St. Martinville gearing up for visitors this summer and fall
Things are looking up for a lively tourist trade this summer and fall.
The mayor inked a deal to place a popular restaurant at the festival grounds, the council is eyeing the concept of preserving Bayou Teche as an “historic and scenic river” – and to top it all off, Cycle Zydeco is coming back!
At Monday’s meeting, the City Council approved the sale of the old pecan warehouse at New Market and Hamilton streets to restaurateur Chip Durand, owner of St. John’s Restaurant in the 200 block of E. Bridge Street.
Durand acknowledged the challenge of renovating the 5,000-square-foot tin-walled shed, but he assured the council he is up to the task.
“Hopefully, by the end of summer, you’ll see us there,” he said.
The shed, which sold at the appraised value of $74,000, is adjacent to the city’s bayou-front festival grounds, site of the annual Pepper Festival, Okra Festival, Grande Boucherie des Cajuns, and Tour du Teche.
Another popular event, which had been discontinued, is Cycle Zydeco, a bicycle tour attracting visitors from all over the country. Scott Schilling of T.R.A.I.L. (Transportation Recreational Alternatives in La.) sought and received permission to close South New Market Street and part of Evangeline Boulevard on Thursday, April 24, for the lunch and impromptu street dance that usually accompanies the cyclists’ visit.
A proven benefit to the city and the area of Cycle Zydeco, like the October paddle race Tour du Teche, are return visits by participants all through the year.
“We expect to have 350 to 375 riders – back up to full participation,” Schilling said.
T.R.A.I.L., a non-profit that fosters hiking and biking trails in Acadiana, took over sponsorship of Cycle Zydeco after the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission dropped it.
Dane Thibodeaux of the TECHE (Teche Ecology, Culture and History Education) Project appeared to brief the council on an effort to have Bayou Teche in St. Landry and St. Martin parishes given special protection under the state’s Historic and Scenic Rivers program.
The aim of the program is to maintain the historic beauty and charm of the bayou in the face of increasing urbanization.
Tommy Thibodeaux, general manager of Cajun Sugar Co-op, cautioned the council that bayou-front property owners in Iberia and St. Mary parishes have been opposed to the program because of its additional regulation. Thibodeaux (no relation to Dane Thibodeaux) volunteered to act as a go-between the proponents of the program and farming interests to see if common ground can be found.
The council put off action on the Historic and Scenic River program until the impacts can be thoroughly accessed.
In further action in line with the meeting’s theme, Elaine Clément, new curator of the city’s Acadian Memorial, received the council’s OK to close South New Market and part of Evangeline Boulevard for the annual Acadian Memorial Festival Saturday, March 15.