Ville Platte, which means "Flat Town," is the parish seat of Evangeline Parish, named after the Acadian heroine of the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The region originally was part of the hunting grounds of the Attakapas Indians. Europeans began to settle in the area during the latter part of the eighteenth century. The town of Ville Platte (current population 9,100) was founded by Major Marcellin Garand, a veteran of Napoleon's Army who established a tavern for thirsty travelers headed for Natchitoches along the old Camino Real ("Royal Road"), also known as the Spanish Trail. Ville Platte was incorporated in 1858.
French is still spoken by many of the descendants of the Acadians who settled in the parish. About a fifth of the residents are African-Americans. Many of the residents in towns like Pine Prairie and Turkey Creek in the northern portions of Evangeline Parish are descendants of English settlers.
Ville Platte has been officially designated by the Louisiana Legislature at the "Swamp Pop Capital of the World," recognizing the town's "long, rich history of fostering the development of swamp pop music, as the city is the home of JIN Records, the label that has produced more swamp pop acts than any other in the state," including such artists as the Boogie Kings, Rod Bernard, Tommy McLain, Joe Barry, Jivin Gene, Johnnie Allan, and Warren Storm.
General Information. Tourists in Evangeline Parish can experience Cajun culture simply by visiting the area's restaurants and stores, but the best time to go is during one of the parish's festivals or special events. For more information, contact the Evangeline Tourism Commission.
|The Cotton Festival and Le Tournoi de la Ville Platte.
Each second full weekend in October, Ville Platte hosts the Louisiana Cotton
Festival and Le Tournoi de la Ville Platte. Typically, the festivities begin on Tuesday
evening when authentic Acadian music featuring the French accordion, fiddle,
and "te-fer" (iron triangle) are enjoyed at the Contradanse. The evening
also features a fifteen-minute French square dance performed by young and
old, followed by the crowning of the Le Roi and La Reine (king and queen) of
the local nursing home. On Wednesday afternoon, the local 4-H members hold a
cookery contest and the Cotton Pickin' Pet Show. There is a carnival all
week long for the children to enjoy.
On Friday night, everyone enjoys a fais-do-do dance with music by local bands. Saturday morning, the lovely ladies vying to become Cotton Queen and visiting queens are introduced at the King's Reception. The Cotton King, who is crowned during this event , reigns over the many activities of the festival weekend and is an escort for the Cotton Queen, who is crowned at the pageant later Saturday night. The talented young singers known as the Cotton Pickers entertain during all festival events.
On Sunday morning, a beautiful harvest mass is celebrated to give thanks to our Creator for the bountiful crops. That afternoon, a colorful parade with floats, visiting queens, marching bands and the Tournoi riders in their silver knightly regalia winds through the streets of Ville Platte.
After the parade, the riders run Le Tournoi. Originally begun in the 1800s and then revived in 1952, the Tournoi (French for tournament) draws on the ancient tradition of jousting. Riders representing the Knights of the Round Table carry lances that they use to try to collect seven small iron rings (representing evils that destroy cotton) located around a quarter-mile circular track. The Tournoi Queen accepts the winning knight in the Ball that evening concluding the festival. For more information, go to the Louisiana Tournoi de la Ville Platte web site.
Crawfish Cookoff. Held the first Sunday after Easter at Belaire Cove Chapel. For more information, contact Runnie Matte, 1500 Belaire Cove Road, Ville Platte, LA 70586; 1-337-363-3957.
