BATON ROUGE INTERNATIONAL FOLK DANCERS
Well it has been a memorable last few months for 2005. Virtually everything has been dominated by the two most powerful hurricanes to hit the Louisiana Coast in many years. Their names were Katrina and Rita and the former hit the east coast south of New Orleans in late August and the latter hit the west coast near Cameron three weeks later in late September. After that everything changed. Baton Rouge was fortunate in that there was no serious damage from either storm but I did loose power for three days with Katrina and got deluged by 8 inches of rain from Rita. That was the only difference for me and Baton Rouge in general between the two, as we were hit by the west (good?) side of Katrina and the east (bad?) side of Rita. Both resulted in winds toping out mostly in the 80 MPH range. Unfortunately the news was not the same for New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana south and west of Baton Rouge and to our folk dance friends along the Mississippi coast. The stories of these tragedies are still being told and the impacts will be felt for years. Thoughts go out the Ralph McDonald and all the Crescent City Folk Dancers who were displace by the flooding in New Orleans and to Steve and Coco Collins who lost there home on the Mississippi Coast. Words can not describe what they have been through and I will not attempt to describe it here. Just know that the folk dance community hangs together and together we will all come through. One other outfall from the storms is that there has been some talk about Baton Rouge becoming the state's largest city. Judging by the increased traffic, some feel it has already occurred!
Meanwhile there were some folk dance activities despite the hurricanes. Baton Rouge folk dancing was able to begin on schedule the first Friday of September and the annual fish fry was held at the beautiful garden home of Anita and Bruce Evans that following Saturday. God must have been intent to see that we had our fish fry again this year despite all the chaos around us as he turned on the power at Anita and Bruce's just a few days before the event and did not allow much damage to their house and gardens! Needless to say the fish fry became a sanctuary for all of us to gather and console each other and helping to get on with our lives. Of course at this time we did not know that Rita was on the horizon. But the fish fry was a great success this year despite it all and a large crowd attended and partook of the good fish, food and drink and companionship.
One other sad casualty this year from the storms was the cancellation of the annual Hungarian Festival in Hungarian Settlement where we have danced and performed for many years. The good news is the Hungarian community informed us that they were planning to have the festival again next year. Some Oktoberfest activities did happen this year though. A group of dances performed at two time periods at the former Ponchatoula Oktoberfest celebration now held in Gonzales where it is billed as the largest German Beer Garden in the South! Jim and Idabelle, Janetta,Susan and others did perform our favorite suite of German and Austrian dances and got to attend the festival and enjoy its entertainment and food for their effort. Unfortunately I could not attend due to a prior commitment. But for those of us that could not attend the Gonzales Oktoberfest this year, we all were able to participate in dancing Oktoberfest dances at the St. James Place Oktoberfest as we have done several times in past years. The residents and attendants are always a very appreciative audience. And as usual, our annual Oktoberfest/Halloween party was a fun night for regular Friday night folk dancers. Some great costumes were seen! One other special activity this year, despite the hurricanes, was the performance of the Hungarian Folk Dance ensemble, Csardas. Their excellent performance was billed, The Tango of the East, and held at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette. Several BRIFD dancers including Vonnie Brown drove over to see the performance and eat some Greek Lebanese food before hand thanks to the guidance of folk dancer Karl Volkmar who lives in Lafayette. We were also treated and surprised by seeing some of our favorite Louisiana Hungarians who made the trip, Helen, Suzan and Louis. We also were surprised by Kalman Magyar who is helping sponsor the Csardas ensemble and its ongoing tour. We had not seen Kalman is several years and fondly remember his workshop in Baton Rouge years ago as well as dancing with him at a past Louisiana Hungarian Celebration. One of our last activities this folk dance year was the annual Christmas Party held at the River Bend Bistro and Bar on Highland Road. A good crowd of over 20 people came including Michael Prejean one of our favorite Cajun folk dancers. Michael watched and laughed as we opened our gag gifts and went through our usual fun time.
And on a closing note, our long time LSU folk dance sponsor, Terry Worthy, is retiring from LSU at the end of the year and going on to better things. We will miss Terry and to thank her for all she has done for Baton Rouge International Folk Dancers and the Karpaty performing ensemble we gave her a special gift certificate to the Mall of Louisiana. Terry has been gracious enough to allow us to store our folk dance tapes and stereo music system in a closet in her office for many years and has done numerous other things to support both BRIFD and Karpaty. She has informed us that she will be back from time to time and plans to see us in San Antonio when we perform at the folk dance festival next year. Thanks for all the memories ,Terry, from all of us.
We will begin folk dancing again on Friday, January 6 in 2006. In order to make this year go well, we need all our BRIFD folk dancers to dedicate Fridays to dancing with us. Jim and I will now have to bring the folk dance tapes and stereo system every night and need help carrying it all in and out of the dance studio. There is an effort underway to "downsize" our equipment for easier storage and carrying but we will have to make due with the present system for the immediate future. It will not be worth carrying in all the equipment if only a few show up so make a new years resolution to come to Friday night dance. Everyone knows how much of a fun time it is when you get there so just make the commitment - that is the big first step and the rest will be well worth it!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone and see you in 2006.