. He left the plantation in 1967 after his high school graduation and joined the Army for a four-year tour of duty, returning to Natchitoches after retiring from a thirty-two-year career as a mechanical engineer. He then became a volunteer for the National Park Service at Oakland Plantation, where he teaches young people the art of toy making and speaks to park visitors about growing up as a child of sharecroppers. In 2012 he restored his childhood home, a cabin built in 1860 to house enslaved people at Oakland Plantation, to serve as a sharecropper museum. Since 2013 he has participated in the Natchitoches–NSU Folk Festival and the Melrose Arts & Crafts Festival. He is a member of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and a past president of the Natchitoches Genealogical & Historical Association.

 

The Broussard Sisters

Juré Singers

Frilot Cove

The Broussard Sisters, originally from Frilot Cove in rural St. Landry Parish, perform music in the juré tradition. Sandra Broussard Davis, Virginia Ballard, Tavian Seraile, and Vivian Edwards are all sisters or first cousins and were mentored in the tradition by their aunt, Cecilia Broussard. Juré is a style of a capella call and response song with rhythmic hand claps and has been credited (along with la-la music) as being a forerunner to zydeco. Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded some examples of juré music on his travels in Louisiana in 1934 and proclaimed it “the most African sound I found in America.” It was often practiced during Lent, when the playing of instruments and dancing was frowned upon, and is related to the ring shout tradition once found widely in African American communities throughout the southern United States. Previously common in rural Louisiana Creole communities, juré is now thought to be performed by only a few people.

 

Stanley Masinter

Bagpipe Major

Baton Rouge

Though he grew up in New Orleans in a household surrounded by his musician father’s jazz, Stan Masinter was also heavily influenced by the vocal talents of his mother’s North Louisiana hill country, gospel, and bluegrass roots. These music traditions reach back into time to Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland, where his own ancestors and those of many who settled North Louisiana and the Florida Parishes originated. Masinter has been in demand for decades both as a solo piper and as the pipe major for the renowned Baton Rouge Caledonian Pipes and Drums. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the band showed its gratitude for first responders by playing at numerous shift changes at local hospitals and fire stations. With the patronage of the Caledonian Society of Baton Rouge, the band is devoted to keeping this proud tradition alive and vibrant through its successful teaching program, which offers free lessons to anyone interested in learning Scottish bagpiping and drumming.

 

Terry Lapeyrouse

Shrimp Dryer

Chauvin

Terry Lapeyrouse is a fourth-generation resident of Chauvin and second-generation owner and operator of Lapeyrouse Seafood, Bar, Grocery, and Campground, where he continues to practice the tradition of drying shrimp. In the past, shrimp were sold by fishermen to drying platforms in the marsh, where they were then boiled and sun-dried. Platform workers would “dance the shrimp” to separate the heads and the shells from the meat. Today, Lapeyrouse catches shrimp for drying with a stationary butterfly net in Robinson Canal, while the remainder of the shrimp he uses are purchased locally. The shrimp are weighed, boiled, and put in dryers, which need to be turned hourly. Although machinery has significantly cut down on labor, cleaning the shrimp after drying remains a time-intensive process. Environmental changes around the store significantly threaten the local shrimp stock, making it increasingly difficult to catch and purchase the shrimp used for drying. These deteriorating environmental and economic conditions have contributed to the exodus of year-round residents on lower Little Caillou Bayou, where Lapeyrouse remains along with a handful of others, rooted in their multigenerational connection to place and tradition.

Folklife Month is supported in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.