|Le Festival de la Viande Boucanée (Smoked Meat Festival). Ville Platte bills itself as "The Smoked Meat Capital of the World." This festival, held the last full weekend in June, includes smoked meat cooking contests, other demonstrations of cultural traditions, and a variety of musical groups that play throughout the festival. Cajun bands perform along with rock and roll bands and rhythm and blues groups. The cookoff, which includes both amateur and professional divisions, takes place on Saturday. The festival, which is held at the Ville Platte Civic Center and Grounds, is promoted by Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter No. 632. For more information, go to the festival's web site.|
|Basile. Agriculture is central to the economy of the town of Basile on Highway 190 west of Eunice. The townspeople sponsor the annual Swine Festival, held the first weekend in November. Activities include a pork cook-off, a greasy pig chase and other pig-related contests, music at the "Pig Barn," a parade downtown, and a carnival. There is also a Swine Festival Beauty Pageant. Go to the Swine Festival's official web site for details. In addition to the Swine Festival, Basile has a variety of activities for Mardi Gras, including a children's courir on Sunday and a men's and women's courir on Mardi Gras Day, ending with a parade about 3 p.m. and a street dance. For more information, see the Basile Mardi Gras page.|
Boggy Bayou Festival. Held in Pine Prairie the first weekend in April, the festival offers many different activities, including Cajun cooking, a $1,000 giveaway, a country store, musical groups, and the Boggy Bayou Olympics. All proceeds go to support the Prairie Manor Nursing Home.
Information on the town of Mamou is contained on a separate page.
Chicot State Park, located seven miles north of Ville Platte off Highway 167, covers over 6,000 acres of rolling hills and encloses a fish-rich 2,000 acre reservoir. The cool clear waters of Lake Chicot have yielded record catches of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and red-ear sunfish. Visiting fishermen use the convenient boathouse launching ramp and boat rental facilities, which are located in the main park area. Picnickers will find a wide choice of beautiful spots. Most of them feature tables, grills, and shelters and many of the areas overlook the huge lake. An Olympic-size pool, open June 1 through Labor Day, is located near the shore of the lake. The main entrance to the park is from Louisiana Highway 3042. The park offers both standard and deluxe cabins, lodges, a group camp, and a meeting room. The group camp, which is available for reservation by large gatherings, includes a dormitory and cabins, a kitchen-dining facility, an amphitheater, and a swimming pool.
Chicot's camping areas at South Landing include approximately 100 spurs all with water and electrical hookups. Dump stations and restroom/shower facilities serve campers. North Landing includes a boat launch and dock. It also has about 100 improved campsites as well as a primitive group camping area. The Chicot Lodge is located at North Landing and can be reserved for as many as 12 people. East Landing includes a boat launch and dock, a picnic area, and other facilities for day campers.
An extensive hiking/backpacking trail bordering Lake Chicot includes several primitive campsites along the way. The hiking trail allows visitors to experience and enjoy the park's natural landscape, its bottomland hardwoods, and the lake itself. The park also has an equestrian trail.
For more information, contact Chicot State Park, 3469 Chicot Park Road, Ville Platte, LA 70586, 337-363-2403 or 1-888-677-2442, or, for reservations, 1-877-CAMP-N-LA toll free (877-226-7652). Chicot State Park has a web page (from which much of the above information has been extracted).
|A mile and a half from the main entrance to Chicot State Park is the Louisiana State Arboretum (eight miles north of Ville Platte on Louisiana Highway 3042). A walk through the arboretum can be both inspirational and educational. Individuals can tour the 600-acre site on two and one-half miles of quiet, tree-shaded pathways that wind across ravines and over rustic bridges, past centuries-old giant beech, magnolia, oak, and ash trees. Trees, shrubs, and flowers along the paths are labeled. The Arboretum is a living botanical museum containing many different specimens of Louisiana plant life. Groups of ten or more can schedule a tour by appointment, (337) 363-6289 or 1-888-677-6100. The arboretum also offers a variety of classes. To help preserve the Arboretum for future generations, removing or harming any plant or animal life is strictly prohibited. No pets are allowed, and picnicking is not permitted. For more information, write the Arboretum at 4213 Chicot Park Road, Ville Platte, LA 70586, or visit the Arboretum's web page.|
Evangeline Parish is primarily a rural area where agriculture is a major economic force. But Ville Platte's industrial park and its industrial inducement program have attracted a variety of industries to Ville Platte: Cooper Cameron Industries, Oil Tool Division; Holloway Sportswear Inc.; Cabot Corporation; Jeanmard, Inc., manufacturer of screen doors and windows; and Union Tank Car. The Charles B. Coreil campus of Louisiana Technical College is located in the park so that industries situated there can utilize training facilities already available on site. For more information, go to the city's web site.
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Updated March 2009
These pages were established and maintained by David Simpson, who retired from LSUE in 2009.